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Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Lynchings

DISCLAIMER: This post is neither for or against Donald Trump or Joe Biden. It’s not pro or con when it comes to Republicans or Democrats. I’ve voted for candidates in both parties over the decades. In the last presidential election I cast a dissenting vote for Gary Johnson because I found both candidates so objectionable for a variety of reasons.

The post isn’t pro or con when it comes to CNN, MSNBC or Fox. If I watch the news at all anymore, I give roughly the same time to each station because it’s like watching the world from completely different vantage points in space.

Impeachment

By now you’ve heard Donald Trump equated the impeachment inquiry into his phone call with the Ukrainian President to a lynching. The backlash over his comment was swift and fierce because of the history of lynching of blacks in America.

According to Merriam-Webster the definition of lynching is “to put to death (as by hanging) by mob action without legal approval or permission.” By definition, a lynching can occur in any culture regardless of race, sexual preference or anything else. However, words take on meaning beyond their stated definition based on their use and history. In the case of American culture, lynching has become synonymous with white mob actions against blacks.

Why that word?

Understanding the history tied to lynching in America, it begs the question – why would Trump use that particular word? For people who dislike (many would use the word “hate”) it’s clear – they see him as racist and that word is yet more proof of their already strong belief. Others may claim he’s just ignorant for using such a racially charged word.

But, could there be another, more strategic reason he used that one word? Perhaps. While it didn’t get nearly as much press last week, Joe Biden called the impeachment process of Bill Clinton “a partisan lynching.” Five other Democrats invoked that word about Clinton’s impeachment. No backlash in 1998, very little coverage in 2019.

President Trump may have used that word to point out a double-standard. I know some of you reading this might think that’s giving him too much credit. Maybe he’s a racist, maybe he’s smart, maybe he’s both.

Double Standard

Is there a double standard in the American press? Absolutely…on both sides!

CNN, MSNBC and other more liberal media outlets have given Joe Biden a pass. After all, times were different in 1998. He apologized. He’s been a Democrat all his life, and so on.

Fox continually gives Trump a pass too. They mercilessly condemned Obama for playing too much golf. Trump owns golf courses and plays all the time! That’s just one example but there are many more.

To deny favoritism from any news outlet would be intellectually dishonest. Each has a worldview/agenda that drives their bias reporting.

Justification

Humans have an amazing ability to justify almost anything and our ability to do so comes naturally. Just think about the small child who is about to be punished for hitting another child. “But he did it first!” is a common response. Kids don’t have to be taught to do that, it comes naturally. “Yea, but..” is used to justify so much of what we do.

If you love Trump you will find ways to explain his behavior as perfectly fine. On the flip side, many Trump supporters (Republicans more broadly) easily justified their contempt for virtually everything Obama did.

The same happens with liberals. They see Trump as pure evil and anyone can’t see that, well they must be part of the problem. Sorry but that’s just not true.

Good People

There are good people on both sides. I have friends who identify as Democrats and they’re very good people. Likewise, I know many folks who are die-hard Republicans and they are very good people too.

The difference is each side fundamentally views society, our challenges and potential solutions differently. While some of the people I know post inflammatory rhetoric on social media, when we get a chance to sit and talk, they’re good, reasonable people.

Don’t Be Manipulated

Make no mistake about it, when you watch MSNBC, CNN, Fox or any other “news” you’re not getting the news. You’re getting information that comes from an ideological slant then is supplemented by pundits who also have a biased viewpoint.

We can never remove all bias from the news any more than you or I can remove the biases we have. Having said that, as a society we’re working hard to try to reduce the influence biases cause in workplace (racial, sexual, gender, religious, etc.). We try to do so by setting up systems to help us.

So, here’s the big question – why aren’t media outlets going through anti-bias training? They have no problem pointing out how companies like Starbucks need to do so. Newsflash – media outlets do more to shape our thinking, behavior and politics than Starbucks. When we turn on the news why can’t we reasonably expect, as Sgt. Joe Friday of Dragnet used to say, “Just the facts.”?

Conclusion

Americans have an incredible ability to set aside differences and come together in the face of adversity. We did it in WWI, WWII, after the assassination of President Kennedy and after 911. We have the ability to set aside our differences and focus on the fact that we’re Americans. The country is far from perfect but still, people from all over the world want to come here because the opportunities are still greater here than anywhere else in the world.

