Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues

Trump: extremely interesting and very scary

If this is hard to read in email, you can read it on the Beyond Labels blog here, or my blog here.

My morning Internet reading lead me on the usual scavenger hunt for knowledge.

I came away with new respect for Donald Trump.

Who is Donald Trump, anyway? What could we expect if he won the election? I think I have an answer.

This is how I found it.

My hunt led me to a greater understanding of “the Trump phenomenon.” Really, I didn’t get it. I never thought  that Trump supporters were stupid, but I couldn’t see what was so attractive to so many people. Even to some really smart people. Now I think I get it.

Dilbert creator and blogger Scott Adams provided the key insights. I found his posts following a trail that started with this post by PhD high energy physicist, martial arts expert, entrepreneur, Michigan State University VP, and blogger, Steven Hsu.

(Yes, apparently you can be all of these things, if you are as smart at Steven seem to be. He is on G+ and his blog is here. Worth reading his blog and following him.)

The  post included a clip from a video interview with Scott  Adams. (If you want to read before you watch, you can see a commentary, the video and then see a longer version here.)

Scott Adams is a genuinely funny guy, an insightful writer, and a also a trained hypnotist. It’s the hypnotist training that gave him insight into Trump and caused him to predict Trump’s success last August. In a post titled “Clown Genius” he described — with some admiration — techniques that Trump used. He wrote a continuing follow-up posts, and even though he explicitly said he didn’t know who he thought would be best, his posts ended up being taken as an endorsement.

To make matters clear, after the David Duke dust-up he wrote a post disavowing Trump. But he continues to write posts admiring his skills.

Disavow? Kind of the way that Trump disavowed David Duke? “I disavow.” Or for real. I don’t know. I can’t tell.

In the “Clown Genius” post Scott says:

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 does.

Scott’s got a whole series of posts about Trump, indexed here, separated by really annoying ads. It’s worth scrolling past the ads to read some other posts.

Scott develops a theory that says Trump might actually be a good president.  If Trump really cares about the country he might be able to put his demonstrated skills to work, and do some good things. Even if he doesn’t care about the country, but really cares about the Trump Brand, once he’s president then the United States is a Trump-branded entity, and he might do some really good things.

If we are undecided about Trump, and we are trying to figure out what the “real Trump” believes so that we can decide what the “real Trump” might do, so we can decide whether to vote for him or not, then I think we’ve got a serious problem. Because I’m convinced that the real Trump is an incredibly talented illusionist.

If your image of Trump is: “He’s an illusionist” then no  matter what illusion he creates, you can say: “Yep, that’s it. The real Trump. More illusion.” But you can’t say much else for sure.

The other people in the race come in with established images based on years of relatively-consistent policy positions on public issues. They’re burnishing their images, not creating illusions. That’s not their thing. Maybe it’s because they are intellectually honest. Or maybe it’s just because they suck so badly at creating illusions that they can’t do it.

Like them or hate them, they are what they are. They are not creating illusions about who they are and what they believe. Well maybe at the edges, but not in a major way. We pretty much know who the “real Ted Cruz” is. The “real Hillary Clinton.” The “real Marco Rubio” might be a little blurry, whether by design or not, but, we pretty much know.

But if you are trying to figure out what the “real Trump” is so that you can decide what the “real Trump” might do, so you can decide whether to vote for him or to be scared of him, then you’ve got a real problem. Because the real Trump is an illusionist.

If your image of Trump is: “He’s an illusionist” you can say, with accuracy: “Yep, that’s it. The real Trump. An illusionist. And a damned good one.”

You can’t see through the illusion in the way you want to because the only thing to see — behind the illusion — is the illusionist.

I believe that Trump could turn out  to be a really great president. I believe that Trump could accomplish things that I care about. I can imagine this.

I also believe Trump could do things that are horrible. Not just for me and the things I care about, but for the country as a whole. For the world.

It all depends on what illusion Trump wants to create at a given time.

How do you feel about trusting your future to something that you believed was an illusion?

How about trusting your future to someone you believe is an illusionist?

So who is Donald Trump, anyway? He’s America’s greatest illusionist.

What could we expect if he won the election?

I have no idea.

No f***ing idea.

Illusions maybe?

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