First You’re Sickened; Then You’re Angry

Michelle Obama explained from her heart with exceptional eloquence that there is no excuse for the behavior of a presidential candidate who demeans and harasses women.

I’m somewhat older than Michelle and my sickened feeling has turned to anger. I’m hopeful that next week, she will find that space. Because that is what Donald Trump deserves. As she explained, character is at the heart of this election. If you dismiss vulgar behavior because issues of taxation or immigration are more important than a candidate’s despicable views of women, minorities and those with disabilities, you have not studied values. We all have core values, among them what Michelle Obama referred to as decency, which guide our behaviors. Core or “terminal” values inform instrumental ones that guide our daily choices in a variety of arenas.

It’s time to be angry. There are few women who have been spared demeaning behavior due to their gender. It makes you sick. But after that pit-in-the-stomach feeling passes and once you are mature enough to realize that letting it pass only encourages it, the anger emerges.

That’s what women — and men who are equally offended — need to take to the polls. We should take our core values. We should take our decency. We should take our anger. Because we cannot allow future generations to watch us sit this one out and hand our country over to a vulgar man who, no matter what you like about his platform, will demean us all.

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You Don’t Need a Daughter to be Sickened by Donald Trump

President Barack Obama and Frank Bruni’s opinion piece in The New York Times remind us that we don’t need to be parents of girls or have a wife to know what’s not acceptable — what pulls all of us down.  Bruni raises the question: Why do our “leaders” need daughters or wives to know what behaviors around and toward them are wrong? What about all those people with sons? Do they care less?

I have two sons and a daughter. But if I didn’t have children, I’d still know that what Donald Trump has said about women is despicable. Yes, I am a woman. But my husband can’t recall “locker room” conversations like the one Trump had with Billy Bush. And neither can male athletes who refuse to be used as an excuse for the inexcusable.

Perhaps I should be saying, “I have two sons and that makes me worry about Donald Trump becoming a role model as a U.S. president.” But it doesn’t take a daughter, mother, sister, son, father, spouse or any other relative for a person with moral fiber to know that Donald Trump’s insults and demeaning behaviors are beneath us. They lower all boats.  As President Obama summed it up, “You just have to be a decent human being to say ‘that’s not right’.”

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That Sick Feeling in Every Woman’s Stomach

Today you may have a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach courtesy of Donald Trump’s comments about women revealed this week. Perhaps you’re a woman who has wanted to believe that people who demean women and talk about them in disgusting ways can’t possibly be admired by anyone except a limited number of low life characters and the oblivious.

Certainly, a person like this couldn’t get anywhere near the U.S. presidency. And yet, here we are.

Donald Trump isn’t funny. Nothing he says or does is funny. Even his apologies amount to threats. He isn’t sorry for any other reason than having been caught on tape saying things about women that show who he really is.

This is not a man who simply has difficulty communicating with women.  He isn’t the type of person I’ve coached or written about in my HBR case “The Memo Every Woman Keeps in Her Desk” and They Don’t Get It, Do They?  He isn’t gender communication challenged. He’s not an example of men being from Mars and women from Venus.  He is a misogynist.

Anyone still cutting this guy slack hasn’t a leg to stand on anymore. No amount of finding fault with Hillary Clinton’s style or being uncomfortable with the idea of a woman president can justify supporting Donald Trump.  It took a long time for some Republicans to refuse him their support.  At least they had a threshold that could not be crossed.  At least they couldn’t laugh off what Trump had to say about how he manipulates and abuses women.  At least they share our disgust.

Some characteristics disqualify people from earning your support as a future leader of the free world no matter what your political affiliation.  Being a patriot is not about waving a flag, it’s about protecting your country and the world from people who simply have no conscience or moral fiber.

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The Authoritarian Candidate Contradicts With Ease

It boggles the mind to listen to CNN reporters tell us that Mike Pence “won” the vice presidential debate on style. Since when is style more important than substance? They drew this conclusion despite the fact that their own focus group gave the win to Tim Kaine. So, you have to take such decisions with a grain of salt.

What’s important to point out is that research has clearly shown that the authoritarian personality, which Donald Trump fits, does not experience  the discomfort that usually accompanies cognitive dissonance. In other words, he does not feel uncomfortable about saying or doing something today that totally contradicts what he said or did last week.

While most people have difficulty defending two competing values, positions or principles, the true authoritarian’s mind does not wrestle with such contradictions. If the “boss” says it’s so, then it is, even if he said it wasn’t so yesterday.

If Mike Pence speaks ill of Vladimir Putin while “the boss,” Donald Trump, does the opposite, there is no problem for Trump or his authoritarian followers who admire other authoritarians.