To Do This Week

Question what you’re see, hear and read from the media. Just because what you encounter may be different that your view doesn’t make it wrong. By the same token, just because it aligns with your beliefs doesn’t make it right.

Have a conversation with someone who is different than you. In a non-judgmental way, ask them about how they see the world or certain issues. Don’t contend, just try to understand. I think you may be surprised by what you learn.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, international speaker, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet when it comes to the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book – Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical – has been one of the top 10 selling Amazon books in several insurance categories and cracked the top 50 in sales & selling.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses have been viewed by more nearly 80,000 people around the world! His newest course – Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalities – is now available through LinkedIn Learning.

 

Know the Game You’re Playing

Have you ever watched a tennis match where one player won more games but not enough sets and ended up losing the match? How about a football game where one team dominated the stats, held the lead the entire game but then lost on the last play? Here’s one that’s still fresh; a presidential election where one candidate won the popular vote, but not the delegate count, and lost the election?

In each case the losing side, fans or voters often say, “Yeah, but…” then talk about how their team, player or candidate should have won. The reality is it doesn’t matter how much one side dominates if they end up losing according to the rules. Tennis matches are won in sets, football games on the scoreboard and presidential elections are based on the electoral college vote. Know the game you’re playing!

This came to mind recently when people said President Trump was mentally unstable and unfit for office. If you followed the story did you notice he didn’t try to defend his mental stability or fitness? He went to an extreme, calling himself a “very stable genius” and it was a genius persuasive move. You might be wondering why I’d write that considering I’m not a Trump voter (I didn’t vote for Hillary either). I write that because it was brilliant anchoring on Trump’s part.

Anchoring is a term used in psychology that can be described this way; when you put out something like a number, it acts as an anchor and begins to change people’s minds in reference to that point. For example, if I want to sell something for $1000, when I put out that first offer it’s very likely what I end up getting will be closer to $1000 than if I’d not made that original offer.

In the case of Trump, he ignored the mentally unstable comments. If he would have tried to defend his stability around that singular point he would not have been nearly as successful as he was when he referred to himself as a “very stable genius.” Now you might have argued, as many others did, “I don’t think he’s a genius. In fact, I don’t know anyone who thinks he’s a genius!”  But do you see what happened there? The conversation shifted from mentally unstable to debating whether or not he was a genius. Maybe he’s not a genius, only really smart. Or perhaps he’s just smart. Some might still call him dumb but he shifted the entire conversation away from being mentally unstable and unfit to be president!

Do you recall him using this approach during the election? He boasted he knew more than the generals about ISIS. People knew that wasn’t the case but the debate wasn’t that he knew nothing, it was whether or not he knew as much as the generals.

As I write this his mental stability is no longer an issue in the media. Like him or not, Trump won that round. The media moved from mentally unstable to talking about Fire Fury, the expose on him and his administration. Then it was accusations that he slept with a porn star. Those are out now because we’re debating the government shutdown and DACA. By the time you read this there may be something totally new grabbing our attention. What’s going on?

  1. Controlled chaos. Trump loves controversy and notoriety. Being noticed, even if it’s negative, is better than not being noticed. The more that comes out, the less the last thing sticks with us.
  2. The media is paying into his hand. They keep focusing on the next story and all the other controversies become a memory.
  3. Attention spans are shorter than ever. Most people don’t read much so they get their “news” in sound bites from editorial television shows posing as news shows.

Nobel prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman was right when he wrote in Thinking, Fast and Slow, “Nothing in life is ever as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it.” We’re not thinking about much except Trump. His controversies are just a footnote in our thoughts because they keep changing but he remains constantly in the news and on our minds.

You might relate to this from your childhood. When I was growing up there were certain kids who got picked on regularly. Those who got angry, yelled back and made a scene played into the bullies’ hands because the bullies got under their skin. The bullies poked to get a reaction and it worked on most kids. In other words, those being picked on didn’t know the game the bullies were playing.

I don’t write this in support of Trump nor do I write it to discredit him. Whoever is president – democrat or republican – I want that person to succeed for the good of our country. I wrote this post because whether it’s Trump or anyone else you need to know the game that’s being played otherwise you’ll get played.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 110,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

 

What’s Wrong With America?

We’ve had more than a month to let the presidential election settle in. Trump supporters hail it as a victory over the establishment, a chance to “drain the swamp” and possibly begin a new age in American politics. Meanwhile Hillary supporters believe his election has set us back decades on issues like gender and racial equality and they’ve taken to the streets to make their voices heard.

