Monday, February 20, 2017

More Trump

I'm going to sound like Scott Adams over at his Dilbert blog. When I first read his predictions about Trump early in the primaries, describing him as a Master Persuader, a wizard, and all that. I thought it overblown.

Well, he turned out to be spot on, so shows you what I know. During the election season I also read Taleb's Antifragile, which was similarly helpful in understanding what is going on around me. Trump is antifragile. His popularity benefits from uncertainty and chaos. He is like Antaeus, the giant who gained strength whenever Hercules threw him to earth. Legacy media sources and liberal advocacy groups have not figured out that they continue to make him more powerful by the type of criticism they are directing toward him.

I can't tell if the NeverTrump side of conservatism - National Review, Weekly Standard - is making the same mistakes.  I suspect not, because they will have somewhat different things that torque them off, but it's not impossible. I do read occasionally of Democrats sounding the alarm, and articulating clearly that they know the previous strategies aren't working.  Their message doesn't seem to be penetrating.  If you won't listen to them I can't imagine why you'd find me persuasive, but I'll have a go.

Because this should have been your finest hour, of providing good investigative reporting when we really need it, but you have basically thrown it away, and are already in the process of losing the 2018 elections.  A huge drop in the stock market and subsequent recession - that may save your chances, though it's not a guarantee. A very bad war or some catastrophe that's not handled well - that may cause some doubters to jump ship on Trump. Yet if he successfully blames those things on Democrats - fairly or unfairly - either could make things worse for you. You'll notice that I'm addressing you as if you are on the side of liberals and Democrats. Sorry, lost my head, there.  Where would I get an idea like that?

Let's start with the basics: you don't have the credibility you think you do.  I know, I know, all your friends believe you when you report bad things about Trump or his appointees, and they reinforce it in their conversations or their tweets or their news shows. That's not everybody. In fact, it's way less than 50% of the population, perhaps about a third.  Convincing those people more and more and more how bad Trump is doesn't move the dial. Sure, there are people on the other side, on the Trump side, who wouldn't believe you no matter what evidence you produce, and that strikes you as infuriating and unfair. No, not really.  It's something of a balance, actually.  You are those people, just turned inside out.

Consequently, the standard for avoiding mistakes is now the same for you as you have been applying to others for your whole career.  When accusing Trump of making some inaccurate statement, if you get that wrong once it outweighs nine times that you got it right. And, just between you and me and the lampost, you aren't close to getting it right 90% of the time just now. so in the minds of the public, you are digging yourself in deeper and deeper. Fresh examples are best. There was a lot of excitement this past weekend about Trump claiming something had gone wrong in Sweden, but there hadn't been any big incident that anyone could recognise.  When I first read it, I thought What the hell is Trump talking about there? I thought the story plausible, because Trump does stuff like this.  Then I saw the transcript, and without even knowing the rest of the story, I thought Unh, there's some window there. It's a little clumsy in the wording, but he could be talking about events in general in Sweden, maybe an "Every Friday night..." You shouldn't try to slam dunk these, because they keep hitting off the rim. So when I read the full response, that Trump had watched Tucker Carlson on the news Friday with a story about the increase in rape and violence in Sweden due to immigration, it made entire sense.

The people who always believe you - the people who will believe any bad thing about Trump (and his minions - don't forget his minions) will throw up their hands, roll their eyes and say "Aw come on, that's a ridiculous excuse.  You got caught out, you old windbag.  Don't try to bring that crap in here." Except it's not ridiculous at all.  That's exactly how Trump talks, and how he thinks. He's been talking like this for years. His claim is entirely plausible. It not only could be true, so you can't get your slam dunk, it is actually the most likely thing that happened.  Because why the hell else would Sweden suddenly occur to him? The news story was in his stew, it bubbled to the top, and he spooned it. 

