In a relatively short period of time, real estate developer Donald Trump, a man with no prior political experience whatsoever, has risen to the number one spot in the Republican contest for the Presidential nomination.
How is this possible?
Were he just another billionaire (and it is a sign of the times that even that phrase is now possible), were he just another real estate developer (and Manhattan is full of them), it is inconceivable that such a phenomenon could take place. (Do you even have the vaguest idea of Seymour Durst's political opinions. He is the man who put the National Debt Clock - remember that? Still running - up in NYC).
What Trump has is a command of the most powerful medium we have.
He understands it. His years at The Apprentice have given him a deep appreciation for the unique way in which video impacts on us. It goest deep. (And we spent 5 hours a day, every day, watching it).
New technologies of communication have always proven a quick pathway to political power for those few who 'got' it first. Adolf Hitler would probably have remained little more than another beer hall political ranting nutcase had it not been for the arrival of radio. Suddenly der Fuhrer was able to 'broadcast' his opinions to millions of Germans (with the added benefit that they did not get to see his non-Aryan face).
On the other side of the Atlantic (and the English Channel), both Roosevelt and Churchill had a deep understanding of the immense power of this new medium of radio. Churchill, in fact often re-did his most powerful speeches in the House of Commons for a radio audience. Roosevelt, of course, united the country with his radio fireside chats.
JFK understood the new medium of television far better than Nixon, and went on to win both the nation's first televised debates and the Presidency, largely because he was far better television. Bill Clinton, playing the sax on Arsenio Hall, and talking about his underwear also understood television. Bob Dole, clearly, did not.
In the days of Kennedy and Clinton, television was a very limited medium. There were only a handful of networks. It was expensive to produce and to distribute.
The technological revolution of the past decade has changed all of that.
Today, anyone with an iPhone can produce 'television'. Anyone connected to the web can distribute it to a potential global audience of 3,5 billion people - for no cost.
Trump's power and influence come from the screen.
No one talks about what Trump has written in the NY Times (or anywhere else. Even his much vaunted Art of the Deal was written by Tony Schwartz).
Trump is not about text. He is about video images.
He is about putting his face on video, as often as he can.
But that medium is no longer either complex nor expensive.
Anyone can get access to it.
Any time they want.
And for no cost.
What he has... you have.
Use it to express what you think is important.
Master the medium.
Once you do, you will see that it is not so terrifying nor so difficult.
But it is very very powerful and persuasive.