Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Two Trumps

Here are two interesting attempts to ease Donald Trump into some kind of explanatory narrative.

Firstly we have Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams who sees Trump as a master persuader.

Economies are driven by psychology. If you expect things to go well tomorrow, you invest today, which causes things to go well tomorrow, as long as others are doing the same. The best kind of president for managing the psychology of citizens – and therefore the economy – is a trained persuader. You can call that persuader a con man, a snake oil salesman, a carnival barker, or full of shit. It’s all persuasion. And Trump simply does it better than I have ever seen anyone do it.

Secondly we have James Williams who sees Trump as an undeserving master of clickbait attention seeking.

Trump is very straightforwardly an embodiment of the dynamics of clickbait: he is the logical product (though not endpoint) in the political domain of a media environment designed to invite, and indeed incentivize, relentless competition for our attention. In fact, Trump benefits not only from the attention and outrage of his supporters, but also that of his opponents. So you already are, in a sense, ‘voting’ for Trump every time you click that link to see what zany antics he’s gotten himself into in today’s episode. (Yes, I am aware of the ironic implications of the previous sentence for this article as a whole — more on that shortly.)

Of the two I find Scott Adams more convincing, but that’s mainly because I tend to find him moderately convincing anyway. At least he seems to think through his ideas and tries to remove personal biases.

Yet if the election turns out to be close then presumably both Trump and Clinton are master persuaders and both are master clickbait populists. There is no significant predictive power to either position. One goes with them or one doesn’t. It is merely a matter of taste yet the feeling persists that it shouldn’t be.

However - try this from Adams. To my mind this is genuine insight - not a common feature of the Trump Clinton battle.

Pacing and Leading: Trump always takes the extreme position on matters of safety and security for the country, even if those positions are unconstitutional, impractical, evil, or something that the military would refuse to do. Normal people see this as a dangerous situation. Trained persuaders like me see this as something called pacing and leading. Trump “paces” the public – meaning he matches them in their emotional state, and then some. He does that with his extreme responses on immigration, fighting ISIS, stop-and-frisk, etc. Once Trump has established himself as the biggest bad-ass on the topic, he is free to “lead,” which we see him do by softening his deportation stand, limiting his stop-and-frisk comment to Chicago, reversing his first answer on penalties for abortion, and so on. If you are not trained in persuasion, Trump look scary. If you understand pacing and leading, you might see him as the safest candidate who has ever gotten this close to the presidency. That’s how I see him.


Paddington said...

My concern if he is elected is not what he will do. Past experience suggests that he will be happy enough having his ego stroked. I worry about how some people will use him to their ends.

A K Haart said...

Paddington - his apparent vanity is an issue with me, so yes his ego may be open for stroking if elected.