Net result: Your pals, no change.  They still don't believe Trump but even if he had some sort of definite proof they would just scowl and wait for the next time. (We'll get him next time.) Trump's pals, no change.  Even if you had proof they'd just shrug it off.  People in the middle, that one-third of the population, most will now remember They lied about Trump again, about something really small and pointless like it was a big deal. Maybe a few will think you scored a point, but also notice that it doesn't much matter. Small potatoes. So now you need to catch him nine times, without a miss, to make up for it. Welcome to the world you made.  How does it feel to be on the receiving end?

Remember the first rule of holes.

Next basic point:  the tricks you used to use don't work anywhere near as well now.  I was in the doctor's office today and saw the last two Time magazine covers. A really unflattering, sinister head shot of Steve Bannon, and a very senatorial, senex -looking Chuck Schumer. 20-30 years ago, only a few political-bias fanatics like myself noticed such things.  The thought is that many were influenced by it without noticing it. That is much less true today. New media has drummed this home for years now, and many people notice the attempt at manipulation immediately. Not only are they no longer affected by it, they are now infuriated by it and are determined to shove this back in your face. I'm not sure whether your own people notice or not.  I suspect it merely confirms their pre-existing bias and is unnoticed.  Yet perhaps not.

Third basic point: making fun of Trump doesn't seem to be working very well, does it?  That is, it doesn't work in moving the dial.  If anything it is working against Trump's opponents.  Every coarse and unfair characterisation of him buys another vote for him in 2020.  So keep circulating those memes, see how that works out for you.  Admittedly, I don't know what will work against him - you might be reduced to trial-and-error at this point.  It's not that you shouldn't be allowed to, it's just that it's stupid.  It's working against you.  This idea that it's some noble cause upholding democracy and preserving the republic against fascist forces is just insane.  You clutch your pearls when Trump says the press is the enemy of the people, certain that this means jack-booted thugs are going to be smashing printing presses and locking up helpless reporters.  No one is going to lock you up. We aren't on the first steps to that, we aren't mirroring 1933. You aren't heroes. Sorry the others aren't sticking to your script.  Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit used a line that must be a paraphrase of some movie or TV line a month or so ago. (Maybe he uses it all the time, I don't know.) "Do you want more Trump?  Because this is how you get more Trump."

I am going to tread into more speculative territory here.  Making fun of Trump does not "work" in the larger political sense, but it may "work" in the sense of your friends thinking you are witty, smart, in the know.  For your own personal goals of fitting in among friends and co-workers, of finding mates, jobs, friends, and resources it may "work" to make fun of Donald Trump and to find the cleverest ways of doing it. That may explain why liberals seem unable to give up what is clearly hurting them.

Look forward into how you are hoping to take votes away from Trump-by-proxy in the 2018 elections, and then into 2020 if/when he runs again.  You are very dependent on large events going against him, whether caused by him or not, and more important of your ability to pin the blame for that on him. Now look at the other side of the ledger, of where he might gain votes next time: The NeverTrump conservatives who didn't vote for him (I know at least one, myself), are very pleased with his SCOTUS nomination.  One more of those, with another vacancy or two opening after 2020, and they will vote for him in a heartbeat unless there has been something terrible that puts them off. The Hispanic vote, which already trended more to Trump that you will admit, will move even more in his direction.  The fact that the activist/more cynical/more paranoid half of the Hispanic vote hates him even more won't matter. They don't double-vote from more hatred. If jobs are better and he has shown that he's not going to kick legal immigrants around, those votes will shift.  This is doubly true of the African-American vote.  Yes, some blacks are absolutely furious or petrified about what he will do, and a core of them will not be moved.  But the white supremacist card was so wildly overplayed, and his record on race so neutral over time, that some of those votes will drift away as well.  Again, the fact that there is a core of black voters who really, really hate him, even if they write columns or get up in front of protests or get interviewed on CNN, and will never vote for him is irrelevant. If jobs are better and there actually aren't measurably deteriorating outcomes for African-Americans, some votes will drift.

Where are you hoping to make those votes up?  Native Americans turning out for Elizabeth Warren?

