Understand & Inoculate aginst Donald Trump Effect


A potential voter recently declared “I will vote for Donald Trump (and to a lesser extent Bernie Sanders)”.  Another one said, “He will expect greatness from us, he will tell us how to get to great, he will inspire people to be better than they are and have the hope that their efforts will not be thwarted by bigger government.”   Yet another one said, “Many are right; it’s not about trusting Trump; it’s a collective middle finger to the establishment….”  Here are some more comments on why people are enamored with Trump and would vote for him, “ONLY TRUMP has ever BUILT any REAL THINGS”; “Trump makes brash and uncompromising statements about issues many people feel very passionate about”; “On the two primary issues as to why I’m supporting Mr. Trump he has remained stunningly consistent.”

One can’t argue with the fact that Mr. Donald Trump has remained “stunningly consistent” in insulting his way through to the top of his party.
So what is the lure of Mr. Trump in the US?
Unlike what the liberals would like to believe, it is not because Trump has the support of white supremacists, or right wing conservatives, or the religious right, that he is beating his rivals to a pulp.  Many potential voters are also very liberal and many of them voted for Mr. Obama in the past.  I have listened in on some call-in shows where potential voters call in, gushing about Trump as they declare that they are changing parties to vote for Mr. Trump.

Here is a feeble attempt to understand this curious phenomenon based on the messages Mr. Trump sends out and how he sends them out.

  • Sharing information about threats makes one appear more reliable.  Trump’s entire candidacy is based on making assertions about how everyone else has put the country in harm’s way.

In one study, people read two descriptions of the same product.  However, one had an additional sentence “If you press control keys during installation, the software may damage your hard disk”.  People rated the writer of the threatening description to be more competent.  Trump’s entire campaign is built on how the world is a big, scary place and he can make America great again.

Consider these statements: Hillary Clinton was the worst Secretary of State in the history of the country. The world came apart under her reign as Secretary of State”; “Obama has no solutions. Obama has failed the country and its great citizens…”; “What a waste of time being interviewed by@andersoncooper”; “Jonah Goldberg @JonahNRO of the once great @NRO#National Review is truly dumb as a rock”; “What people don’t know about Kasich- he was a managing partner of the horrendous Lehman Brothers when it totally destroyed the economy!”.  Speaking of Mexican drug lord, he tweeted, “Can you envision Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton negotiating with ‘El Chapo” and said he however, “would kick Chapo’s ass!”.  About McCain, “He’s not a war hero”; about Mexico, “US has become a dumping ground for everyone else’s problems”; about Bernie Sanders,  “[Sanders] knows the country is ripped off. And I know the country is being ripped off, The difference is that I can do something about it and he can’t”.

  • Research shows that messages of concrete threat (as opposed to vague threat) are deemed more believable.  Trump makes threats very explicit, concrete and immediate:

In one study, concrete threat message like “the site you are about to visit has been confirmed to include software that poses a significant risk and will infect your computer and will try to steal credit card details” was found to be much more believable than vague threat like “we have blocked your access to this page because it is possible that he page contains software that may harm your computer”.  Now consider this message from Trump about people from Mexico, “they are bringing drugs, they are bringing crime, they are rapists” versus this statement from Governor Kasich, in one of the debates “I’ll tell you about Wall Street: There’s too much greed.”  Trump gets specific about the threats. including threats from things that did not happen.  For instance, he has repeatedly asserted claims that he watched television footage of “thousands of Muslims celebrating 9/11 in Jersey City”.  The more he makes specific assertions like that, the more believable and therefore Presidential, he appears.

  • People who talk big are more likable and appear more reliable. Trump is nothing but empty big talk.  

These big talkers  make our problems appear simple and easy to solve, even when they are not.  Trump said, “If somebody has no money and they’re lying in the middle of the street and they’re dying, I’m going to take care of that person.”

  • Identifying concrete action steps for real or potential problems, makes one appear more reliable.

Trump is not just being specific about the threats but he also givens specific action steps to deal with the problem.  For instance, to secure the border, he says, “I will build a great, great wall on our Southern border and I will make Mexico pay for that wall”.  Of course, if he would be asked to break down his assertions on further specifics on how exactly he plans to do what he says he will do, then it would crumble like the Berlin Wall.  But there are two things that work for him.  1) He follows the principle “attack is the best form of defense” and so he is rarely on the defensive end and 2) He has refused to participate in the debate where potential candidate would be put on the spot regarding such whimsical assertions.

  • Repeat statements of threat (even when known to be false), can still go viral and carry significant weight.  If this finding is stretched a bit further, Trump’s ongoingly throwing random insults at people, make his insults more credible, instead of less.

In one of the most disturbing findings that has emerged in recent research, it was found that reading a false statement (for instance, “The Atlantic Ocean is the largest ocean on Earth”) made people more likely to rate the statement as true when they read it a second time, even when they were told on both occasions that it might be false and even when they later showed that they knew that the Pacific was the largest ocean.  Trump’s repeated false assertions are now getting carved in people’s minds as if they are truisms and not Trumpisms.  

  • To persuade people, one can use arguments that fit within the moral framework of the constituents, rather than the opposing candidates – exactly what Trump does.  

Most candidates campaign as if the entire campaign is a debate against other candidates.  Short of hurling insults, Trump never responds to any substantive remarks by other candidates.  Instead, he tries to identify with simplistic statements that resonate with his beaten down, anti-establishment constituents. For instance, consider these statements, “I feel a lot of people listen to what I have to say”; “A certificate of live birth is not the same thing by any stretch of the imagination as a birth certificate”; “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected”; “You know the funny thing, I don’t get along with rich people. I get along with the middle class and the poor people better than I get along with the rich people”.  

Trump is not going to make US great.  United States of America IS a great country because we have a vibrant democracy, with a healthy respect for diverse perspectives.  Regardless of the entertainment that ensues from the campaign theatrics, in the end, people take their responsibility to vote seriously.  In the end, people study the issues and cast their votes to reflect their position on substantive issues. Big money plays a big role in America.  But in the end, “internet” and “google.com” were born in America; majority here supports “net neutrality”, and “Wikipedia”; people often check facts on sites like “snopes.com” and “factcheck.org”; all that going to show that there is great value for substantive facts and information.  and In the end, often silent and honest people who may not have time to attend the rallys, exercise their most precious democratic right; the right to vote.  It is no small feat that it is the people who make and keep America great.

Source:  I used the article below in Atlantic Monthly as a jumping off resource and then researched more for other information via google search.  http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/11/tall-tales/407836/

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