And he’s changing brains for the worse
Donald Trump says America is a hellscape. Either he’s been spending too much time at Trump rallies — or he actually has a strategy that requires us to believe that historically low crime, record-high employment and the most secure border in generations are terrible things.
If you’re masochistic like me you spend much of your time reading about why we should be very worried about the prospect of a President Trump, usually served with generous portions of “here’s how it happened in Germany.”
George Lakoff has a post up today that sums up the mess we’re in: “Even if he loses the election, Trump will have changed the brains of millions of Americans, with future consequences.”
And we know this is true because former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke has been inspired to seek a U.S. Senate seat on Trump’s coattails.
“I’m overjoyed to see Donald Trump and most Americans embrace most of the issues that I’ve championed for years,” Duke said in his announcement. “My slogan remains America first.”
This is a sign of how Trump’s anti-American rantings are normalizing politics of hate and exclusion and destroying discourse with his fantasies of “fixing” everything with his authoritarian super powers. And he’s making okay to be a proud antisemite, at least online, with his tacit approval.
One thing we should not forget is that no matter how bad Trump is at staging a convention or running a campaign, he is very good at speaking on TV and messing with brains. And our media is terrible at unmasking the rampant, fetid falsehoods that are the core of his appeal.
Read Lakoff to get a sense of how powerfully his framing and metaphors are shaping unconscious thought.
Conservatives tried to read him out of the primaries by claiming that he’s not a true conservative — and Nixonland historian Rick Perlstein explains why Trump is no Nixon — but Trump’s rhetoric expertly exploits the “strict father” framing the right has been using to make us more conservative and less empathetic for 50 years.
How do we fight back? I always skip to that part in Lakoff’s pieces, too.
So here’s what he suggests:
First, don’t think of an elephant. Remember not to repeat false conservative claims and then rebut them with the facts. Instead, go positive. Give a positive truthful framing to undermine claims to the contrary. Use the facts to support positively-framed truth. Use repetition.
Second, start with values, not policies and facts and numbers. Say what you believe, but haven’t been saying. For example, progressive thought is built on empathy, on citizens caring about other citizens and working through our government to provide public resources for all, both businesses and individuals. Use history. That’s how America started. The public resources used by businesses were not only roads and bridges, but public education, a national bank, a patent office, courts for business cases, interstate commerce support, and of course the criminal justice system. From the beginning, the Private Depended on Public Resources, both private lives and private enterprise.
The problem is this is hard and requires a massive platform to have even a marginal effect, compared to the massive conservative infrastructure built with billions in investment from right-wing donors and the reach of Trump’s celebrity. The left should have invested in a project to tout the power of government investment decades ago. It hasn’t and two of the greatest things we’ve done as a nation in generations — the Stimulus and Obamacare — are widely regarded as failures as a result.
So focus on what’s most effective on a personal level: encourage every decent person you know to register now and vote. Volunteer and donate if you can. And remember to treat your brain right. Remind yourself that there are enough angry white men to fill a thousand Trump rallies and a few conventions. But that doesn’t mean there are enough of them to win in a nation that elected Obama twice.
[Image by Emmanuel d’Aubignosc.]