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Worldview Watch

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 previous issue                                               issue #48 posted 3 / 4 / 2016                                           archive of all  issues

 How what Trump is saying resonates with the worldview of those who vote for him

in the news: Reaction to the increasingly likelihood that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for USA president has dominated recent news. With it has come more analysis of what Trump is saying that resonates with the worldview of those who vote for him. In this regard, this morning brought an interesting Washington Post blog headline: "Death predicts whether people vote for Donald Trump." Therein Jeff Guo presented data that shows a strong correlation between county death rates of middle-aged white men and % the county votes for Trump. He hypotheses that economic reality-based despair and self destructive behavior associated with failed lives is behind the deaths. Yesterday NPR's Tom Gjelten reported that "Evangelical Leaders Question [the] Movement's Support of Trump."  Previous analyses have linked a preference for authoritarianism (see U Mass Amherst professor Matt McWilliams' Jan 2016 post on Politico), suggested that “Nativism and Economic Anxiety Fuel Trump’s Populist Appeal” (comments of Michael Lind as reported on NPR Sep 4 2015), and included psychologists' speculations about Trump supporters (in  

commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, project Worldview, Based on the above articles, what I've heard / read about Donald Trump's recent statements, and what other candidates have said about him, I've put together the following  related comments (linked to Project Worldview theme #s).  

#2B I Know What's Best For You  Any successful salesman (which Trump certainly seems to be) aims to convey this message.  Others (notably Marco Rubio and Mit Romney) in calling him a con-man, huckster, and fraud, charge that Trump's salesmanship has overstepped ethically accepted boundaries. 

#26B The More is Better Mentality  Psychologists consulted by Max Ehrenfreund pointed out, "We like people who talk big." By his own admission, Trump is a master of exaggeration. Marco Rubio has tried to counter Trump's big persona, by denigrating his supposedly "small hands". In the March 4th debate, Trump replied (and overstepped new boundaries!) by suggesting that his penis was large.  Of course, with his wealth and building skyscrapers Trump is a walking advertisement for the mentality behind this worldview theme that celebrates excess and argues that "more trumps less" (ouch!)

#21A   Populism Trump may like to portray himself as being on the side of the common man, but critics charge him with not only phoney (faux) populism but with fraud in this regard.  Note the statement of this worldview theme vows support for " communities seeking to democratically control their own affairs" and efforts promoting "the continuing education" of the people. In the former regard, critics point to Trump's support of eminent domain laws (see this August 19, 2015 Washington Post report) to overcome local opposition to his real estate ventures; in the latter regard, critics point to past and pending lawsuits regarding Trump University (click here for Wikipedia entry detailing the related controversy.) During last night's debate, Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly reported that one court ruling noted victims "often sing the praises of their victimizers until the moment they realize they have been fleeced."

#39B  Scapegoating  It is human nature--especially of children and immature adults-- to seek someone to blame for one's failure.  In looking around for scapegoats, as the psychologists consulted by Max Ehrenfreund point out, "We don't like people who don't look like us." The highlight of a Trump rally these days comes when he asks the crowd who will pay for the wall he plans to build along the Mexican border? Could it be that some who enthusiastically shout "Mexico!" are really indicating where they think the people come from who they blame for their own misfortune or fears? Past Mexican president Vincente Fox, a good friend of former USA president George W. Bush, who Trump has called "a liar", has compared Trump to Adolf Hitler. Of course Adolf Hitler provides the ultimate example of someone who used scapegoating to rise to power. 

#20B Authoritarianism  Many people yearn for strong leaders / heroes to follow and obey. The simple black & white solutions to complex, multi-faceted problems that leaders like Trump present may especially resonant with them. It has long been appreciated that the Russian people--coming from centuries of Czarist / strongman domination--are more comfortable with strong authoritarian leaders rather than weaker ones who head democratic governments; McWilliams' study suggests that a significant portion of the American electorate is as well. Donald Trump's respect for Russian strong man Vladimir Putin is interesting in this regard, as is his put-down of American war-hero and Senator John McCain for McCain's anti-heroic weakness in being captured during the Vietnam War.   

#29B  The Threatening, Violent Person  Trump has recently threatened physical violence--most notably saying he'd like to punch a (just removed protestor) in the face. His recent endorsement by Chris Christie, another politician with something of a reputation (deserved or not?) as a bully, makes sense from this perspective. Few dispute that threat of violence (or its actual use) is what keeps many authoritarian regimes in power. 

#37A   Proud Identification  Undoubtedly many of the struggling middle-aged white voters Guo identifies embrace Trump's "Let's Make America Great Again" slogan  in response to a stirring of patriotic, nationalist feelings. But--whether they know it or not-- perhaps many of them equate the call for renewed greatness with hope that their own shattered dreams / pride can be put back together?    

#31   Education for Democracy With his "I love the uneducated" remark, Trump is sending a (perhaps unintended) message devaluing the role of well educated citizens in making democracy work.  At the same time he may be expressing some genuine compassion for those whose lack of education prevents them from getting better jobs. Certainly his hotels have hired lots of such people. 

#36A  Cynicism  Many of those unhappy with their own lot in life will blame people in general--pointing to flawed human nature and how it can supposedly defeat well-intentioned human institutions. Their vote for Trump may represent disgust with failure of government to solve problems, their desire to send this feedback and shake things up!  While the ability to provide appropriate feedback is a strength of democratic systems, democracy can not work well in a nation of cynical, uneducated voters!  

Your Comments email them to us, put Worldview Watch #48 in subject line, click here

from LS:

Great post. I agree that he is entertaining, but only morbidly so. The imminent possibility of his being our next President has me wanting to move to Costa Rica to hide out in the jungle for (at least) 4 years. I hope you've seen this:

from RS:

I am very distressed by Trump's progress.  I appreciated the insights in your most recent column. It is very tempting to tell Trump supporters that they are a bunch of ignorant losers who are hoodwinked into blaming people of other races for their issues rather than a rigged political system in which only the very wealthy are represented.   

from RW:

Very interesting and thought provoking. Have you thought about having a Trump supporter (if you can find one) use your approach to pigeon hole his/her favorite son? You might get a different take on it. We all enter the conversation from a different point. In fact , if you had three Trump supporters use your categorization, I think you would get three different responses.  I see him in a similar way as you do. But I do not think that those that support him would place the same emphasis as you have done.

from SPC, prompted by a rambling rant from TC:  the article How the Political Winds Shift in An Ugly Direction: Scapegoating: Building Hate Starts with Dehumanizing and Distortion—An Example