Persuasion Versus Populism
Persuasion Versus Populism
November 21, 2016
I’m hearing lots of after-the-fact explanations for why Trump won the election. The most common interpretation of events is that many citizens had a view of the country that pundits, pollsters, and the Clinton campaign missed. But somehow Trump accurately identified the mood of the people – especially in the Great Lakes region – and crafted a message to fit their emotions.
That explanation of events fits the observed data. Trump’s priorities do seem to match what polls tell us people are thinking and feeling. Or at least enough people feel that way to give Trump the Electoral College win. In this view of the world, Trump is a populist who has good instincts about what people want to hear.
But as I have been teaching you for the past year, people can be living in different movies while physically inhabiting the same spacetime. In your movie, Trump might be a populist as the experts are saying. But in my movie, Trump is a Master Persuader. And the script for my movie fits the observed facts just as well as yours. Maybe better.
The Master Persuader filter says Trump didn’t identify and match the preferences of the people so much as cause them to think the way they are thinking. My filter on the election says that Trump’s skill for persuasion could have given him the victory with DIFFERENT policies than the ones he championed – such as Bernie Sanders policies. And Trump would look like a populist in that case too.
Keep in mind that most voters are handcuffed to their party’s candidate. That guarantees that most elections will be close, no matter who runs. The winner is the candidate who can move perhaps 5% of voters from column A to B. And the Master Persuader had a year-long election cycle and total media exposure to get that minor task accomplished. This is why I predicted Trump’s win a year before it happened.
I don’t believe reality is something the human brain can understand. We didn’t evolve with the ability to see reality for what it is. Evolution only cares if we survive and procreate. In this case, people who think Trump is a populist can have babies, and so can the people who think we elected Hitler, and so can the people who think Trump is a well-meaning Master Persuader. That’s three different movies. Evolution doesn’t care which worldview is right, if any. It only cares that we can make more babies. And we can.
Still, it might matter who has the most “useful” movie among us. The Master Persuader movie did a good job in predicting Trump’s success. It also predicts Trump moving to the middle, persuading Pence to be more LGBTQ-friendly, and good relations with other countries. That’s the movie plot I see coming.
But some of you are in a movie that is dark and dangerous. Perhaps you see a world in which the next Hitler just came to power. Some of you see a clown with no skill coming to power because his populist message was effective. Those are scary movies compared to my feel-good film. If you could switch to my movie, and lose nothing but your anxiety for the future, wouldn’t you want to do it? In my movie, we have lots of Trump success ahead and none of the dark possibilities will come to pass.
So how can you tell whether or not you are in the wrong movie? I’ll give you a few clues.
If Trump didn’t win because of his persuasion skills, which other Republican candidate can you imagine beating Clinton?
You might be thinking that Clinton’s email problems and the Comey announcements made her an unusually weak candidate, and that means any sane Republican could have beaten her. But you’d be wrong. The reason that the emails, the Comey decisions, and Wikileaks were so effective is that Trump had been labelling Clinton “Crooked Hillary” for months. That created the confirmation bias trap that made everything Clinton ever did sound suspicious. None of the other candidates would have crafted such a perfect persuasion trap.
I also have a hard time imagining any other candidate going after Bill Clinton so hard that it took him out of the game. Was Jeb going to do that?
If you believe Trump’s skill for persuasion wasn’t the key variable in his win, you have to imagine some other candidate beating Clinton with the same set of policies as Trump. Personally, I can’t imagine it.
If you think Trump is the next Hitler, or a clown who got lucky with his populist message, you have to ask yourself why the stock market and the dollar are both up following the election. The smartest money-managers in the world have already abandoned their old movies and jumped over to movies they see as more useful for making money, apparently.
If you think Trump is the next Hitler, you have to ask yourself why every major world power has already said they think they can work with him, no problem.
If you think Trump is a lucky incompetent who inherited money from his father, you have to explain why he has succeeded in real estate, reality TV, and now politics. Can incompetent people win that bigly in three different arenas while everyone is watching?
If you think Trump has anti-semite advisors, you have to wonder why his son-in-law Jared Kushner hasn’t noticed any of that and is working hard for Trump.
If you think Trump is a racist, you have to wonder how he learned to act so well that he could be in this picture looking as non-racist as a person can look.
And if you think Trump is any or all of the things you heard from the mainstream media, you have to wonder why they were so thoroughly wrong about the one thing that can be measured objectively – the election results.
You might also wonder why the anti-Trump protests are petering out. If a real Hitler came to power, would people get tired of walking around outside to protest?
The biggest demographic group opposing Trump – including the ones on the street – are young people. Objectively speaking, young people are the dumbest people within every demographic group. I was dumber when I was younger. So were you. So is everyone else. Ask yourself if it is a coincidence that the dumbest people within every demographic group lean in the same direction.
The Master Persuader filter says that young people have not yet experienced multiple situations in which the media scares the public over nothing. To them, the fear of Trump is real because the Internet and the media says it is real. To people my age, we have seen one fake media scare after another. We don’t believe in fake scares the same way that that young people do because we’ve been through it so many times.
As the election season fog begins to clear, most people will start to see Trump as an unconventional president whose policies conform to the preferences of the governed. But that simple movie is boring. I invite you to join my movie, in which each of us has a small role in making America Great Again. You just have to find your part.
It’s a good movie. I think you’ll like it.
You might like reading my book because evolution.
— WhenHub App —
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