Ten & One-Half

THE TWELVE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS DONALD TRUMP HAS TAUGHT ME (Thing No. 10):

Civics education is important.

Of course, I knew this already. I have been interested in government and politics since I became aware in my childhood. The subject has interested me since I first heard President Truman’s voice coming out of our Philco console radio and my sister explained to me that he was the president, that he was in charge of the country, and that he told everybody what to do. Her childish understanding was insufficient for me and I have made a lifetime study of politics.

But not everyone has been paying attention. Some citizens never learned much about their government beyond a few patriotic platitudes. They have been too easily duped by pundits, preachers, and playboys into using their votes to gain admission to see lousy snake oil promotions.

One of the beauties of majority rule is that most people can’t be fooled. But now and then, the snake oil candidate slips through the screen and becomes a governor, a senator, or even a president. I recall that Minnesota elected a wrestler for governor. Texas once elected a hillbilly singer to the governor’s office.

Sometimes the promoters grow into the office and surprise us by delivering a creditable performance, at least managing to preserve our most hallowed institutions. For example, Ronald Reagan.

And sometimes we get snake oil. Just snake oil. And slime.

Eleven & One-Half

THE TWELVE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS DONALD TRUMP HAS TAUGHT ME (Thing No. 11):

Words matter.

Of course they do and everyone should know that. But sometimes people throw language around purposefully to inspire other people to do the things they themselves want to see happen but do not want to be held accountable for. When bad actions follow their language, they can claim they were joking or throwing out a little sarcasm.

What I have learned from Donald Trump is that I have to take his words at their face value. Although he may call it sarcasm, his message is probably coded and will be understood by those who follow him closely. “Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

Sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it? But his followers knew what he meant.

Twelve & One-Half

THE TWELVE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS DONALD TRUMP HAS TAUGHT ME (Thing No. 12):

The dynamics of lying and public opinion.

There is a dynamic to the Big Lie that Donald Trump has used for years in his business and now uses in politics. It never bothers him to be caught in a lie. He doubles down, repeats it again and again, and turns the volume up.

It begins to sound normal to other people, at least it is no longer shocking. Then it begins to sound TRUE TO HIM. Now that he is telling the “truth”, he repeats it with more conviction and becomes more persuasive to those who have no firm roots in fact and reality, that is, the uneducated and uncritical.

Listen to his Sunday phone call to Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger. The more he repeats the lies, the more convinced he becomes that they are true. You can hear his conviction growing as the call drones on.

Trump’s genius is that he probably came up with this formulation independently without ever reading the literature analyzing the propaganda techniques of 20th Century authoritarianism. He never reads anything.