Saturday, March 05, 2016

Referring To Herr Trumpf's Fans As "Life's Losers" Isn't Going To Win Them Over


Yesterday Jim Webb, a sometime Democratic, but not really a Democrat, who flirted briefly with running for president as a Democrat, announced on Morning Joe-- he certainly went to the perfect venue-- that he would not be voting for Hillary Clinton if she wins the Democratic nomination, but that he is still open to voting for Herr Trumpf. His chief strategist, Mudcat Sanders, has also announced that he wouldn't be voting for Hillary either. They both feel she'll just be a continuation of Obama's policies, although neither talked about which Obama policies need to be changed. During his single term in the Senate, Webb was a kind of right-of-center populist. I think most Democrats were relieved when he threw up his hands and term-limited himself. Whenever someone wants to throw around the name of a Republican-friendly conservative Democrat for a nomination, Webb's name is always at the top of the list. Some of the monsters who dominate the Clinton campaign have been touting him lately. At least that's over!

Webb seemed to be willing to enable Trumpf's racism and xenophobia; sounded very much like... Jim Webb. "The reason Donald Trump is getting so much support right now is not because of the 'racist' (dismissive air quotes) etc etc. It's because a certain group of people are seeing him as the only one who has the courage to step forward and say 'we've got to clean up the stables of the American governmental system right now. We've got to make it work.'" I wonder if Webb is a heroin addict.

The day before, George Lakoff had warned that in order to push back effectively against Trump it is essential to understand his appeal. "Arguing against him," he wrote, "just helps him." Lakoff's essay-- excerpts of which are below-- divides American politics between the Nurturant Parent family (progressive) and the Strict Father family (conservative). He helps his readers understand Trump's popular appeal from the perspective of cognitive and brain sciences, his field.


Why Trump?
-by George Lakoff

Donald Trump is winning Republican presidential primaries at such a great rate that he seems likely to become the next Republican presidential nominee and perhaps the next president. Democrats have little understanding of why he is winning-- and winning handily, and even many Republicans don't see him as a Republican and are trying to stop him, but don't know how. There are various theories: People are angry and he speaks to their anger. People don't think much of Congress and want a non-politician. Both may be true. But why? What are the details? And Why Trump?

Many people are mystified. He seems to have come out of nowhere. His positions on issues don't fit a common mold.

He likes Planned Parenthood, Social Security, and Medicare, which are not standard Republican positions. Republicans hate eminent domain (the taking of private property by the government) and love the Trans-Pacific Partnership (the TPP trade deal), but he has the opposite views on both. He is not religious and scorns religious practices, yet the Evangelicals (that is, the white Evangelicals) love him. He thinks health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, as well as military contractors, are making too much profit and wants to change that. He insults major voting groups, e.g., Latinos, when most Republicans are trying to court them. He wants to deport 11 million immigrants without papers and thinks he can. He wants to stop all Muslims from entering the country. What is going on?

...In the strict father family, father knows best. He knows right from wrong and has the ultimate authority to make sure his children and his spouse do what he says, which is taken to be what is right. Many conservative spouses accept this worldview, uphold the father’s authority, and are strict in those realms of family life that they are in charge of. When his children disobey, it is his moral duty to punish them painfully enough so that, to avoid punishment, they will obey him (do what is right) and not just do what feels good. Through physical discipline they are supposed to become disciplined, internally strong, and able to prosper in the external world. What if they don’t prosper? That means they are not disciplined, and therefore cannot be moral, and so deserve their poverty. This reasoning shows up in conservative politics in which the poor are seen as lazy and undeserving, and the rich as deserving their wealth. Responsibility is thus taken to be personal responsibility not social responsibility. What you become is only up to you; society has nothing to do with it. You are responsible for yourself, not for others-- who are responsible for themselves.

As the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, said, “Winning isn’t everything. It's the only thing.” In a world governed by personal responsibility and discipline, those who win deserve to win. Why does Donald Trump publicly insult other candidates and political leaders mercilessly? Quite simply, because he knows he can win an onstage TV insult game. In strict conservative eyes, that makes him a formidable winning candidate who deserves to be a winning candidate. Electoral competition is seen as a battle. Insults that stick are seen as victories-- deserved victories.

Consider Trump’s statement that John McCain is not a war hero. The reasoning: McCain got shot down. Heroes are winners. They defeat big bad guys. They don't get shot down. People who get shot down, beaten up, and stuck in a cage are losers, not winners.

The strict father logic extends further. The basic idea is that authority is justified by morality (the strict father version), and that, in a well-ordered world, there should be (and traditionally has been) a moral hierarchy in which those who have traditionally dominated should dominate. The hierarchy is: God above Man, Man above Nature, The Disciplined (Strong) above the Undisciplined (Weak), The Rich above the Poor, Employers above Employees, Adults above Children, Western culture above other cultures, Our Country above other countries. The hierarchy extends to: Men above women, Whites above Nonwhites, Christians above nonChristians, Straights above Gays. We see these tendencies in most of the Republican presidential candidates, as well as in Trump, and on the whole, conservative policies flow from the strict father worldview and this hierarchy.

...Direct causation is dealing with a problem via direct action. Systemic causation recognizes that many problems arise from the system they are in and must be dealt with via systemic causation. Systemic causation has four versions: A chain of direct causes. Interacting direct causes (or chains of direct causes). Feedback loops. And probabilistic causes. Systemic causation in global warming explains why global warming over the Pacific can produce huge snowstorms in Washington DC: masses of highly energized water molecules evaporate over the Pacific, blow to the Northeast and over the North Pole and come down in winter over the East coast and parts of the Midwest as masses of snow. Systemic causation has chains of direct causes, interacting causes, feedback loops, and probabilistic causes-- often combined.

