An Open Letter To Donald Trump

Fred Malek Founder and Chairman, Thayer Capital Partners
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Dear Donald,

If you think you’re winning and making positive progress, then by all means you should ignore the polls and stay on course.  But if you really want to be President, just maybe you should face reality and take a different approach.

I am a businessman, like you, but unlike you, I’ve also been involved in politics for almost my entire life.   I’ve identified as a right of center but moderate Republican, and I talk to a lot of like-minded people and independents, the type of voters that you will need in order to win the election.   Here are a few themes that keep coming up:

  • It’s a shame that no matter who wins, two out of three Americans will distrust the next President of the United States.
  • These are two deeply flawed candidates, both of whom have made huge mistakes in their lives and their campaigns.
  •  Both of these candidates show extreme arrogance and refuse to own up to their mistakes.  How about a little humility?

It’s no wonder that 70 percent of all voters feel like this year’s presidential campaign has brought out the worst in people.

For sure, Hillary Clinton and her advisors are contributing to voters’ dismay and anxiety.  Her team is so used to being under attack, their first instinct is to advise her to dig in deeper, admit nothing, and play defense.  This is a familiar tactic that’s been playing out for three decades.

Drawing distinctions between your opponent is crucial, and in an election where voters want change, even more so.  Your instincts are telling you to go on offense and your team of advisors, perhaps, is telling you to prosecute even further.   You’re down one debate with two to go, and some change is in order.

Here’s some free advice on what you and your team should articulate leading up to and during the next debate:

Admit that this campaign to date confirms people’s worst fears about politics, and that it has been discouraging to American voters who expect and deserve more from their Presidential candidates.

Acknowledge that there is something radically wrong in the greatest country in the world when its two leading candidates for President are distrusted by two thirds of the voters.

Apologize and show some regret for your most brazen comments such as excoriating all Muslims, criticizing the objectivity of a judge of Hispanic descent, allowing the birther issue to persist for several years, and disrespecting distinguished Americans like John McCain.

Understand that we are all guilty of making mistakes in life, especially in the heat of battle and during a highly passionate and contested presidential election.  The stakes, however, are too high for your judgement to be clouded by trivial matters when the American people are looking to its leaders for change.  State clearly you believe the most important lessons of life come not from your many successes but from your setbacks and mistakes; and character is better defined by this than anything else.

Express what you’ve learned from life’s missteps, and prove to be wiser, more empathetic, and a more capable leader because of it.

You have two more debates and plenty of time to challenge Hillary on how she can facilitate change after 30 years in public life.  But the point will be moot unless you get this out of the way and bring the debate back to the change we need to lead America.

Fred Malek is founder and chairman of Thayer Capital Partners and founder of the American Action Network.