If Trump had to choose between contradictory positions or feel like a phony, if the mainstream media did their job challenging him, that would be problematic for him. But as a true authoritarian, such discomfort does not occur. Unless we insist upon knowing where Trump really stands, anything goes from day to day.  And the price for that if he enters the White House as president will be extremely high.

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Now Who Doesn’t Look Presidential?

From Donald Trump’s perspective, he did well in last night’s debate because he didn’t say some nasty things he was thinking. And, indeed, he did refrain from most personal attacks. But he also managed to reveal that he lacks presidential temperament and judgment.

He was easily provoked and distracted.  He occasionally blathered.  He accused Clinton of fighting ISIS her entire adult life.  What was that about?

He considers all things under his businessman banner as justified, even if it means not paying taxes.  About not doing so, he said, “That makes me smart.” Even though, as Clinton pointed out, this short changes the very people Trump claims to care about, including active military, veterans and schools.  It prevents the support of a country’s infrastructure — something he described as woefully inadequate.

He used business to justify not paying people, even if they finish the job he hired them to do. He should have realized that many Americans who vote work for a living and can barely make ends meet.  They would lose their homes if “stiffed” by their employers.

He was rude to the debate moderator, Lester Holt. He even abruptly said at one point to justify yet anther interruption: “You asked me a question.  Did you ask me a question?” Holt was very professional and restrained. He did not take these moments personally, but they were dismissive.  An occasional insistence on completing a thought or responding is fine in such debates. Trump took it too far — with Clinton and Holt. It revealed the volatile temperament he denies and a sense of superiority and entitlement that he so frequently manifests.

He did have some moments when he sympathized with the plight of people suffering from violence. But his emphasis on “law and order” implied reliance on racial profiling.

Clinton was superbly prepared. When the presidency of the United States is at stake, preparation is paramount. Yet, she was natural in her style and humorous when appropriate.  She was serious and knowledgeable when the topics were about significant issues. She knew the facts with little reference to notes.  Her nonverbal expressions were responsive to what was said by Trump rather than gratuitously derogatory and directed at him.

She used his words to support her premises regarding his disparaging views of women. She quoted him rather than making things up, what John King of CNN referred to post-debate as Donald Trump’s “casual relationship with the truth.”

What we saw last night was a presidential look that now includes women.  Clinton demonstrated that being a woman doesn’t mean you lack stamina, as Trump stated.  She was strong, informed, direct, relaxed, confident and capable at the podium. When he went low, she went high, which is the approach she attributed to President Obama when harassed for years by Trump about his place of birth.

For Trump’s part, he did manage himself in terms of vicious retorts. He was, however, easily distracted and comparatively uninformed. That he brought up in a presidential debate a feud he’d had with television personality Rosie O’Donnell, revealed a shocking lack of judgment, if not a fragile grasp on reality. With regard to having supported going into Iraq, he feebly replied that the press should “ask Sean Hannity” for the truth.  This defense, let me be generous here, bordered on infantile.

Yes, we saw “presidential” last night.  We saw an extremely accomplished woman who knows what matters, how the world works, that good businesses don’t take an anything-goes-approach to their people. Being in business does not justify making exorbitant profits on the backs of underpaid, unappreciated, hardworking people.  Moreover, being president is not the same as being a CEO.  It is also not a position earned by inheritance of a fortune in the absence of experience and knowledge.  And it is certainly undeserved by a candidate who shows up to debate his opponent unprepared, pompous and petulant.


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What Could Make or Break Hillary’s Chances? – Idiosyncrasy Credits

Our perceptions of others depend upon a number of factors. Among them is the extent to which people seem to be like us. Another is attraction — appealing in some way due to characteristics we’ve learned to appreciate or perhaps a sense of humor. Accomplishments can enter into our perceptions of others, especially regarding those running for political office. What have they done that we find admirable or disappointing?

Aside from such perceptions, we also formulate expectations regarding how people should behave. In my first book, Persuasion in Practice, described by Public Opinion Quarterly as a “landmark” review of persuasion theory and research, I wrote about behavioral rules that each of us develop pertaining to what’s obligatory, prohibited, preferred, permissible, and irrelevant in particular situations. Without such rules, civil society would not be possible.

Take the simple rule that a “hello” should elicit a return greeting. In the absence of such a response, assumptions are made about the mood or politeness of the person who flouted the rule.  Adults, as a rule, should not talk loudly in libraries. Of course, there are exceptions to all rules. If there is a fire in a library, shouting a warning is not only permissible, it’s obligatory. Why? Another rule tells us we should care about the wellbeing of others.