So what’s wrong with America? Are we a nation full of racists and bigots? I don’t think we’re anymore racist today than we were in 2008 when we elected President Obama. At that time the focus was the historical significance of the first African-American president and people were talking about how far we’d come as a nation on the issue of race. Have we regressed that quickly?

No, I don’t think we’ve taken a step back. We just had not taken as many steps forward as we thought. And for those who did make some strides, it seems as though they didn’t take a look over their shoulder to see how many others were keeping up.

In my persuasion workshops I share the following quote from Samuel Butler, “He who complies against his will is of the same opinion still.” I think that sums up the politically correct (PC) environment. The PC culture hasn’t changed hearts and minds, it merely silenced many people. Fear of loss, fear of being the outcast, and not wanting to go against the tide do nothing to change hearts and minds.

Because of Donald Trump’s brash, often offensive approach, many who were silent now feel comfortable being more vocal about their views on social issues.

So how do we change hearts and minds so we really can be more accepting of those whom we view as different? Facebook certainly won’t do it. For more on that see a post I wrote years ago, Why Facebook Doesn’t Change Anyone’s Opinion.

I believe it starts with relationship. When you break bread with people who are different and have conversations that aren’t intended to prove your point or disprove theirs but instead are focused on learning from another’s viewpoint, I believe you’ll start to change your opinions.

I’ll share two personal examples. The first occurred in the late 1990s when Jane and I met Ahmet, a Turkish waiter on a cruise ship. Of all the places in the world he could have ended up when he left the cruise industry he landed up in Columbus, Ohio to go to college!

Ahmet, a devote Muslim, was open to learning about my faith and I was open to learning about his. Neither of us was ready to change our deeply held religious beliefs but we formed a close friendship that I believe changed each of our views when it comes to people who have a different faith.

My second example was Jerry, someone who was brought in on a project at work. Jerry opened up over dinner to Jane and me about being gay. Our acceptance of him began to change his view of Christians and it changed our views of people in the LBGT community.

I believe each of us has racist tendencies to one degree or another. I wrote about that in I’m Racist, You’re Racist, Everyone is Racist. That fact doesn’t make all of us terrible people because much of it is conditioning from childhood. But that doesn’t mean we have to just accept it. If each of us changes just a little every day and we do it consistently we will make progress as a nation.

So what’s wrong with America? Our biggest problem is we’re a country full of human beings. We’re all flawed and deficient in many ways. It’s okay to admit that but let’s not be okay with it. Each of us can seek positive change.

This week I challenge you to strike up a conversation with someone who is different than you. When you do this just have one motive – to get to know them and understand their point of view. If you do this I hope your experience is similar to those I had with Ahmet and Jerry.

 

Human Contradictions and the Ugly Side of Reciprocity

In 2008 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a republican from Kentucky, said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one term president.” He and the republicans did everything they could to block President Obama’s initiatives.

In 2016 McConnell’s tone was much different when he spoke these words, “It’s time to accept the results of the election, to lower the tone and see what we can do together to make progress for the country.” Mitch seems to have done an about face when it comes to the opposing party working with a president elect.

Remember during the election there were fears of rioting after the November 2 results? Those fears were voiced by Democrats who thought Trump supporters would riot if he lost. It turns out the fear of riots was right…except it’s been Hillary supporters who’ve been rioting.

No doubt each side will rationalize their words and actions. As behavioral economist Dan Ariely likes to point out; we’re not rational beings who occasionally act irrationally but rather, we’re irrational beings who occasionally act rationally. Salespeople have always known this and sum it up this way, “People buy based on emotion and justify with logic.”

Most of us are reactive and our reactions are based on emotion. The sad reality is this; had Republicans been conciliatory when President Obama won and had they honestly tried to work with him they’d have a leg to stand on when asking Democrats to work with Trump. That’s reciprocity.

Instead we’re seeing the ugly side of reciprocity play out in an eye for an eye manner right now. What basis do Republicans have when it comes to expectations of the Democrats working with them? None. And two years from now when the Democrats retake the Senate – mark my words they will because of the natural ebb and flow of politics – our country will be caught in another political quagmire where the highest importance in Washington isn’t getting things done for the good of the country but rather blocking the other side from doing anything to promote their agenda.

