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Hullabaloo


Saturday, October 17, 2015

 

It's human nature

by Tom Sullivan

Writing at Wonkblog, Max Ehrenfreund examined the psychology of Trump supporters (and the rest of us) the other day. It's nothing shocking, yet we seem to have to be reminded of it regularly:

From a psychological perspective, though, the people backing Trump are perfectly normal. Interviews with psychologists and other experts suggest one explanation for the candidate's success -- and for the collective failure to anticipate it: The political elite hasn't confronted a few fundamental, universal and uncomfortable facts about the human mind.

We like people who talk big.

We like people who tell us that our problems are simple and easy to solve, even when they aren't.

And we don't like people who don't look like us.

I might add a few others, but that's a good start.

"Really, we're not giving people enough credit," argues John Hibbing, a psychologist at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. "We have to take this seriously. You can look down your nose if you want to, but these people aren't going away."

Looking down your nose at people. That's another one: We don't like people who don't like us.

The second one recalls the famous H.L. Mencken quote: "There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong." Mencken must have met plenty of people like Trump. There are plenty out there. Still ...

"People like the idea that deep down, the world is simple; that they can grasp it and that politicians can't," Hibbing said. "That's certainly a message that I think Trump is radiating."

"Radiating" is a good descriptor. The left puts too much faith in rationality and language, when that's not how most people operate. They read a lot from nonverbal cues. As I wrote a last year:

One of my favorite southernisms is, "I wouldn't trust anyone my dog doesn't like." That, I caution canvassers, is how most Americans really vote, like it or not. And if you don't purge the thought, those "low information" voters? They will know you think they're stupid before you do. Right before you ask for their votes.

Campaign schools drill two things during their trainings. First, we are not normal people. Normal people don't spend a weekend learning to run political campaigns. Lefty wonks should not try to talk to normal people the way we talk to each other. Second, your job when knocking doors is not to persuade people or to engage them in debate. Your job is to knock, smile, be polite, drop the literature, and, most of all, leave a good impression. If the voters like you, they will vote for your candidate. In many cases it really is that simple. It doesn't satisfy our need to win some philosophical victory or to browbeat people into submission with the power of our superior arguments, but that's how things really work in spite of how we think they should.

There is more at the link about tribalism, zero-sum thinking, and "our species's unconscious and its unchanging predispositions." Fascinating stuff.