Direct causation is easy to understand, and appears to be represented in the grammars of all languages around the world. Systemic causation is more complex and is not represented in the grammar of any language. It just has to be learned.

Empirical research has shown that conservatives tend to reason with direct causation and that progressives have a much easier time reasoning with systemic causation. The reason is thought to be that, in the strict father model, the father expects the child or spouse to respond directly to an order and that refusal should be punished as swiftly and directly as possible.

Many of Trump’s policy proposals are framed in terms of direct causation.

Immigrants are flooding in from Mexico-- build a wall to stop them. For all the immigrants who have entered illegally, just deport them-- even if there are 11 million of them working throughout the economy and living throughout the country. The cure for gun violence is to have a gun ready to directly shoot the shooter. To stop jobs from going to Asia where labor costs are lower and cheaper goods flood the market here, the solution is direct: put a huge tariff on those goods so they are more expensive than goods made here. To save money on pharmaceuticals, have the largest consumer-- the government-- take bids for the lowest prices. If Isis is making money on Iraqi oil, send US troops to Iraq to take control of the oil. Threaten Isis leaders by assassinating their family members (even if this is a war crime). To get information from terrorist suspects, use water-boarding, or even worse torture methods. If a few terrorists might be coming with Muslim refugees, just stop allowing all Muslims into the country. All this makes sense to direct causation thinkers, but not those who see the immense difficulties and dire consequences of such actions due to the complexities of systemic causation.

There are at least tens of millions of conservatives in America who share strict father morality and its moral hierarchy. Many of them are poor or middle class and many are white men who see themselves as superior to immigrants, nonwhites, women, nonChristians, gays-- and people who rely on public assistance. In other words, they are what liberals would call “bigots.” For many years, such bigotry has not been publicly acceptable, especially as more immigrants have arrived, as the country has become less white, as more women have become educated and moved into the workplace, and as gays have become more visible and gay marriage acceptable. As liberal anti-bigotry organizations have loudly pointed out and made a public issue of the unAmerican nature of such bigotry, those conservatives have felt more and more oppressed by what they call “political correctness”-- public pressure against their views and against what they see as “free speech.” This has become exaggerated since 911, when anti-Muslim feelings became strong. The election of President Barack Hussein Obama created outrage among those conservatives, and they refused to see him as a legitimate American (as in the birther movement), much less as a legitimate authority, especially as his liberal views contradicted almost everything else they believe as conservatives.

Donald Trump expresses out loud everything they feel-- with force, aggression, anger, and no shame. All they have to do is support and vote for Trump and they don’t even have to express their ‘politically incorrect’ views, since he does it for them and his victories make those views respectable. He is their champion. He gives them a sense of self-respect, authority, and the possibility of power.

Whenever you hear the words “political correctness” remember this.

There is no middle in American politics. There are moderates, but there is no ideology of the moderate, no single ideology that all moderates agree on. A moderate conservative has some progressive positions on issues, though they vary from person to person. Similarly, a moderate progressive has some conservative positions on issues, again varying from person to person. In short, moderates have both political moral worldviews, but mostly use one of them. Those two moral worldviews in general contradict each other. How can they reside in the same brain at the same time?

Both are characterized in the brain by neural circuitry. They are linked by a commonplace circuit: mutual inhibition. When one is turned on the other is turned off; when one is strengthened, the other is weakened. What turns them on or off? Language that fits that worldview activates that worldview, strengthening it, while turning off the other worldview and weakening it. The more Trump’s views are discussed in the media, the more they are activated and the stronger they get, both in the minds of hardcore conservatives and in the minds of moderate progressives.

This is true even if you are attacking Trump’s views. The reason is that negating a frame activates that frame, as I pointed out in the book Don’t Think of an Elephant! It doesn't matter if you are promoting Trump or attacking Trump, you are helping Trump.

A good example of Trump winning with progressive biconceptuals includes certain unionized workers. Many union members are strict fathers at home or in their private life. They believe in “traditional family values”-- a conservative code word-- and they may identify with winners.

Why Has Trump been Winning in the Republican Primaries?

Look at all the conservatives groups he appeals to!

The Democratic Party has not been taking seriously many of the reasons for Trump’s support and the range of that support. And the media has not been discussing many of the reasons for Trump’s support. That needs to change.
There are about 15 million hard core Trumpf fans participating in the Republican primaries and caucuses. That may be enough to win him his party's nomination. But he'll need another 50 million to win the general election. Hillary is a strong primary candidate. Low-info Democrats are voting for her as much as low-info voters are voting for him. But in the general election, she's as bad a candidate as the Democrats could field. She is the establish, went and the status quo at a time when voters crave real change. She is one of the least trusted politicians in the country and independents don't like her at all and won't vote for her. You want to make sure the next president is not Herr Trumpf, please consider tapping on the thermometer and doing what you can. It helps... a lot.
Goal Thermometer

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At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Siobhanga said...

So ??? Refer to Trump's followers as Dittoheads. "Trumpists" are the Rush Limbaugh radio audience given an appropriately snotty Republican candidate to vote for, plus lewd comments and misogyny. What's not to like?

At 5:38 AM, Blogger Andy said...

Greetings from Canada, where we watch your election process with the fear and fascination of an oncoming train wreck. Rubbernecking so hard our necks hurt. :)

Great article. Not sure if you've seen this article but it corroborates your assertions as well.

And one small correction: "She is the establish, went" -> "She is the establishment"



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