All is not lost however and there is a glimmer of hope. The Democrats and their supporters don’t owe anything to Republicans but should they decide to turn the other cheek and try working with Trump then they’ll have a soap box to stand on next time their candidate wins – and surely there will be other Democratic presidents. They’ll be able to appeal to republicans and the nation saying, “Work with us like we worked with you.”

You see, reciprocity can work both ways. When someone does us a good turn it’s easy for us to do something good in return. However, when someone harms another person the natural inclination is to inflict harm back. As a nation we find ourselves in the downward negative side of the cycle but we don’t have to stay there. We can make the conscious choice to look for what we have in common – and there is much – then work together to achieve something good based on those common goals. That may be all it takes to turn the tide and start an upward cycle where favors are traded in a positive way that benefits us all.

Congratulations America, You Just …

Congratulations America, you just elected the most disliked, distrusted person to ever enter the oval office. I knew I was going to write this headline leading up to the election but I honestly thought I’d be writing it about Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump. I, along with just about everyone else, was wrong when it came to predicting the outcome of the election, but the headline is still accurate.

We just witnessed the most contemptuous campaign in modern times and no matter who won history was going to be made. History could have been made by electing the first woman president or it could have been made by electing the first person with zero political experience. My focus however, was that we made history because our nation elected the most disliked, distrusted person ever.

Make no mistake, each side can rationalize why their candidate was the better choice and each can make the case why the other was the potentially the end of our existence. Intellectually honest people will realize virtually everything that was thrown up as a reason to not vote for the other candidate applied to their own candidate as well.

  • It’s hard to dispute that Hillary Clinton has a perceived history of dishonesty and deception. Donald Trump was also viewed as dishonest because of things like Trump University and stiffing workers.
  • Hillary was talked about as a criminal for various reasons although defenders say she was never convicted of anything. Donald was considered a criminal by many people who pointed to all the lawsuits against him. However, his defenders argue those were civil, not criminal, and lawsuits are to be expected in business.
  • Donald was painted a racist for many things he said. Hillary was considered racist having called black teens “super predators” in the 1990s and Bill Clinton was responsible for mass incarceration of blacks.
  • Donald is sexists and perhaps worse. Bill Clinton was every bit as bad and Hillary defended him knowing he’s been unfaithful.

The list could go on and on with each side calling the other hypocritical. Sad truth is both candidates were so flawed many Americans found themselves voting against a candidate rather than for a candidate.

How did either side justify voting for their candidate? Confirmation bias. It’s human nature to look for evidence that confirms what we believe and discount information that is contrary to our beliefs. We all do this to one degree or another.

So how did Donald Trump win? There are lots of theories on that. Detractors say he appealed to the worst part of people. That oversimplifies the problem because there are many good people who voted for Trump just as many good people voted for Hillary.

Trump and Hillary both used scare tactics because politicians and their handlers know fear works. I wrote about this in The Politics of Fear: They’re Trying to Scarcity the Hell Out of You.

Both candidates resorted to manipulation by telling outright lies, half-truths and using lies of omission. Each side will contend the other was worse but no doubt each side used manipulation in an attempt to win over voters.

When it comes to voting people tend to focus on a few issues and those become their rationale for choosing a candidate. To find out more about that line of thinking take a look at Values, Voting and Other Decisions. With so many negatives about each candidate people held their nose and made choices based on the few issues that were most important to themselves.

What is shocking about Trump’s victory are the following:

  1. He was his own worst enemy, saying and doing things much worse than others who’ve seen their political careers end over such things.
  2. The media was against him. With the exception of Fox News all major media was clearly favoring Hillary.
  3. The polls all said he would lose which could have caused people to stay home rather than wasting their time voting.
  4. He didn’t have the backing of his own party, let alone a prior president, the current president, or major celebrities.
  5. His spending was significantly less than Hillary’s.
  6. He had no political experience to help him be seen as an authority.

So how did he overcome such long odds? He was certainly a more passionate, motivating and persuasive candidate. But he also benefitted from timing. If his Entertainment Tonight sex talk video had come out days before the election rather than the FBI disclosure he probably would have lost. I say that because we have short memories and even shorter news cycles. What’s most prevalent in our minds tends to cause us to act in the moment and Trump was darn lucky about the timing of his revelations versus Hillary’s.

I have to admit, when I saw Hillary lost I was happy. But, when I realized Trump won I was sad. I didn’t vote for Trump in the Ohio primary and I didn’t vote for him in the general election. People say my Gary Johnson vote was wasted. Some accuse me of helping Trump while others said I would be helping get Hillary elected. Each line of reasoning is crap! In good conscience I couldn’t vote for either so I didn’t. If our country is to get out of this false choice – the belief that we can only have a republican or democrat become president – it has to start somewhere.

