A friend of mine asked me earlier this week whether I thought Donald Trump would be the next president of the United States. We had a lengthy discussion on the matter, and then the next day an old Washington Post piece showed up in my Facebook feed that covered much of the same ground. I was amused to find out that “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams and I have many of the same observations about the billionaire. We agree on Trump’s general strategy, but differ in terms of how successful his tactics will be in the general election.
In short, Adams believes Trump will be the next president of the United States. I … don’t know.
The Washington Post reported March 21:
The Manhattan mogul is so deft at the powers of persuasion, Adams believes, that the candidate could have run as a Democrat and, by picking different hot-button issues, still won this presidency. In other words: Trump is such a master linguistic strategist that he could have turned the political chessboard around and still embarrassed the field. …
1. Trump knows people are basically irrational.
“If you see voters as rational you’ll be a terrible politician,” Adams writes on his blog. “People are not wired to be rational. Our brains simply evolved to keep us alive. Brains did not evolve to give us truth. Brains merely give us movies in our minds that keeps us sane and motivated. But none of it is rational or true, except maybe sometimes by coincidence.”
2. Knowing that people are irrational, Trump aims to appeal on an emotional level.
“The evidence is that Trump completely ignores reality and rational thinking in favor of emotional appeal,” Adams writes. “Sure, much of what Trump says makes sense to his supporters, but I assure you that is coincidence. Trump says whatever gets him the result he wants. He understands humans as 90-percent irrational and acts accordingly.”
Adams adds: “People vote based on emotion. Period.”
3. By running on emotion, facts don’t matter.
“While his opponents are losing sleep trying to memorize the names of foreign leaders – in case someone asks – Trump knows that is a waste of time … ,” Adams writes. “There are plenty of important facts Trump does not know. But the reason he doesn’t know those facts is – in part – because he knows facts don’t matter. They never have and they never will. So he ignores them.
“Right in front of you.”
And stating numbers that might not quite be facts nevertheless can anchor those numbers, and facts, in your mind.
4. If facts don’t matter, you can’t really be “wrong.”
Trump “doesn’t apologize or correct himself. If you are not trained in persuasion, Trump looks stupid, evil, and maybe crazy,” Adams writes. “If you understand persuasion, Trump is pitch-perfect most of the time. He ignores unnecessary rational thought and objective data and incessantly hammers on what matters (emotions).”
I highly suggest reading the entire piece. Adams’ analysis will be invaluable in the months ahead.
Back in February I concurred with The Federalist’s James Poulos, who likened Trump to the Marvel character “Deadpool.” I said, “It appears, unfortunately, as though the Republican Party will not listen to Poulos’ advice, but instead will continue to ‘agonize’ over Trump.”
Now, Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. That means that we are only left to wonder if Hillary Clinton or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will be able to successfully counter Trump’s strategy — unless there is an X Factor.
I believe the X Factor that Adams did not discuss is the percentage of people who Trump inadvertently filled with irreversible negative emotions while wooing Republican primary voters.
Translation: The billionaire might not be able to make more people irrationally support him than those who now irrationally hate him.
To this day I still believe Marco Rubio would have been the only Republican candidate who would have beat Hillary Clinton in a “normal” election (e.g., no one accuses an opponent’s family member of being linked to the JFK assassination). Mr. Trump, however, is not a normal candidate.
As of now I am not prepared to make any predictions, but I will put on an intellectual poncho. There is no doubt that things will soon get dirtier than the front row of a Blue Man Group performance.