It amuses me to read the clever and the wise gradually bring themselves around to the inevitability of Trump. Colby Cosh can usually be relied upon to be insightful, and less knee-jerk, than many Post commentators. This weekend he allowed himself the following on the subject of The Donald:
It’s a strange election season, all right. Scott Adams, best known as the creator of “Dilbert,” has carved out a niche on his weblog as the leading expositor of Trumpian strategy. Adams believes Trump is literally hypnotizing the American public, using an arcana of powerful persuasion methods. The cartoonist disavows any claim to support Trump per se, but he has remained bullish even as other commentators predicted disaster after every grandiose halfwittery or scornful bon (?) mot.
Adams’ Trump-as-Master-Persuader schtick is becoming tacitly influential, I think, among chastened journalists who thought Trump would crash months ago. When the revered psephologist Nate Silver did a dramatic U-turn last week and admitted that he had harmed his prophetic bona fides by underestimating Trump, one could not help thinking of it as a surrender — could not help envisioning the sudden cinematic crumbling of a mighty fortification built out of Excel spreadsheets and wishful thinking. Silver almost seemed … relieved.
First, Trump is not “literally” hypnotizing anyone, he is metaphorically hypnotizing.
Like many of you, I have been entertained by the unstoppable clown car that is Donald Trump. On the surface, and several layers deep as well, Trump appears to be a narcissistic blow-hard with inadequate credentials to lead a country.
The only problem with my analysis is that there is an eerie consistency to his success so far. Is there a method to it? Is there some sort of system at work under the hood?
Probably yes. Allow me to describe some of the hypnosis and persuasion methods Mr. Trump has employed on you.
And he describes them in the posting. Now take the example of Trump not retreating from anything he ever said, even when it was silly. This is from January 2015:
He does use hyperbole for effect, but the deeper explanation is simpler. It is Persuasion 101.
The first rule of persuasion is that you nudge the other person, but you NEVER let them nudge you. Let me repeat this word a few times: NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER.
That’s exactly how often a good persuader should admit a wrong: NEVER.
If you show a willingness to get nudged, you lose your power in the negotiation. Your opponent will try to nudge you from that point on, and you will be on defense. Once you get nudged, it never ends. A good persuader is always the nudger and NEVER the nudgee. You want to keep the opponent off-balance.
Have I said NEVER enough?
Probably not, because you might be thinking that anyone who fails to acknowledge a truth that is right in front of their nose is probably a narcissistic, mentally unstable liar who is just saying things for attention.
In the 2D world, Trump appears to be all of those things. In the 3D world, where you NEVER want to let yourself be nudged, it is a sign of a Master Persuader.
What you see in the 2D world is Trump the egomaniac who “can’t admit when he is wrong!” What I see in the 3D world is the most disciplined persuader I have ever seen. Trump intentionally accepts the scorn of many as a cost of winning. And it works.
On another note, I have been reading Jon Meacham’s excellent Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of George Herbert Walker Bush, Destiny and Power. The time was just after Bush had won the New Hampshire Republican primary in March 1988. President Bush the Elder turned to the question of who would be his Vice-President.
The New York developer Donald Trump mentioned his availability as a vice-presidential candidate to Lee Atwater. Bush thought the overture “strange and unbelievable”.
So The Donald has been angling for high office for 28 years, it would appear. He has found that the simplest way to get there is to be elected. “Strange and unbelievable” indeed.
Those who doubt Trump’s electoral chances need to refresh themselves in the history of the United States. Andrew Jackson came from the backwoods to overthrow the Federalist Party; Abraham Lincoln was the candidate of a political party formed scarcely four years before; Franklin Roosevelt overthrew the Republican dominance which set in after US civil war, and Nixon’s southern strategy enabled the Republicans to dominate US Presidencies until recently.
The United States is capable of huge political change, and I think we are seeing one before our eyes. Some people have trouble discerning a tsunami because it first appears that the ocean water is going out.