I think Donald Trump is a buffoon – but perhaps I have got it all wrong. According to ‘Dilbert’ creator, Scott Adams, Trump is the ultimate politician – especially in deploying his powers of persuasion. And surely that is what all politicians want to do? In fact, Adams believes Trump is so good at persuasion that he will win the election in a landslide.
Michael Cavna outlines Adams’s arguments in the Washington Post article Donald Trump will win in a landslide. *The mind behind ‘Dilbert’ explains why. Basically, it boils down to the fact that:
“On the stump, the real-estate mogul is not running on the knowledge of his numbers or the dissection of the data. He is running on our emotions, Adams says, and sly appeals to our own human irrationality. . . . .
“Most simply put: Adams believes Trump will win because he’s ‘a master persuader.’”
OK – that analysis appeals to me -I have often asserted that humans are not a rational species – more a rationalising one. Emotions play a huge role in our decisions – even when we think, and claim, we are acting rationally. “Psychology is the only necessary skill for running for president,” writes Adams, adding: “Trump knows psychology.”
So, here are 6 things Trump is doing to win hearts and minds:
People are irrational
1. Trump knows people are basically irrational.
“If you see voters as rational you’ll be a terrible politician,” Adams writes on his blog. “People are not wired to be rational. Our brains simply evolved to keep us alive. Brains did not evolve to give us truth. Brains merely give us movies in our minds that keeps us sane and motivated. But none of it is rational or true, except maybe sometimes by coincidence.”
2. Knowing that people are irrational, Trump aims to appeal on an emotional level.
“The evidence is that Trump completely ignores reality and rational thinking in favor of emotional appeal,” Adams writes. “Sure, much of what Trump says makes sense to his supporters, but I assure you that is coincidence. Trump says whatever gets him the result he wants. He understands humans as 90-percent irrational and acts accordingly.”
Adams adds: “People vote based on emotion. Period.”
Fact don’t matter
Apparently this cynical approach has the advantage that facts are not longer important:
3. By running on emotion, facts don’t matter.
Adams writes. “There are plenty of important facts Trump does not know. But the reason he doesn’t know those facts is – in part – because he knows facts don’t matter. They never have and they never will. So he ignores them.
“Right in front of you.”
4. If facts don’t matter, you can’t really be “wrong.”
Trump “doesn’t apologize or correct himself. If you are not trained in persuasion, Trump looks stupid, evil, and maybe crazy,” Adams writes. “If you understand persuasion, Trump is pitch-perfect most of the time. He ignores unnecessary rational thought and objective data and incessantly hammers on what matters (emotions).”
5. With fewer facts in play, it’s easier to bend reality.
Trump can be thin-skinned when his “reality” is challenged. “The Master Persuader will warp reality until he gets what he wants,” writes Adams, noting that Trump is “halfway done” already.
Finally, something which many of us find especially hateful – the denigration of people – turns out to be yet another powerful trick in Trump’s persuasion arsenal.
6. To bend reality, Trump is a master of identity politics — and identity is the strongest persuader.
“Do you think it is a coincidence that Trump called Megyn Kelly a bimbo and then she got a non-bimbo haircut that is … well, Trumpian?” Adams writes. “It doesn’t look like a coincidence to this trained persuader. . . .
“Writes Adams: “Identity is always the strongest level of persuasion. The only way to beat it is with dirty tricks or a stronger identity play. … [And] Trump is well on his way to owning the identities of American, Alpha Males, and Women Who Like Alpha Males. Clinton is well on her way to owning the identities of angry women, beta males, immigrants, and disenfranchised minorities.
“If this were poker, which hand looks stronger to you for a national election?”
It’s a pretty convincing argument. We ignore the irrationality of humans at our peril and most political commenters had dismissed Trump because he is irrational. They ignored the fact that he had special skills at appealing to emotion and using crude identity politics.
But, I hope Adams is exaggerating in his claim that Trump will win the presidency in a landslide. I hope there enough people who refuse to be led by such crude emotional and identity politics appeals. However, the fact that there is a large number of American’s who are persuaded by such buffoonery is a worrying thing.
Mind you – I think all politicians use similar techniques – appeal to emotions and our irrational nature, neglecting or bending facts and use of identity politics. But I like to think there is a large proportion of the population who are concerned with facts, are appalled by identity politics and are suspicious of emotional manipulation.
Hopefully, this proportion is large enough to prevent the landslide victory Adams is predicting. Mind you – the alternative may present equally large problems to the world?