Putting the Trumpian Cognitive Dissonance to Bed

Putting the Trumpian Cognitive Dissonance to Bed October 29, 2020

This is my second piece dealing with a comment from someone I know on Facebook. Yesterday, I went to town on the claims that, compared to Trump, Biden is a racist crook. This seemed to be one of the bases of this person’s support for Trump against Biden. I am incredulous at my interlocutor’s public support for him given he is a well-read and intelligent man.

I made claims about cognitive dissonance – what his brain is doing to harmonise the evidence against his position – both that Biden is the racist criminal out of the two, and that it is good and right to support Trump and not support Biden. I think this is more than amply shown in his comments, and subsequent ones to me today.

Yesterday’s piece caused a firestorm of Facebook with himself and another interlocutor, Guy, whom I have written a number of articles about and against. Let’s remind ourselves of what was initially said.

“Not that much cognitive dissonance… I mean, no more than it would to support the racist crook that Biden appears to be. If sifting through the good and the bad and supporting a president based on the good outweighing the bad means cognitive dissonance, then be dissonant. But there are a lot of intelligent people voting for Trump, so it shouldn’t be too surprising. I remember you hating Trump from the point when he declared his intention to run. You’ve only ever proven correct that initial assessment, and all the evidence you’ve gathered seems to support that view. Isn’t that strange though? Perhaps it was because I was open to Trump’s presidency, that my mind hasn’t been fogged by a persistent negative interpretation. The baying voices of the media and the smug self-assurance of people that condemned him from the start – people who seemed to know very little about politics in America – gave me enough caution to not pile in likewise, but to evaluate him on his actions.”

I think I have put the idea that Trump is the least racist and criminal of the two to bed. The reason this was important was that this formed the supposed rational bedrock of why he supported Trump over Biden, that I must be the one to have cognitive dissonance to support Biden, given his racist criminality. I have shown this to be false.

Intelligence

But there are a lot of intelligent people voting for Trump, so it shouldn’t be too surprising.

We all know the stats connecting those who have college education being more likely to vote for Biden and those without being more likely to vote for Trump. If you can relate education to intelligence in any way, then you might conclude that there is a positive correlation to voting for Biden and a negative one with voting for Trump, though interestingly, this correlation has lessened over the last four years as Biden has made inroads into the particularly white, non-college-educated male voters.

For a pretty balanced statistical analysis of intelligence as pertaining to voting for Trump or not, please see the article “What’s the average IQ of Trump voters?“.

My point was never that clever people don’t vote for Trump, my point is pretty much evidenced in the response to my article yesterday: that intelligent people who vote for Trump employ a bunch of other mental contortions to justify their vote.

Moral consequentalism

As I have said many times on this blog, the only rational position to support Trump is one that is virtually never used: that Trump is a horrible individual and morally bankrupt in all the ways obviously evidenced, but that I still support him for the consequences that his administration might bring about.

This is pure moral consequentialism.

It might be this: “I am absolutely intent on the Supreme Court being filled with conservative judges because I am so interested in reducing pro-choice legislation that I will accept all manner of other ills to this country (including the Covid deaths of hundreds of thousands) because pro-life legislation is that much more important to me.”

Now this is rational. It’s accepting the evidence, all that hard data, that Trump is an egregious, narcissistic human who is enacting things to the exclusive benefit of himself and his cronies, and any other number of things, because this has less negative value than the pro-life legislation has positive value.

I have elucidated this before as pretty much the only rational approach I would accept to Trump support.

But this is what does not happen. My interlocutor, for example, makes silly claims – I mean downright silly – about Biden, racism and criminality and attempt to use these to justify Trump support.

It is THIS that makes me angry because, more often than not, they are better than that. They are deluding themselves. There is no other way of seeing it and that is why I had to set out the case so forcefully yesterday about racism and criminality.

Vagueness

Perhaps what grates the most is that such supporters never really elucidate and substantiate their claims. The post the odd meme, the odd link to a Hunter Biden story, but never really lay out a case for their support. This is weak and perhaps shows that they aren’t really PRO-TRUMP, they are merely anti-Democrat, or anti-left. So it doesn’t matter who the hell is running on either side, the support will maintain in such a vein, even if their guy is Trump. I remember the good ole days of Obama vs McCain where we could argue about policy and not who is the biggest criminal, when one is obviously more so.