People are saying our nation has never been more divided but that’s not true. Ever hear of The Civil War? I think we were a tad more divided when we went to war against our brethren. We’re not at that point right now and hopefully we never get to that point again.

Here’s what I believe Americans need to focus on. We live in the United States, the U.S. It’s about “US” as in we, me and you, all of us together. We need to begin focusing on what binds us together as opposed to what separates us. We always seem to be able to do that when tragedy strikes (WWI, WWII, 911, etc.) but we don’t have to wait for that to happen. We need to learn the art of comprise and quit depicting candidates as evil and the next Hitler because if we don’t we’re only heading for more division, difficulty and hatred.

“Fear has never created a single job or fed a single family.”

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada weighed in on our Presidential election when he recently addressed the United Nations. He told world leaders, “Fear has never created a single job or fed a single family.”

His quote sounds good, very statesman-like, but unfortunately it’s completely incorrect. If you pause for just a moment and consider what fear does you’d have to conclude it creates a tremendous number of jobs. Consider the following:

  • The military – It exists because of the threat of war.
  • Police – They exist to serve and protect. This arises because of fear and people who break the law.
  • Insurance – It gives peace of mind because it reduces the anxiety that comes with the fear of loss (home destroyed, car accident, theft, etc.).

I’ve spent my adult life in the insurance industry and I tell people we’re a noble industry because we do two things:

  1. We help people. When people have a loss they’re thankful when they have the right insurance to help them get back on their feet.
  2. We help the economy. When an insurance company guarantees payment in the event your home or auto is destroyed banks lend more freely. That means more homes and autos are sold which means more people are employed as each are made.

Trudeau’s statement that fear doesn’t create jobs is ludicrous. Here are just a few facts from 2015 on the U.S. insurance industry from the Insurance Information Institute:

  • People spent more than $1.2 trillion on insurance products.
  • There were 5,296 insurance companies.
  • The industry employed 2.5 million people.

In much the same way that marketing professionals want you to buy their product, Mr. Trudeau wants people to buy into the notion that Donald Trump is peddling fear in an effort to win the election. He is, but so is Hillary Clinton. As I wrote this summer in The Politics of Fear: They’re Trying to Scarcity the Hell Out of You, using fear to win votes is a very old strategy and is used equally on both sides of the aisle.

Whenever someone is using fear they’re tapping into the principle of scarcity. First know this; fear has served mankind well because it’s a survival instinct. From Robert Cialdini’s book Influence Science and Practice, according to social psychologists Haselton & Nettle, “One prominent theory accounts for the primacy of loss over gain in evolutionary terms. If one has enough to survive, an increase in resources will be helpful but a decrease in those same resources could be fatal. Consequently, it would be adaptive to be especially sensitive to the possibility of loss.”

Second, quite often fear of loss moves us to take actions that ultimately serve us well. If scarcity led to more bad choices than good we’d stop responding to it.

Having shared those two thoughts remember this – there are times when scarcity is legitimate and there are times when it’s manipulative. Manipulators realize the power of this principle and will use it to their advantage.

So the real question becomes; is the fear (scarcity) legitimate? If it is then you should pay heed and take appropriate action. When it’s not legitimate then reframe it as someone’s attempt to manipulate you.

And what about the November election? It’s my personal opinion that both Republicans and Democrats are trying to manipulate all of us. They all tell half-truths, outright lie and manipulate statistics in their favor in an effort to grab power. Each side tells us every election that it’s the most important election ever, that our country and way of life is at stake. It’s all BS!

I started with Mr. Trudeau so I guess I should end with him. Canadians seem to love him. He’s young, good looking and charismatic so he’s gaining notoriety on the world stage. I don’t know a lot about him but I know this, his quote about fear not producing jobs or feeding people is laughable. As you should do with any politician, you would do well to look beyond the veneer and critically think about what he says next time he speaks.

The Politics of Fear: They’re Trying to Scarcity the Hell Out of You

You’ve probably heard people say something like this many times in recently, “I wish candidates would just tell us what they stand for and their plans instead of bashing other candidates.” Those sentiments have probably never been as strong as they are right now with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton going after each other like fighting pit bulls.

