Despite being dismissed by most pundits, journalists and the political Establishment, Donald Trump defeated the best field of Republican presidential nominees ever — all 16 of them. How did a real estate tycoon turned reality television celebrity, only a recent Republican who donated generously to Democrats — including Hillary Clinton and espoused inconsistent positions antithetical to Republican orthodoxy on almost every major issue important to Conservatives beat the best GOP politicians?
After Trump’s thumping’ of Sen. Ted Cruz, Rush Limbaugh tried to address this question:
I still don’t think people understand why Trump won this. I don’t think they understand at all the reason people support Trump. And the deeper people are entrenched in politics, and the more they are accustomed to the templates and the handbooks and the theories and the playbooks, the less they’re gonna understand it. The more they try to plug Donald Trump and his campaign and his personality into the professional politician candidate playbook that they use, the farther and farther from the truth they are going to get.
I’ve tried to help. During the course of this entire campaign, I’ve gone to great lengths to try to explain to people what it is about Trump, why he has his supporters, why they support him, and what you have to do to separate them from Trump. Basically, you can’t. That’s the bottom line. There’s nothing any professional politician can do. They’ve done everything that they knew how to beat a candidate. They threw everything they had at Trump.
[. . .]
Because none of this is about ideology right now. That’s why everybody’s talking about populism having over taken conservatism. That hasn’t happened, but at this moment of time it looks like it. In this particular set of circumstances it looks like it.
Limbaugh says, “Trump is gonna win, beat Hillary badly, that it could be landslide proportions.” Limbaugh’s analysis about why Trump wins is good, but an even better answer comes from Scott Adams, the creator of “Dilbert.” In a fascinating Washington Post article, Michael Cavna explains Adams also believes Trump will win in a landslide because Trump is running on our emotions. The Donald acknowledges the suffering of some and then appeals emotionally to that. Trump bolsters his approach by constantly creating the most interesting story by making some outrageous statement. The media doesn’t really have the option of ignoring the most interesting story, says Adams, contending that Trump “can always be the most interesting story if he has nothing to fear and nothing to lose”:
Having nothing to lose essentially then increases his chance of winning, because it opens up his field of rhetorical play. “Psychology is the only necessary skill for running for president,” writes Adams, adding: “Trump knows psychology.”
The article describes Trump’s emotional campaign in six key points:
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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).”
- With fewer facts in play, it’s easier to bend reality. Steve Jobs famously aimed to create “reality distortion fields” to meet his needs and achieve his ends. Trump employs similar techniques. Among the persuasive techniques that Trump uses to help bend reality, Adams says, are repetition of phrases; “thinking past the sale” so the initial part of his premise is stated as a given; and knowing the appeal of the simplest answer, which relates to the concept of Occam’s razor.
- To bend reality, Trump is a master of identity politics — and identity is the strongest persuader. One way to achieve this is by deploying “linguistic kill shots” that land true, and alter perception through two ways. “The best Trump linguistic kill shots, Adams writes,” have the following qualities. First, fresh words that are not generally used in politics. Second, relate to the physicality of the subject (so you are always reminded). Writes Adams: “Identity is always the strongest level of persuasion.”
There is plenty of suffering for Trump to use to defeat Hillary. The suffering will be used by Hillary as well. But she like the 16 unsuccessful GOP presidential candidates hasn’t run an emotional campaign. I don’t think she can. Hillary is an unemotional, cold-hearted poll-driven focus group candidate.
Limbaugh and Adams are right. Trump will defeat Hillary, just as he defeated the 16 Republicans. It won’t matter that #NeverTrump or even a good portion of the GOP Establishment won’t support him. Facts won’t matter. The betrayal of the base by the Republican Establishment and the Obamacrat’s remaking of America provide more than enough fertile ground for Trump’s emotional campaign.