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The Catastrophe has been postponed

CBS News reports that "three in four Americans who tuned in to President Trump's State of the Union address tonight approved of the speech he gave." This is news only because the Trump speech was supposed to be greeted by indignation rather than modest approval.  The script should have read: "tonight is America's funeral".  The mourners were there in force.

The only problem was the corpse was missing. While there's plenty that is wrong with America, not everything is. The strategic weakness of Nooo! is that while there's inevitably a modest amount of good news it remains trapped in some moment of grievance like a fly in amber. More than a year later, at SOTU 2018, its cry is still the same: Hillary lost.  Most people know that and are ready to go on with their lives.

In the matter of ascribing credit the present success must largely be due to America itself, not to politicians, one of whom at least had the wit to get out of the way. The comparative preference for one over the other may be because most know that someday Trump will be gone, perhaps in 2020 or at all events by 2024, but the mourners never will quit the scene.

An article in the New York Times argues that "Trump Can Sell an Improved Economy, but Not Himself". Why Trump should sell himself is interesting to consider, as this may unconsciously reveal the view that politics is about selecting the smartest man on the planet or empowering the only adult in the room.

by some measures, he has managed to convince many Americans, especially corporate leaders, that the economy really is surging in a way it has not for years [but] he has not been able to sell himself ... His success at passing tax cuts and the continued progress of the economy he inherited have not changed the dismal views that a sizable majority of Americans hold of their president.

Despite its seeming obviousness, that conventional wisdom may be fundamentally wrong.  The liberals think the product is a president.  By contrast, Trump seems to have concluded that the product is success.  He went to the SOTU to sell success.

That choice may be more pivotal than one would think.  The late Peter Drucker once wrote that most fundamental executive problem to solve was 'what business are we in?' In his 1960 classic, Marketing Myopia he described how the railroads declined because they didn't know what business they were in.

The railroads did not stop growing because the need for passenger and freight transportation declined. That grew. The railroads are in trouble today not because that need was filled by others (cars, trucks, airplanes, and even telephones) but because it was not filled by the railroads themselves. They let others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business. The reason they defined their industry incorrectly was that they were railroad oriented instead of transportation oriented; they were product oriented instead of customer oriented.