“The fool tries to adjust the truth so he does not have to adjust to it…the fool adjusts the truth so he has to do nothing different. He is never wrong; someone else is.” — Dr. Henry Cloud, “Necessary Endings”
I’ve realized this is the core trait of those who support Donald Trump.
These are people who do not cope well with things not being as they want them. At the same time, when faced with a problem, they don’t want to change anything about their own behavior.
Wise people, according to Cloud, listen to feedback, take it in, adjust their behavior accordingly. But foolish people DON’T WANT TO CHANGE. They want reality to adjust to them, not the other way around.
To summarize, again from Cloud’s book: When a conflict or problem comes up, foolish people refuse to take responsibility or change their behavior or thinking.
They get defensive, they shift blame, they minimize, rationalize, give excuses, manipulate, attack.
They look for and ally with people who agree with them to “prove” they are right, and divide the world into the “good guys” who agree with them and the “bad guys” who don’t.
They hate Obama so much, with his message of “Hope and Change”. And they love how Palin mocked it with her “hopey-changey thing”.
I recognize this behavior, because I come from a whole family of people like this.
There is a brother who thinks that if he yells loud enough and long enough, so that you give up and walk away, he’s WON THE ARGUMENT.
There is a SIL who will ask you a question, and when she doesn’t get the answer that she wants to hear, she adjusts reality to match what she thinks. She either ignores what you said, or she keeps asking the question in different ways until you are so sick of her you will say anything just to shut her up, so you tell her what she obviously wants to hear. And she goes away happy, genuinely believing that she’s given you a choice, and that, happily, you made the right one. Eventually.
Of course we have the elephant in the room, the conflict over The Susan Incident. And of course, these people are coping with it the only way they know how: Joe and Susan just know they are right, and I am therefore wrong. I’m the one who needs to change, not them. Never them.
There is another brother who thinks if he ignores the fact that I say there’s a problem, there won’t be a problem. And a sister who “refuses to get involved.” And they band together in their personal little echo chamber, validating each other, never taking in any outside opinions or evidence.
None of these people accept that there is such a thing as compromise, or agreeing to disagree. You either agree with them, or you are wrong. And they will never back down, no matter how much proof you show them, because admitting guilt or responsibility is MUCH WORSE than looking stupid.
It’s exactly why Trump appeals to a certain demographic so much.
He’s never wrong.
He never backs down when he’s shown to be wrong. Instead, he doubles down.
He yells louder, he mocks and demeans, he shifts blame, gets defensive, minimizes, rationalizes… you get the picture.
AND HE LOOKS NORMAL TO THEM.
Finally, there is someone on the public stage who acts the way they act, and who shows that acting this way can be successful — when for most of their lives, the way they act has been hugely counterproductive (although it is never their own fault that this is so). They’ve never seen anyone who openly thinks and acts so much like them in such a successful position before.
They go to the rallies because of all the other people there who agree with them, which “proves” they are right. No, really. They seriously believe that this means they are RIGHT.
And it’s exciting! People around them agree with them! The guy up on stage is saying what they think! They shouldn’t have to change! THE WORLD ought to change for THEM!
FINALLY! A CANDIDATE WHO “GETS IT”!!
Political correctness is terrible, because in effect it tells them they are wrong. My brother ought to be able to use the “N” word right out in public if he wants to! He shouldn’t have to change! Telling him he can’t – well, that’s saying that he’s WRONG.
No, Trump says. You’re RIGHT. It’s the WORLD that’s wrong, it’s the fault of someone else that things are so bad, that you’ve been made to feel in the wrong for so long. And Trump explains that this is all the fault of those other guys, those weak, liberal losers who are so pathetic.
That all makes perfect sense to them.
And it’s hugely validating. Finally, someone really big, a huge success, is telling them that they don’t have to change; and that they can win too, if they go along with him.
Who — after a lifetime of the kind of life that results from these poor coping skills — could pass up that carrot?
So what can a normal, healthy person do when faced with this?
[Well, in my personal case, I got the fuck away from these people. I set the limits and the consequences — and I did it badly, because I didn’t quite know that’s what I was doing. But it’s worked. I lost a “family”, sure, but what I lost wasn’t much of a family to begin with.]
On the political level, we can’t stop Trump. Trump is what Cloud’s book refers to as an “evil person”. That person only responds to “lawyers, guns, and money.” They do what they do because they can. Until and unless Trump personally does something that legally prevents him from taking office, or something that would turn his legions of foolish followers against him — he will not be stopped.
So the question becomes, how do we eliminate the possibility that he will win?
According to Cloud, the only thing that will work on foolish people is “limits and consequences”.
“The strategy… is simple: Quit talking about the problem and…communicate that you are going to take steps to protect what is important to you, the mission, or other people.”
1) QUIT TALKING ABOUT TRUMP. Refuse to give him any credence at all. Media, I’m talking to YOU. The more these people see him, in all his golden grandeur, and the more they hear about him, the more they become convinced that he is right — which means they are right — and that many other people think and feel the same way, which again convinces them that they are right to vote for him.
2) LIMITS AND CONSEQUENCES. I don’t see that there is any way we can set limits on their behavior. We cannot forbid them to vote; we cannot show them any potential consequence of a Trump presidency that is bad enough to get them to change their minds about him, because that basically starts off by telling them that they are wrong. Any attempt to show them the error of their ways causes them to “double down”, just like their hero.
You can try taking away your attention. You can refuse to listen to their derisive slurs and bigoted arguments, and make it clear that’s why you are removing yourself from the conversation – but don’t say it’s because they are wrong. Calmly say instead that you don’t share those values, that instead you believe ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL, like the Constitution says. And just stop there.
Or you can try pointing out how a specific Trump policy will adversely affect them personally, if you can. Cloud points out “the only time they get it is when it begins to cost them.” You will probably have to speak in their bigoted language, though. “What are you going to do when Trump deports all the Mexicans and you can’t get your lawn mowed any more?”
3) Above all, you can VOTE FOR CLINTON, and tell others you are voting for Clinton. A third party vote is exactly what Trump is hoping a lot of people will do.
This is not the year to make a point.
This is the year to save our nation, ourselves and each other.