Focusing on intricate details and explaining phenomenon on a micro scale we often forget the driving force behind political involvement for the average voter, they want to vote for someone who will lead them, protect them, provide for them, or be like them. At the end of the day the choice to support a Republican nominee is a gut decision based on these basic characteristics for most voters. It is reflected in polling that asks a few hundred voters between dinner and prime time to choose from a laundry list of candidates and hang up.
So many of us, who consume political news on a regular basis, fail to recognize the gut decision made by most voters.
I have struggled to understand the Trump phenomenon. I wonder how someone with previous leftist, and currently agnostic political leanings could capture the imagination of a solid plurality of Republican leaning voters. My problem is that I am trying to impose my reasoning (not my values) on these upcoming caucus and primary voters. Instead of thinking that they think like me, I am trying to understand how to think like them. I’ve found my personal correlation, and from that I feel I can identify how many of the others are operating.
WHEN ECONOMICS AND GAME THEORY DO NOT WORK
There are times in life where cost benefit analyses are thrown out the window, where the risk and reward no longer are taken into consideration, and where our losses are so steep you incur substantial additional losses with little concern.
In this situation, an otherwise rational actor may instead follow their base instincts and seek retribution against the people or system that did them in. Let us be honest about the three pillars of the Republican stool.
No matter what Republican is elected President:
For the SoCons:
– Abortion will likely remain legal nationwide.
– Gay marriage is here to stay.
– The welfare state will continue to perpetuate single parent families.
For the national security conservatives:
– America will likely never be the great superpower it was during the cold war ever again.
– The military will continue to support bloated, capital intensive, pet projects over focused regional specific offensive and defensive capabilities.
– We will continue to have an offensive and defensive military and foreign policy lacking cohesion, and at best will be repairing relationships with former allies.
For the economic conservatives:
– The national debt is out of control.
– Federal spending, discretionary, and nondiscretionary will continue to exacerbate the problem.
– The federal regulatory state (the quiet economy strangler) will continue largely unabated.
And Republicans in Washington are complicit in all of these things.
So there are Pessimists and Optimists who support Trump because of this.
I do not support Trump, but I’m beginning to understand why Pessimists and Optimists may do so.
THE PESSIMIST SUPPORT FOR TRUMP
The Pessimist sees the writing on the wall and doesn’t care anymore. With nothing left to lose the pessimist sees someone from outside the system who guarantees to f*** some s*** up, and says “that’s what they deserve.” The Pessimist does not believe that Trump will reflect their values. The Pessimist does not believe that Trump will protect them. The Pessimist gets two emotional benefits from Trump. First the Pessimist obtains a leader that is likely to lead without lying nearly as much as the powers that be. This leader is known to be imperfect, nasty, and petty, but he shows the pessimist more respect by not suggesting he isn’t imperfect, nasty and petty. More important for the Pessimist is that Trump provides a benefit. That benefit derives from base emotions, the kind that can poison your soul if you allow it. Trump will get revenge for the Pessimist. Revenge on the Vichy Republicans in Washington; revenge on the Democrat PC nanny statists; revenge on the Mexicans who send their economically weakest to exploit America’s largesse; revenge on terrorists and their PC sympathizers; and revenge on Chinese global economy manipulators. The Pessimist does not truly know the nature of this revenge, but Trump has promised it to the Pessimist, and the Pessimist (and I) truly believe Trump will follow through.
THE OPTIMIST SUPPORT FOR TRUMP
There are far more Optimists who support Trump. Some believe that Trump simply exemplifies their values. Many believe that he is a leader. Optimists do not care about the specifics. They see a leader and are ready to follow. Trump is a winner, Trump will not be bullied, Trump will find a way to accomplish his goals. Many Trump supporters view him as someone who will protect them. Whether it is against foreign economic adversaries, foreign military adversaries, or foreign nonviolent invaders, Trump will protect America at all costs. Trump will coerce and bully when necessary, but the Optimist knows they will be safe under a Trump presidency. Lastly, most Optimists believe Trump will provide something for them. Trump will provide a counterbalance to business as usual. To the Optimist a Trump presidency means the special interests will have to take a back seat.
In the end, both sets of people (nearly all Trump supporters) supporting Trump are not doing so because of a rational decision making process, but because of the emotional feelings gleaned from the fantasy of a Trump Presidency.
As one who looks at policy, the likelihood of follow-through on my values, and electability, Trump is in the middle of the pack for me. I think the people for whom Trump is their first choice largely fall into one of the two above categories and are making an emotional decision.
This article deviates substantially from my general commentary that is heavily based on fact rather than opinion. I will try not to make a habit of it. I am a Rand Paul supporter.
UPDATE: I apparently have been unclear about a couple of points that stuck in the craw of some Trump supporters.
When I am referring to a Trump fantasy, I am not suggesting your beliefs are pie-in-the-sky. Trump does not have a history as a politician so in reality we do not know how he is likely to govern. That is not necessarily a bad thing.
For any Trump supporter saying they do not fit into one of the two categories: I said MOST Trump supporters fit into one of the two categories. Moreover, the disdain you sense from my description of the two categories is not real. I actually suspended my normal thought processes and found that I understand and agree with much of the sentiment. I’m loathe to admit this, but I side substantially with the Pessimists I describe above. Finally, phrases like “political fist in the mouth,” “really, just stop,” “rocked the media and establishment,” “disgusted…by phony and self serving politicians,” “foster parent of it infecting Virginia,” and “the GOPE’s had their chance and blew it,” all suggest a strong emotional response. You ARE NOT being irrational. You are, as I said, relying on your gut or intuition. Intuition is applied experience. Intuition plus logic is how I make decisions in my own life.
Finally, on the point of who I support. I purposefully put that in, as I have in the past. All the time commentary comes from people who have an agenda they are hiding. My agenda here was to point out that I had been struggling to understand Trump, but I kind of get it now. When I think of it the way I describe above, supporting Trump is not nearly as hard for me. I lament the negativity felt between otherwise kindred spirits in this primary process. Rather than describe Trump supporters as the “other” in need of isolation and ostracism, I described them as people with goals and desires that I can identify with.
Feel free to describe your reasons for supporting Trump in the comments below, or even ask to do a guest post. Just don’t be surprised when I try to point out that I think your thoughts fit into the paradigm set out above. Finally, don’t be surprised when you look back or find in the future that we are on the same team.