Friday, August 5, 2016

Understanding how the Trump mind works

Josh Marshall of TPM wrote this weeks ago, before the conventions, before the VP picks, before things had heated up quite to this point.   Now that the conventions hoopla is over, I think it's worth looking at to try to understand this man the Republicans have chosen, i.e., how his mind works. 
"One of the most telling things Trump has said during this campaign is that he doesn’t go into rallies with any script or even terribly prepared sense of what he’s going to say. He starts talking and then waits to get a feel for what the audience responds to.  In other words, he homes in on affirmation.

"This is largely because Trump is a narcissist. But it’s also a trait of a salesperson. You intuit and understand what the client wants or needs . . . and then get about selling it to them. . . . 

"The other thing that’s very apparent about Trump is that he’s shockingly, almost totally ignorant of the details of almost every public policy issue . . . .  This makes him more porous to the views and desires of his supporters because he has little to no matrix of pre-existing knowledge or core beliefs to reference them against or challenge them with.

"Because of this -- intuiting his audience and almost total ignorance and indifference to policy questions — Trump's core racism and authoritarianism have been amplified and accentuated . . . by his interaction with his supporters.  This is not to exonerate Trump . . .. But it's important to see that 'beliefs' isn't really a metric that is very useful with Trump. . . 

If you see a chameleon who is orange, it doesn't tell you much about the chameleon.  It just means he's standing in front of an orange background. . ."
Wow !!   That is very confirming of how we see Trump operating.  That's why he seems so wooden when he's reading a script.   He doesn't care about some pre-written policy positions.   He feeds off the crowd and comes alive as he feels their affirmation, which he then feeds back into a loop -- he and his audience affirm -- and excite -- each other.  He can't do that when reading a script.   Unfortunately, the meme that seems to click with his audiences is one of fear and anger and denunciation of people not like them.

Just last weekend, journalist Fareed Zakaria of CNN, said this about Trump's way of operating with his audience:   "There's a term for this kind of thing.   This is the mode of a bullshit artist."

There's nothing inherently wrong with having mutual affirmation with your audience.  Clinton would be a more exciting speaker if she had some of that ability.   The difference is she is a policy wonk with the knowledge to back up anything she says, and she cares about what happens to the people as a result of her actions.   In playing to her audience, she would just be choosing among many possible things to talk about that turned on her crowd.  Bill Clinton had both -- the interplay with the crowd and the policy wonk.

Trump is different.   He doesn't know anything, and he doesn't care about anything but the transactional moment with his current target audience.   He's negotiating a sale -- nothing more -- and whatever he says, whatever emotion he stirs up, has no meaning beyond that.  He's just having a moment with his audience that has nothing to do, in his mind, with facts or truth.  Keep that in mind as we watch this campaign, as he lies repeatedly about insignificant things that can easily be checked -- and later denies he said it.

Trump probably doesn't even realize that he is lying, because he seems to have no concept of enduring truths.   It's all transactional in the moment.   Once he moves on, his concern is only for how well it played (notice how often he says "they loved it"), how big was the crowd, and how much media coverage he got.   Understanding this about him does not make it all right or any less a disaster in a president.  It does mean that hoping he will change is a foolish fantasy.


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