As the U.S. Presidential campaign lurches towards November, polls indicate it is tighter than two coats of paint. Hillary supporters, who thought the American public was too smart to be duped by Mr. Trump, are approaching the panic reflected in Edward Munch’s painting “The Scream.”
The Republican presidential nominee continues to run a policy-light campaign but heavy with innuendo that speaks to a frustrated and alienated middle-class.
Mrs. Clinton supporters wince indignantly that so many people with ample intelligence can be fooled. But they shouldn’t. Studies have shown intelligence takes a back seat when it comes to emotion and even irrational thinking. And the latter two are in play in this campaign and will determine its outcome.
Mr. Trump employs these tendencies adroitly to keep the voter off balance. One of his major operatives is conjunctive fallacy, which occurs when people guess that the odds of two events co-occurring are greater than either one occurring alone. Studies show that nearly 85 percent of intelligent people commit this fallacy. Mr. Trump’s rhetoric is filled with these illogical carpet bombs. An example of this is when he says, “We need to ban all Muslim’s from entering the country. Until the country can figure out what’s going on. We will not let terrorist cross our borders to come in here and kill us.” The odds of someone being a Muslim and terrorist are much smaller than someone just being a Muslim. But Mr. Trump’s logic would have your believe that the odds are equal that someone could be Muslim and terrorist.
Mix the propensity to believe conjunctive fallacy with emotion and you have the New York real estate mogul working the people like Penn and Teller.
Mr. Trump has seized the opening left by the chronic failure of both party establishments to address the alienation and diminution of the middle class. He also has the advantage of facing a Democratic candidate whose trust issues continue to hound her. He parlays that mistrust constantly with another logical fallacy, “false analogy” when he says, “I’m self-financed so no one owns me. Hillary takes money from Goldman Sachs, so they own her. She’s the property of Goldman Sach’s now because they bought her.” Simply making the analogy of him being self-financed and her accepting fees from Goldman Sachs for speeches offers no proof of her being owned by Goldman Sachs.
Mr. Trump is the consummate confidence man; he plays on emotion and faulty logic to earn the voters trust despite a having no record or evidence of being even marginally qualified to be president. To the contrary, he has an abysmal record on racial relations, no foreign policy experience other than fawning over Russia President Vladimir Putin and a reputation for heavy-handed business dealings filing over 673 lawsuits, according to the New York Times
Usually, when a charlatan is exposed his influence dissipates, but not so with Mr. Trump as he has become the engorged projection of the frustrated and disempowered. His symbolic representation of the antiestablishment immures him from criticism just as the Catholic Church survived inordinate accounts of child molestation by its priests because that institution still carries, above all, the promise of salvation.
Mr. Trump promises to deliver America’s disenfranchised to the political promised land, so too, will he endure at least to November and, perhaps, beyond.