Candidates are engaging in is what’s known as “The Politics of Fear.” Many accused Donald Trump of that immediately after his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. Some pundits called the speech dark and foreboding. Others said it distorted reality as he invoked images of terrorist attacks and police killings. Trump painted a bleak picture and projected himself as the only answer.

But don’t be fooled because Hillary is engaged in the politics of fear, too. She wants her supporters and undecided voters to be scared as hell of a Trump presidency. Her fear messaging wants you to believe he’s a tyrant and will rule like a dictator. One MSNBC commentator went so far to say, diplomatically, Trump would be like a mushroom cloud (i.e., nuclear) when it comes to international relations. Scary!

If we’re all so sick of the negativity, candidate bashing and fear mongering then why do politicians continue to do it? Because fear moves people more than almost anything else.

The principle of scarcity tells us people are moved to action far more by the fear of loss than they are by the thought of gain. Daniel Kahneman, a Noble Prize winner in the field of economics, studied this phenomenon with the late Amos Tversky. Together they proved people are motivated 2.0-2.5 times more to take action by the thought of losing something as opposed to gaining the same thing. Think of it this way; most people will work a lot harder to not lose $100 they already have versus how hard they’ll work to earn an extra $100.

For as long has humans have been around we have instinctively known this and it has not escaped the notice of politicians either. Perhaps the most famous use of fear mongering was President Lyndon Johnson’s television ad when he ran against Senator Barry Goldwater in 1964. The ad shows a little girl in a field with flowers then suddenly there was a nuclear explosion. The ad ended with a deep voice saying, “Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.” This particular message may not resonate as much today but in the early 1960s there was a real fear of a nuclear confrontation with Russia. The message was clear; nuclear war was a possibility if you voted for Goldwater. Click here to see the iconic commercial.

As the rhetoric ramps up on the march to the November election, don’t expect either candidate to go positive. Governor John Kasich did his best to stay positive in the Republican primaries and it got him nowhere.

As one slings mud, the other will respond. If a candidate doesn’t respond to a negative attack they are seen as weak. Just ask John Kerry about the “swift boat” allegations in 2004.

As much as we say we don’t like it, we will get nothing but doom and gloom combined with personal attacks like we’ve never seen before. But take heart, in all likelihood this will be dull compared to what we’ll experience in 2020 and beyond.

What Do You Think About Donald Trump?

“What do you think about Donald Trump?” That’s a question I hear more and more these days. People are curious about how he is in position to possibly win the presidency of the United States.

From the beginning the experts have been wrong about his chances and so was I. Remember when Trump announced his candidacy and proceeded to make remarks about Mexicans being criminals and rapists? Along with most of the political pundits I thought he was done before he even got started. We were wrong.

Remember when he said Senator John McCain wasn’t a war hero because he was captured? Political analysts thought he was done and so did I. But he wasn’t. Any number of things he’s said could have resulted in his demise. Consider this short list:

  • Carly Fiorina’s looks
  • Megan Kelly’s blood
  • Possibly punishing women who would get an abortion if abortion were illegal
  • The name calling with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio

Despite these things his following only got stronger. Why? As I wrote months ago (Have We Changed or Are We Just Politically Correct), perhaps he is saying what many Americans actually think and feel but wouldn’t say in the politically correct environment in which we live. Now those people have a voice in Donald Trump.

Violence

Early on, Trump followers were denounced because of their strong-arm tactics at some of his rallies. They would shout down the opposition and sometimes get physical with Trump’s approval. People accused him of inciting violence.

Now the tables have turned. In Arizona we witnessed Trump protestors blocking roads to prevent his supporters from attending a rally. In several cities in California Trump protestors went much further than Trump’s followers ever had. Young people assaulted Trump supporters – male and female – without provocation. All the while the media showed Mexican flags waving in the background.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is playing a big role in favor of Trump. This psychological concept shows people aren’t always open to new information and possible change. No, most people look for information that confirms what they already believe. In the case of Trump, young Latinos shown harassing Trump supporters on the nightly news only confirms for many people that he has been right all along about immigration.

On the subject of confirmation bias, most anti-Trump people don’t realize they’re falling into his trap the more they try to bash him. His supporters simply see their actions as attacks on him and double down in their belief in him.