We’ve heard a lot about whether Clinton or Trump is more presidential. This discussion assumes that we have a set of rules regarding how presidents should act — what’s obligatory, preferred, prohibited, permissible and irrelevant. Again, there is variation, especially this election cycle. Some people appreciate candidates with whom they could comfortably have a beer. Personally, that’s rather low on my list. But, in the U.S., it’s not uncommon to hear that one admired candidate or another is that type of person.

Whatever our rules for how a candidate should behave, what they should have accomplished, and what emotions, for example, they should elicit from us, some can deviate from these rules without paying dearly. Others cannot.  This is where we get into who could win the next presidential election.

Most of us have friends who we like but for some reason they don’t fit well with our other friends. They break the rules. They may be too loud or brash.  Taking them to parties is a risk. Yet, we like them.  We may have come to do so at another period in our lives when such behavior was humorous.  Or, other things about them compensate for their deviations from rules.

We have given such people social extra credit to spend nearly as they wish — what psychologist Edwin Hollander called “idiosyncrasy credits” — the ability to deviate from norms or rules without being punished. “There goes Ed just being Ed,” we might think when a friend tells a ridiculous joke or does something that offends others.

Idiosyncrasy credits are like social assets in the bank. The more idiosyncrasy credits you have with a person or a group, the more they excuse untoward behavior.

Donald Trump has loads of idiosyncrasy credits with many of his supporters. How he got them is the subject of another blog.  How far away from the rules can Trump stray without paying a price at the voting booth?  No one really knows.  This week he suggested Clinton’s security should have their guns taken away, essentially that she be unprotected to see what happens.

Hillary Clinton has worked diligently over the years without fanfare.  Like so many women, in particular, she does her job and likely finds it unsavory to brag. As a result, much of what she has accomplished hasn’t been proclaimed for all to see. This is where a lot of women, and certainly many men as well, go wrong.  They don’t share what they do when they do it or close in time.  They assume the work and good things will speak for themselves – that bosses, for example, will notice.  Donald Trump has never assumed this. He seeks credit without apology.

Clinton is also not flamboyant and not particularly funny in public.  She has admitted that she isn’t the most natural speaker. She’s been demeaned for her pants suits and described as screaming and whining. She has a bout of pneumonia and we have a media circus over what that means.

Never mind that Trump has provided far less information about his health and that he looks like he could knock off quite a few pounds.  Never mind that we haven’t seen his tax returns because his children say we’re incapable of understanding them.  Trump insults and offenses roll off.  For many people, “That’s just him being him.”

Assuming that Hillary Clinton does suffer from a deficit of idiosyncrasy credits, can anything be done at this late date?

Presidential candidates can complain about the unfairness of idiosyncrasy credits being given to the unworthy, but it rarely changes things – especially not quickly.  Instead, they need to take a hard look at what’s standing in the way of being liked and admired by the groups that can make a difference.

In Clinton’s case, supporters need to be out in droves loudly singing her praises, giving clear examples, drawing upon her contributions rather than simply responding to Trump’s latest attack. There should be a “DID YOU KNOW?” campaign for Clinton starting today.

There is no one but yourself to blame if the accomplishments of your career are only available to your inner circle and in your resume.  While research clearly indicates that women have far less latitude when “bragging” than men, and gender does influence her in other ways that are problematic, her campaign and Democratic Party leaders need to loosen up in terms of letting us know what she has done.

Her supporters need to drive home what she has accomplished, promises she has kept when others did not, care she has shown, and competency rarely credited to her. In the debates, we should hear in response to a Trump attack, “You mean the time I did x, y, z while you did nothing?”

Hearing from those who know her is crucial to building idiosyncrasy credits. This is part of the vice-presidential candidate’s job.  And we need to hear more from him.  But he can’t do it alone.

Lack of appreciation in one area can be balanced or overcome by credits garnered in another.  It’s time for the Clinton team to strategize in this way. They can’t wait for the press to do the right thing.  Some journalists will.  Others just want a promotion.

It’s not enough to let people know who you are and what you’ve done via a website. Idiosyncrasy credits in presidential races require getting the word out far and wide, loud and clear, again and again.






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Art Exhibit in Ireland

Aside from blogging at this site, I have an art page.  Getting to it just requires going to the headings section under the “Kathleen Kelley Reardon” poster at the top of the page and clicking on “Artwork.”

Also, I’m posting art from a current exhibit I have ongoing in Ireland at  Stop by if you have a few minutes.

If you’re interested in the paintings or seeing more, just leave a message.  K

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