Why the Trump faithful are impervious to reason
(VANCOUVER ISLAND) Progressives, liberals, and especially registered Democrats are bewildered by Donald Trump’s ability to commit every sin against political orthodoxy and human decency imaginable and yet, not just survive, but actually thrive. Each time the Trump campaign, or Trump himself, does something that would end anyone else’s political career, let alone candidacy, his followers, far from abandoning him, seem to become even more firmly committed to seeing him elected to the presidency of the United States. Trump famously bragged that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose a single vote; the record of the campaign thus far would suggest that the boast might not, like most of his claims, be entirely empty.
Examples of this phenomenon are plentiful. Joe Biden’s presidential aspirations were crushed as the result of his having plagiarised a part of a speech. Trump’s wife is treated like a victim for having been called out for plagiarising a speech by one the Republican’s most frequently attacked targets, the wife of Barack Obama. Who else but Donald Trump could mock a human being with a disability and be cheered by his fans? Who else could continue to repeat an utterly debunked lie, time and time again and not have it affect his numbers negatively? Does anyone think that Hillary Clinton could maintain her support if she refused to release her tax returns? What about if she had promised to do so several times and then simply reneged? Could anyone but Trump, with utter impunity, flip flop on every contentious issue and then claim he has in fact been completely consistent? What is it that makes Trump invulnerable to any reasoned argument or to any empirical evidence of his compulsive lying? Why can’t his supporters see the obvious?
The answer is actually quite straightforward and reflects the type of campaign Donald Trump has run and will continue to run right up until November. Trump’s supporters are impervious to rational arguments because of this principle: You can’t reason someone out of a position they weren’t reasoned into. If someone holds a position that he settled on because he was persuaded by rational arguments, by supporting factual evidence, and by critical thinking, that position can be successfully challenged by raising rational counter-arguments and presenting fact-based evidence that outweighs the original and opposing rationale. But if someone holds his position because he is committed to it out of fear, hatred, or other powerful emotions; if his position is clung to because it feels better than to abandon it in the face of reason, all the rational argumentation and fact-based evidence in the world will have zero effect. Trump’s supporters can’t be persuaded by reason because reason isn’t what makes them Trump supporters; if reason could persuade them, there wouldn’t be any Trump supporters left.
Moral reasoning has no effect on those people either, and for the same reason. Although their rhetoric is laced with moral and ethical condemnations of Hillary Clinton and anyone who rejects Trump’s hate-driven movement, those attacks are nothing more than protective colouration. His followers weren’t persuaded of Trump’s suitability to lead the nation by their moral consciences. To look at Trump through a lens of moral or ethical reasoning would unquestionably cause a sense of revulsion in anyone who believes that even a minimum level morality is a reasonable criterion for choosing a national leader. But one needs only a cursory look at the language and behaviour of the Trump faithful to see that anything resembling conventional morality is virtually absent. They weren’t persuaded by any ethical or moral calculus, so they are impervious to moral or ethical arguments against their views.
The Trump ascendancy is strictly a result of a calculated and very effective appeal to the basest emotions of an ignorant, vicious, and hate-filled segment of American society. Trump launched his campaign by targeting those Americans who feel that they have been sidelined by the march of civilisation. Trump’s base; angry, poorly educated, white males; was elated to hear someone blame their personal failures on an identifiable minority. He gave them permission to scapegoat minorities and to stop worrying that they might be the cause of their own misfortune. Don’t educate yourself, he was telling them, and don’t put any real effort into coming to terms with the 21st century; blame Mexicans. Or African Americans, or Muslims…you’re off the hook. This was seductive music to their ears.
As soon as they bought into the fairy tale he was spinning for them, a couple of things happened. They felt good; they felt better than they had when they thought correctly that their current malaise was of their own making. They saw that there were others like them; they found solidarity in the certainty that the other losers in the crowd felt as they did and they reinforced and propped up each other’s most vile and repugnant viewpoints. They followed Trump’s lead and gave one another permission to voice the cruelest and most hateful, dark thoughts that popped into their heads and pretended that by expressing bigotry they were courageously eschewing “political correctness”.
They cannot be talked out of their support; they are junkies who need Trump because he is the only person who can give them their guilt-free fix of overt hatred. For one of them to consider rationally anything that Trump promises would interfere with the rush he gives them. Reason would be the ultimate buzzkill. They are a lost cause to rational, moral, or ethical persuasion. The only hope for an America that could ever be respected again is if people who don’t find pure, unadulterated fear and hatred to be reasonable starting points for a rational decision get out and vote against what Donald Trump, in his latest and greatest swindle, is peddling this time.