The Media

And then there’s the media. They don’t know how to deal with Trump either. Case in point, CNN’s Jake Tapper interviewed Donald about his comments regarding a Mexican-American judge presiding over a case dealing with Trump University. When Tapper tried to get Trump to admit his comment was racist, Trump didn’t yield an inch and didn’t come across as someone back-peddling. He continued to assert his point about why he said what he said. Tapper looked like he didn’t know what to do. Trump has taken considerable heat for the comment, especially from the Republican Party, but Trump supporters see this as proof that all along the establishment has been out to stop him. Their view isn’t that the party is doing this for America but rather for their own power that’s at stake.

Authenticity

With Trump, people feel like they know what they get. He speaks his mind and doesn’t come across as a polished, Teflon-fake, career politician. Does he flip on some issues? Yes but it doesn’t come across as someone who puts up their finger to see which way the wind is blowing. Right or wrong, like him or dislike him, Trump says what he believes, or more rightly, feels in the moment, and people are responding to that. For more on this read Donald Trump’s mASS Appeal.

Hillary and Bernie

It certainly helps Trump that he’s running against Hillary Clinton. Were it not for Trump being in the race, polls show Hillary would be the most disliked candidate to ever run for president. Her years in politics and numerous scandals (and Bill’s) have many people saying they would never under any circumstances vote for her. Her email scandal only reinforces for many people that she’s not trustworthy and is a “typical politician.”

To make matters worse, she’s in danger of losing many Bernie Sanders’ supporters who feel they cannot vote for her in a system they believe is rigged. They would rather send a message to the Democratic Party, even if it means losing the election, because when Bernie loses they will say it’s because of the rigged system. Why would they want to vote for Hillary, whom they see as part of the problem, after losing what they perceive to be an unfair election?

So there’s a confluence of things that are making Donald Trump’s improbable run a reality. Divorced from emotion, if someone would have told you years ago some of the things Trump would say and do I highly doubt you’d think there was any possibility he’d be in the position he’s in now. But we cannot divorce ourselves from emotion.

The Most Important Reason

This leads me to the final and perhaps most important reason Trump is succeeding – he’s a classic salesman. Good salespeople know people buy based on emotion and justify with logic after the fact. Trump drives home the message that America isn’t great right now and supports it by saying:

  • We negotiate bad deals
  • We overpay our share to defend the world
  • We have problems with illegal immigration
  • We have a problem with terrorism at home and abroad

It’s hard to dispute those things but Trump isn’t giving details on what he’ll do to make us great again. Instead he makes grand promises:

  • He will negotiate great deals
  • He will Cut defense funding to NATO, Japan, South Korea and other countries
  • He will build a wall…that Mexico will pay for
  • He will ban Muslims from coming to America for a period of time

In short, he “promises” to “Make America Great Again.”

Trump is tapping into emotions most other politicians can’t get to with their bland style of politics and old rhetoric. You may not agree with Donald’s methods, or like them, but there’s no denying he’s doing what almost nobody expected.

What’s to Come

There’s no guarantee he will win in November but there is one thing I think we can all agree on – this will be unlike any presidential campaign we’ve ever witnessed. Everyone should pay close attention to what is said by both parties to try to win our votes because the stakes are high.

Have We Changed or Are We Just Politically Correct?

I’ve never been as fascinated by the political process as I am right now. My fascination has more to do with how the process has been flipped upside down by people like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

In August I wrote a post on Donald Trump’s mASS Appeal where I shared some insight into why so many people might be attracted to The Donald. My basic premise was that he was more “real” than traditional political candidates. If you want to find out more about fake candidates read The Adjustment Bureau of Politics and Persuasion.

As the primary races continue, I’m amazed Trump continues to have such mass appeal. Quite frankly, his rhetoric scares many people and some have equated his rise to Hitler’s in Germany because he says things that have been labeled as bigoted, racist and intolerant. Many politicians have said more benign things and seen their careers go down the toilet but Trump is unapologetic and only seems to increase his support.

How does he do it? Trump’s support is not as big as you might think. While his support seems to be greater than any other candidate at this point consider the following:

  • Roughly half of the citizens vote Republican in presidential elections. If there were 100 possible voters that means about 50 would identify as Republican and maybe vote in the Republican primaries.
  • Good voter turnout would be about 60%, so of those 50 possible Republican voters only 30 would actually vote in the primaries.
  • Up to this point Trump has been getting about 1/3 of the Republican vote in a large field of candidates leaving the others to fight for the remaining 2/3. If one-third of 30 people voting go to Trump that means he get support from 10 people.
  • Now consider this – on the whole Trump is appealing to about 1 in 10 people. That’s not a big number but it’s enough at this point to make a big difference in the process.

