If you get the headline, there is no introduction needed, if you don’t, let me explain.
Back in March, deep in Republican Primary season, I gave a message to all those that read my column; Donald Trump is following WWE Wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s strategy.
Quoting Wikipedia, Austin was “a disrespectful, beer-drinking antihero who routinely defied the establishment and his boss, company chairman Vince McMahon; this persona of Austin’s became the “poster boy” of the Attitude Era, a boom period in WWF business in the late 1990s and early 2000s and was one of the biggest factors in helping the WWF win the ratings war against their competition, World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Several prominent industry figures, including McMahon, have since declared Austin to be the biggest star in WWF/E history, while stressing that he surpassed the popularity of Hulk Hogan.”
He was neither a gifted wrestler or a great communicator, but he was one of the most supported personas in wrestling, despite being a heel, or “bad guy”. Confounding the management of the time, he would regularly get the crowd’s support against the face or “good guy” and the authority to which they represent.
So how does this lead to Trump?
It transpires that Trump was emulating Austin’s strategy two-fold.
- Austin’s most vocal and passionate supporters were the WWE’s core fans in America’s heartlands; gain white, working class, typically non-college educated voters, and judging by the exit polls of last week he achieved this:
- 58% of white voted Trump
- 53% of over 45s voted Trump
- 51% of High School educated and 52% of some (but not college) education voted Trump
- 62% of Small city or rural Voted Trump
- 58% Protestant or other Christian
- 61% of Veterans
- Austin was neither a heel or a face, but his “own guy”.
Donald Trump did not win the election as a Republican. He did not run in the Republican Primaries as a Republican, he ran as an Anti-Republican, and with the Republican brand, he ran as an anti-Establishment candidate. The voters are his, not the party’s.
“Like Steve Austin, he (Trump) has ridiculed his opponents in the crudest and most obvious ways to make them become irrelevant and small compared to him. With Cruz and Rubio, expect the same standard stereotyping as seen previously, and against Hillary Clinton a new wave of sexism and misogyny not seen in public debate for decades.
And like Steve Austin, he has changed the Republican Party through insurgency; the traditional rules of politics do not apply. The voters are his and not the Party’s.
I can’t believe that nobody from the Democrats watched the WWE in the 1990s. There was a pattern that when “the Establishment” or the management objected to his behaviour, Austin’s support grew. When the WWE uncovered a talent, branded it the “next big thing” the fans resisted being told who to support.
The more Hilary was endorsed, especially by the shiny pop stars of the moment, the greater the antipathy towards her grew. This is a real insight into the voter psyche, the same as wrestling.
So well done, The Donald, you knocked out all the opponents and you have won the King of the Ring.
What Happens Next?
The campaign was run like the build-up to a Wrestlemania, but now the main event is over and the belt passed, The Donald’s face said it all, he is now the President of the United States of America. The Commander in Chief of the world’s most powerful army. This is not a game anymore. This is Bigly (or Big League, as I am told is the full meaning).
Since I started this piece, there have been articles posted suggesting that Linda McMahon, the actual establishment figure that Austin rallied against is to join Trump’s Cabinet!
The one problem Steve Austin had was he found it difficult to appeal outside his core (but large) white USA audience, so while he was an undoubted megastar in WWE terms, he lacked the cultural crossover that a Hulk Hogan, Undertaker or The Rock managed to achieve. And this may be his ultimate problem.
Trump has successfully created this position where he challenges the establishment. Now he is the establishment, and it is a careful balance to maintain the level of managing anger against the other and making change.
There was chatter in the media this week of asking who could beat Donald Trump? Someone that is multi-ethnic, a good speaker, popular, handsome, thoughtful, politically engaged and articulate?
Who did the media suggest? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the same guy who ended the reign of Steve Austin a decade ago. I kid you not.
Johnson said, “I wouldn’t rule it out. It would be a great opportunity to help people, so it’s possible. This past election shows that anything can happen.”
So, we conclude 2016 with the knowledge that, politics in the second decade of the 21st century is wrestling without the ring. There is a curious scent in the air.. who knows what’s cooking…
OL NOV 16