Heads are exploding at CNN as pundits try to define Trump’s repeated offers to help African-Americans as typical Hitler behavior. As my regular readers know, what we have here is a perfect trap for cognitive dissonance. The anti-Trumpers have created an identify for themselves – and in the media – as opposing Trump because he’s a racist. Then Trump goes and ruins their mental models by acting all non-racist.
This creates a situation in which the pundits either have to change their self-images and admit they were wrong about Trump all along, or they have to reinterpret Trump’s clearly non-racist actions as racist actions in disguise. Cognitive dissonance happens when people are unwilling or unable to modify their self-image to match the observed facts. In this case, to protect their self-images as wise pundits, they are forced to default to pretzel-like explanations of their reality.
Some pundits are pushing the interpretation that Trump doesn’t care about the African-American community, and that he’s just trying to be a safer choice for white people who don’t want to support a racist. That’s what a cognitive dissonance argument sounds like. It makes sense, sort of, but not in a persuasive way. It has a delicious pretzel quality to it. That’s the tell.
Yesterday, Trump doubled-down on “The Softening” as I will start to call it. He hinted at a willingness to NOT deport all 11 million illegal immigrants living in this country. Once again, this directly contradicts the Trump-is-Hitler notion and sent pundits into an even faster spin cycle. I thought Paul Begala was going to have a stroke explaining that Trump’s apparent turnaround on deportation is proof he is a “con man.”
Now things get interesting, because…
The anti-Trumpers have two conflicting mental models of Trump now. Is he a racist or a con man?
If Trump is a racist, then his opponents have to explain why being kind to immigrants in this country (his new softened stance), along with his outreach to African-Americans, fits the racist model. If they try to make the new facts fit the old model, they look ridiculous. And that’s what several of the pundits did. They went straight to ridiculous and discredited themselves.
The alternative to maintaining the view that Trump is a racist is the idea that he has been conning the public since the start. Under that mental model, Trump has never been a racist, but he played one on TV to win votes in the GOP primaries. Now his true character is coming out.
But wait…that’s a problem.
If he’s really just a con man after all – and not a racist – the left loses its best scare-persuasion. Racists are scary, but con men are not. We’re all conning each other all the time – also known as branding, selling, and negotiating – so conning doesn’t sound so scary. It sounds somewhat normal, especially for a politician.
You say Trump lied to get some votes in the primaries? Snore. They all lied. He just did it better.
Trump has created a perfect trap for Clinton’s accomplices. If they interpret Trump’s “softening” as genuine, they lose their most persuasive argument that he is a scary racist. And if they argue that his non-racist actions are further proof he is a racist, they look ridiculous and lose all credibility.
Your move, Godzilla.
For additional entertainment today, watch Trump’s supporters try to explain how his “softening” is actually no change at all. None. Totally the same as before, except for the fact it is totally different. Nothing happening here, folks. Just move along.
If you like puppies and sunlight, you might like my book. Because it’s just like that.