And he is pro-Trump:

“I think Trump has been the best American President since Reagan.”

This is why the pro-Trump message leaves such a bad taste because I know damned well this guy isn’t really pro-Trump. He won’t admit it (to himself more than anyone), he is anti-left.

I am not pro-Biden, I am both anti-Trump and pro-Democratic policies. Biden is the last of the Democratic nominees I would have chosen. I’m open about that. I was Elizabeth Warren all the way. But I am honest about that. For me, this is about Biden being infinitely better than Trump and representing a politic that is healthier for the whole nation and world.

Trump isn’t even an old-school conservative, hence the swathes of fiscal conservatives who have left the GOP camp for this election.

So I think this vagueness is indicative of a lot more.

Post hoc rationalisation

This is perhaps my “favourite” part:

I remember you hating Trump from the point when he declared his intention to run. You’ve only ever proven correct that initial assessment, and all the evidence you’ve gathered seems to support that view. Isn’t that strange though?

Of course, the more obvious reading to me is this: I remember hating Trump from the point he declared his intention to run because I am a good judge of character and I had ample data to inform my evaluation. Subsequent data and evidence (Trump University ruling, groping pussies, at least 25  allegations of sexual assault, emoluments, Russia, Helsinki, John Kerry’s declaration etc. etc.) has amply proven my initial assessment absolutely correct. The evidence has not been gathered as an exercise in post hoc rationalisation – I rationalised this from the start using what I knew about Trump and he has proven me correct.

Isn’t that strange though? No. It’s inductive reasoning, well employed.

Pretty normal. Pretty un-strange.

Perhaps it was because I was open to Trump’s presidency, that my mind hasn’t been fogged by a persistent negative interpretation.

The problem is, he has shown absolutely no evidence of this. He has committed to a position and then merely asserts ridiculous things (Biden is the racist, criminal as opposed to Trump) without substance, and in a manner of post hoc rationalisation for an untenable position.

The baying voices of the media and the smug self-assurance of people that condemned him from the start – people who seemed to know very little about politics in America – gave me enough caution to not pile in likewise, but to evaluate him on his actions.

This is odd. Either he is genuinely having a go at media sources, such as CNN perhaps, and saying they have very little knowledge of American politics. In this case, so what. What does this have to do with me? Or he is saying that I have very little knowledge about politics in America, which is demonstrably false and rather insulting. I’m no college professor of politics but I basically spend about half of my waking hours watching and listening to American politics every day. I mean that. Every single day (the joys of being between jobs, eh!). And I write about it. A lot. Some people must appreciate it as I have been asked onto an election-day live stream podcast in the US.

But even if this isn’t a veiled insult, the fact that this intelligent guy has so carefully evaluated Trump’s actions – whether it be groping and harassing women, his love affair with dictators, the torrent of cabinet members and aides who have had to leave the White House on account of his egregious nature (wanting to gas or shoot immigrants), his terrible Covid response causing the death of tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands, his financial irregularities and probable crimes, the list is endless – and found him to be the man to support in this election shows why I found it necessary to react in this way.

Conclusion

What I admittedly haven’t done, due to the need for parsimony, time and space, is to investigate what I think really are the underlying probably psychological drivers that are making my interlocutor feel so strongly for Trump that he will overcome data and evidence contrary to his support and belief, or contrary to ordinary morality. Perhaps this might be reserved for another piece. as quite probably a Thatcherite, as someone else pointed out in the previous comments thread, he might well be digging himself into a conservative, right-wing corner without any clear path as to how he might extricate himself.

I think this whole exchange (and most if it is not pasted here) proves my point, and my point is that for intelligent people to commit to being pro-Trump without expressing a very overt consequentialism is to delude themselves and employ an unhealthy degree of cognitive dissonance, which itself will involve huge amounts of confirmation bias. This bias is clearly on show when being “open to Trump’s presidency” without a “mind fogged by a persistent negative interpretation” and with “enough caution… to evaluate him on his actions”, my interlocutor still finds Biden to be the racist crook out of the two presidential nominees.

Case closed.

 


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