BTW, I'm guessing that the activist core senses this, so expect that they will attempt to make any incident into a huge deal, hoping that it will galvanise anti-Trump sentiment. It might.  This is how politics works, and they may hit the jackpot.  Problem: If they swing-and-miss a hundred times it's going to be a net loss. Remember that miss doesn't mean "we were proven completely wrong and are utterly defeated on this issue." Miss means "no new people were outraged."


Boxty said...

Very interesting post. If you change your mind in 2020 on voting Trump it would be my pleasure to buy you a MAGA hat. :)

In addition to the Master Persuader skill, Adams also mentions what he calls Trump's talent stack: Persuasion, mastery of the news cycle, successful business and media career, ability to draw large, enthusiastic crowds wherever he goes. Who else has that?

I'm not sure how the #Nevertrumpers think they can beat Trump when at least 56% of the American population agrees with Trump on immigration and free trade. Trump is offering us what we want. It's an easy sell. Do the #NeverTrumpers think they can convince us to eat broccoli when Trump is offering us ice cream?

Larry Sheldon said...

For the first time in years, I have hope for this country and I am beginning to feel sorry that we have no grandchildren.

Roy Lofquist said...


This is exactly what I would write if I had your talent. My analysis and yours are uncannily alike.

I can only add a couple of brief thoughts:

Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus - one lie and the rest is presumed false - the boy who cried wolf - an aphorism, a sin - venal or mortal.

Interest group coalitions are inherently unstable. As long as they are winning the various groups bite their tongues in exchange for their cut of the loot. When they start losing it's every man for themselves. For the Democratic coalition it started in 2010. For the Republicans well, Trump stole their party out from under them. I expect to see a major realignment as the various groups are going to follow the money.

Trump knows exactly what he is doing, always has. No mortal has ever risen from the dead 14 times in a year and a half. I don't know what he is, but I know we have never seen his like.

jaed said...

The original of the "more Trump" thing was "This is how you got Trump." (I think that might have started at Ace of Spades.) Once he got the Republican nomination, and even more so after the election, it became "Do you want more Trump? Because this is how you get more Trump."

One more thing I've noticed:
Net result: Your pals, no change. [...] Trump's pals, no change. [...] People in the middle, that one-third of the population, most will now remember They lied about Trump again, about something really small and pointless like it was a big deal.

That's part of it, but the other result is that there is suddenly much more awareness of the mass-immigration problems in Sweden. More people who weren't really aware of it are now aware, because the media has drawn people's attention to it at Trump's bidding. And that is definitely not something the left in general wants a lot of attention paid to. It offers a justification for the part of his program dealing with "extreme vetting", importing large numbers of Middle Eastern refugees, immigration in general, and so on. Having people paying attention to the matter strengthens him politically.

And the only thing he had to do was make a one-sentence offhand reference in the middle of a speech, and the media obligingly did the rest for him.

Unknown said...

Well said, but there is more. My take away, over the last year, is that these folks may be occasionally glib, but smart, not so much. In addition, they have no compelling vision, solutions or fresh insights. I wonder if this is a result of something that the very existence of Trump does to them. It is though they don't realize that crying wolf, the sky is falling, hasn't been undermined by all the hoaxes and maudlin melodrama, scolding, and malice. And Yes, "Welcome to the world you(they) made."  Most people, who are neutral or pro Trump, know he is a stand in for the rest of Middle America.
As for Sweden, I went on line. I was already aware of the uptick in crime and violence, but then I came across all the grenade attacks in Malmo, a city of 300,000, for Pete's sake. To date, the authorities blame organized crime, who use Bosnian grenades. I thought to myself does the left really want to bring the public's attention to Sweden.

Unknown said...

I do not know why this isn't glaringly obvious.

Sam L. said...

jaed, it's not just Sweden. Add in France, Germany, and England (Rotherham, particularly).

I don't know about where "This is how you get more Trump" came from, but I do recommend Don Surber's books, Trump The Press and Trump The Establishment, for how we got Trump.

Texan99 said...

I think Sean Davis may have started that expression with a tweet on Jan. 3, 2017.

A B said...

You should all do yourselves a favor and watch some Archer. Especially the early seasons.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Excellent, A B. We are grateful