Why is Trump’s message resonating? We get more and more “politically correct” but that doesn’t mean people believe in the things espoused or like them. What do I mean? Everyone has views on polarizing issues like faith, gay marriage, guns, race, immigration, terrorism, and wealth distribution to name just a few. While we all have views many people stay silent because they don’t want to go against the perceived majority.

You may or may not like what Trump says but when he speaks his mind he doesn’t care what people think. His frankness gives voice to many people who’ve felt silenced by political correctness. In other words, Trump is only saying what many people already think and feel.

In the end I think Trump’s success, whether or not it leads to the presidency, says as much about us as Americans as it does about candidate Trump. We may want to believe there’s no place for a person like Trump in American politics but obviously there is a place because we’re witnessing it.

While America is more tolerant than ever before maybe in the end Trump’s rise shows we’ve not come as far as we believed. And perhaps this is a wake up call to keep the dialogue open so we can learn and grow instead of smiling and nodding but disagreeing on the inside. As Samuel Butler wrote, “He who complies against his will is of his own opinion still.”

Donald Trump’s mASS appeal

Donald Trump has struck a nerve with the Republican Party, the media, and many Americans. You might say he has mASS appeal. He’s brash, offensive and unapologetic. The Republican Party knows he holds the key to their possible victory or defeat in the 2016 election should he choose to run as a third party candidate. The media cannot try any harder to discredit him and his poll numbers only rise. Many Americans find him offensive but because he resonates with so many, he has to be take seriously as seen by his #1 standing going into and after the first primary debate.

I must confess, when Trump announced his candidacy and made the remarks he did about illegal Mexican immigrants being rapists and murders, I was shocked. I posted on Facebook that Fox News and anyone else who took him seriously after those comments would lose all credibility. I was wrong.

Love him or hate him there’s no denying he’s having an impact on the Republican primary and might do the same in the general election if he remains a strong presence but doesn’t win over the establishment as the nominee.

So why is “The Donald” commanding so much attention? I have a theory. In recent years there have been many television shows which have captivated American audiences such as Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, and Mad Men to name just a few. If you’ve seen these shows then you know you find yourself rooting for the bad guy.

In Breaking Bad, the lead character is Walter White, an unassuming high school chemistry teacher who begins to churn out crystal meth after he gets lung cancer. He does so to provide for his family and despite his downward spiral you root for him.

Jax Teller is the lead in Sons of Anarchy. He wants to follow his late father’s ideas to get his motorcycle gang out of drugs and guns. As he manipulates and kills, you still find yourself pulling for him because his ultimate desire is good.

Dexter is the lead in the show by the same name. He’s a serial killer who has learned to confine his psychopathic nature to only killing bad people, the kind that most people feel deep in their heart deserve the death penalty for their heinous crimes. You not only pull for Dexter you actually come to like him.

Much less psychopathic and not a killer, Don Draper is the lead in Mad Men. The ad man is a womanizer and heavy drinker with a past he tries to hide because it could land him in jail. You see a good side of Don shine every now and then and consequently you pull for him despite his character flaws.

In each show we don’t root for the bad guys because we agree with their antics but something about each stands out – we know who they are. We know they’re bad but each really does want something better for himself, his family and friends. By contrast, so many “good” people they come in contact with aren’t actually good and viewers find themselves repelled by their false veneers. In real life think about Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and many others who appeared to be good people until the truth was found out. It’s a classic case of the contrast phenomenon.

When it comes to politicians very few people truly believe any of them have our (Americans) best interest at heart. We’ve seen enough scandal (infidelity, drugs, bribes, etc.) that we see them all as having the false veneer covering a desire for power. We wonder when the next politician will fall because it’s only a matter of time.

With Donald what you see is what you get. When asked how he can disavow politicians who take large contributions after he’s made those political contributions, he’s candid when he says (my paraphrase) – “I know how the system works and paying money got me favors I would need down the road. But, I have so much money I can’t be bought.” That resonates with people because it’s truthful.

When the media attacks him and he corrects them for taking something out of context people love that because the media so often appears to look for ways to build up people then tear them down.

When Trump said McCain wasn’t a war hero because he was captured you’d have thought that would be the end. But it wasn’t and his numbers surged despite the media going after it from every angle.

In the end Donald Trump simply continues to be Donald Trump. Some people will love him and some will hate him but at least you know what you’re getting and I believe that’s his mASS appeal.