A lot of Americans believe in things that aren’t real. This is our problem now.
We know how we got here. We got here because of micro-targeted paid placements on social media, primarily Facebook, and because of Fox News. Those content placements and television shows were used to spread propaganda: misinformation, half-truths, logical fallacies, fear-mongering, and rhetorical tricks of various kinds.
The goals of that propaganda are clear. Paint the Democratic Party as evildoers and elites, the destroyers of all that is good and sacred. Paint the Republican Party as patriots and Christians who care about the working class.
The strategy to convert these impressions into votes simply exploited the fact that 60% of Americans have no wealth to speak of, 80% of us do not consider ourselves to be financially secure, and the majority of us are completely exasperated and frustrated with the lack of big, bold government proposals to address the multitude of major problems we have been facing. The past 40 years have brought few shifts in policies, few changes in party positions, few major reforms, etc. It’s failure. And so the propaganda is always, ultimately, about scapegoating the Democrats, whether it’s direct or indirect.
Just give people an enemy to blame for all their hardship and resentment and frustration, and get them riled up enough, and they will vote against the enemy. The Democratic Party had on its side a justified concern of an impending dictatorship, plus rational assessments of Trump’s incompetence and corruption, plus the righteousness of social values — justice, fairness, equality and democracy. It was a close battle, of course, but reasoning and morality defeated anger and resentment and exasperation.
We need to empathize with Trump’s supporters in order to figure out what to do next. People want strong leaders in times like these. They want strong leaders because they imagine that strong leaders will get things done. And we Americans love our leaders and leadership and heroes as much as we do hamburgers and milkshakes. Seriously, we have an unhealthy level of obsession with authority. It goes beyond love. People so badly want to place their faith in God/Trump/anybody who can help, that they are easily fooled and easily influenced. Think about it.
If you have a $20,000/year job and are struggling with debt and living paycheck to paycheck, and I tell you that everything is the fault of the Democrats, then what have you got to lose by giving me your trust? If your trust is well-placed, something might change. If your trust is misplaced, nothing will change. So it’s a pretty easy choice for you, really. Trust the guy who says he will blow it all up and maybe try to fix things. There’s no downside. Anything is preferable to the status quo!
But this logic overlooks a risk. When you willingly give your trust, your default stance towards that person or entity changes. You suppress the analysis and questioning you would usually do. You try to see the truth in whatever is being said, however much you have to look the other way or bend the interpretation. In this way, your decision to give your trust is right, which feels good. This tendency to try to validate the people we want to trust leaves us vulnerable to them.
Our impressions can be easily shaped. We begin to accept things as truth because of the filters and biases we apply to our own perceptions. This is how Trump supporters can look at a process like elections, that is fundamentally designed to prevent cheating, and has never failed yet, and presume it to be rigged until proven otherwise. The rigged election baseline was extremely rare 4 years ago, yet here we are. This is how an expert (in something) says she thinks the Covid virus is Chinese bioterrorism, and Trump supporters just accept it rather than be skeptical of her motives (she is looking for a ride out of Hong Kong) or her evidence (she’ll reveal it soon).
It’s unbelievable, right? It seems like Trump’s supporters have been lobotomized. They are entirely disconnected. They have built their own truths, facts, reality. They literally believe things that aren’t real. They question nothing that their side says. They trust no one who speaks against those they trust.
Trump Republicans really screwed themselves by giving their trust to a leader and a party they thought would try to help them, or at least wouldn’t make things worse. In the end, they just got brainwashed.
And that leaves them unfit for jobs that require objectivity and realism.
You can’t hire a Trump supporter into a cybersecurity organization, because they won’t be capable of objective assessment of data. We’ve seen that they won’t go along with reality-based assessments if it harms their political party or leader, even on national security matters.
You can’t hire a Trump supporter into any defense job that requires a clearance. Their loyalty is too much in question; they are a security risk. They are more loyal to party than the Constitution. They may do sabotage. Plus, they have demonstrated an ability to be fooled, and to fool themselves. These qualities are not good for getting a clearance.
You can’t hire a Trump supporter into any public health capacity, because they will be anti-vaxxers and hold other anti-science biases that will interfere with proper care for patients.
You wouldn’t want to hire a Trump supporter into any business whose success hinges on a reality they don’t accept, such as “electric vehicles will reduce global warming”. If Tesla interviews someone who says they don’t believe in global warming, then they won’t intuitively understand the Tesla value proposition. Their motivation and passion will be less than a candidate who believes Tesla is helping to reduce global warming.
The list goes on and on.
The legacy of Trump is a big social problem we have to clean up now. About 50,000,000 people have had their thinking skills and beliefs tampered with. They are damaged people. They can’t be as useful or valuable in the economy as they were before. They are truly victims. And yet they will struggle to accept that reality, too.
What should we do?