How to Break an Illusion
How to Break an Illusion
November 14, 2016
Anti-Trump protesters believe they are fighting the good fight to stop a racist, homophobic, sexist monster. But about half of the country – the half that I’m in – is in a different movie. In our movie, we selected a new president and half of the country is in cognitive dissonance over it. Assuming the protesters are the ones experiencing the illusion, and not us, how can we release them from their zombie-like existence so they will stop blocking traffic?
I’ll tell you the general approach.
The main thing you have to do is violate the frame. Clinton framed Trump as a monster, and now protesters are locked into that illusion. If Trump does things that can be construed as monster-like, the illusion is strengthened. But every time he violates that framing, the illusion gets a crack. If it cracks enough, it breaks.
For example, half the country thought Trump was going to eliminate every good thing about Obamacare. But recently the public learned that Trump wants to keep the most popular provisions and just “fix” the rest of it. That violates the monster frame. But it isn’t enough by itself. You need more violations.
Picking Reince Priebus for Chief of Staff was a good step because it makes Trump seem presidential and flexible. That’s another violation of the monster frame. But a small one.
Unfortunately, picking Steve Bannon as chief strategist adds confirmation bias to the monster illusion because Clinton’s team polluted Bannon’s brand during the election. Bannon adds confirmation bias to the monster illusion. I assume Bannon is a great strategist or else Trump wouldn’t risk keeping him.
Yesterday on Sixty Minutes Trump said gay marriage was already settled by the Supreme Court, and Trump is okay with that. That’s a crack in the illusion that Trump is anti-LGBTQ. But not enough. And Trump’s selection of Pence to run the transition team supports the monster theory because Pence has some anti-gay history that needs fixing.
The obvious next move for the Master Persuader involves asking Pence to “evolve” to Trump’s positions on all LGBTQ matters. Everyone expects a VP to pretend to be a full supporter of the President’s policies. That gives cover for Pence to update his LGBTQ views because…
– Religious conservatives will dismiss it as mere politics, believing Pence privately holds views that match their own.
– Anti-Trumpers will see a major violation of the monster frame.
– I will explain it all later as Trump doing “pacing and leading” to bring the Republican Party toward the center where it is strongest. Because that’s what is happening.
Trump has lots of other ways to crack the monster framing in the coming months. He can say more about his “New Deal” ideas for helping African-Americans. He could flip a foreign leader from a critic to a friend. He could come up with some ideas on lowering college costs. He could say more about his plan NOT to deport undocumented citizens who have obeyed the law since coming to this country.
He has lots of levers. Expect him to push one lever after another until the monster framing cracks. By summer the story will be that he’s the most flexible and centrist president in our history.
It is worth noting that Trump and Clinton had very different unframing challenges. If Clinton had won, her job would have been to convince the public she isn’t crooked. But you can’t do that simply by doing some honest things in public. We expect that even crooked people do honest things when watched. Clinton literally had no path to remove her “crooked” label.
But Trump has a more solvable framing problem. Clinton’s team labelled him a racist, homophobic, sexist. Trump can violate that frame enough times to break it over time. But it will take a lot of cracks. You’ve already seen several. Expect more to come.
If I were in Trump’s place I would look for a bigly frame violation and soon. The public is already primed for him to “moderate” away from his campaign promises. This is the time to do it.
In summary, you can’t prove you are honest by NOT stealing something in public. But you can prove you are not a monster by saving a kitten from a tree in public. Monsters never do that sort of thing. This idea is so true that it became the title of the best book ever written about movie script writing: Save the Cat.
Watch for Trump to save some kittens – as many as necessary – until you can’t hold in your mind the frame that he’s a monster. Enjoy the show. The Master Persuader is just getting started.
You might like reading my book because kittens are so cute.
And you might love my startup’s new app for geostreaming your location to a friend as you approach your meeting spot. Here are links:
WhenHub app for Apple: http://apple.co/2eLL3Oh
WhenHub app for Android: http://bit.ly/2fIb6L7