I regularly read the blog of Scott Adams, creator of the comic strip Dilbert (blog.dilbert.com) and believe he has a better handle on the Trump phenomenon than the rest of us. Months ago he predicted Trump would not only win the Republican primary but the election as well, and by a landslide. Adams’ basic premise is that we are not largely rational as we might think. It’s more the reverse, like we are 90% irrational and being so irrational, it is easy to persuade us to change our minds. You just need to know what buttons to push.
And Donald Trump has proven a virtuoso on those keys.
There are all sorts of reasons to doubt and worry about a Trump presidency, but unless those reasons are rooted deeply in our guts they don’t mean much when it comes to voting. We tend to sway like willows in the wind. Have you noticed how often prospective voters say when interviewed that their minds are still not made up and probably won’t be until they are about to cast their ballots. In other words, their guts will decide, not their minds. Later they will come up with rationalizations if pushed, but it was their gut feelings that decided the issue.
Looking back on my post of two days ago I have decided that I was being too rational in giving credence to those sophisticated numbers crunchers who see the possibility of Trump being stopped from getting the nomination.
My gut now tells me that those rational techniques are not properly gauging the welling up of pro-Trump sentiment. Trump has a powerful narrative at play: At our irrational cores we want a hero to save the day, a strong man to protect us, a guy willing to do whatever is necessary to win all sorts of battles that will make American Great again. A father figure who will makes us feel safe.
It’s a child’s fantasy, but enormously alluring. As when Ronald Reagan became president, Trump is offering up the hope that we will feel better about our selves and our position in the world. If the Republican insiders try to quell this energy, the party apparatus itself will be crushed. As Scott Adams points out in a recent post:
“Shenanigans might happen at the convention. But unless something big changes, the GOP will either become the Trump party or the newest resident of history’s dust bin, living under a Clinton presidency. The GOP is down to two options.”
When boiled down to a choice between a Clinton presidency and a Trump party, it is not easy for Trump foes to choose the former option. Sure it looks like the death knell of Republicanism, but maybe that can be dealt with later. An irrational hope, but like much of what we do irrationally, putting off until tomorrow can work for awhile.
The only thing that really stands in the way of a Trump nomination would be a failure of the Trump team to make nice to enough party insiders, so they would chose the “dust bin” option for the party rather than bend to his will. And, as you may have noticed, Trump is working on that with the help of some new members of his expanded campaign team, something I will return to in a later post.
What is so crazy about all of this is Trump is arguably more a Democrat than a Republican when it comes to policies, but he has managed to capture Republican sentiments despite often advocating positions that have not suited the Republican conservative base. Look at his defense of funding planned parenthood, his exceptions made in abortions for rape and incest and his suggesting that North Carolina would be better off not making a big deal over the LGBT bathroom issue.
Trump seems to be given a pass on these issues as indications that at least he’s being honest and for his toughness in other areas and…….???? And he may well be given a pass by Republicans on a number of other issues, given the alternative specter of a Hillary presidency.
The huge question is what will the Republican Party look like by the end of the year no matter who wins the presidential election, but a common desire to beat Hillary might suppress much of that in the interim.