The age of Trump has inspired many articles on the topic of the defects of human reason. Here’s a new one, out this afternoon, and it’s pretty good: Brian Resnick, 9 essential lessons from psychology to understand the Trump era. You know the score: motivated reason, tendency to reject facts you don’t like, et cetera, et cetera.
But I have some questions. I’ll cheerfully grant that both progressives and reactionaries suffer from these defects. I will grant that I myself, yes Arius A. Aardvark, suffer from them. But here’s what I want to know—and never seem to learn, from articles of this ilk.
- Does everybody suffer equally from these mental flaws? My experience and intuition tell me no. (And, goddammit, I’ll reject any evidence to the contrary!) But, Aardvarkian experience and intuition aside, what do the actual psychologists say?
- Motivated reason, rejection of inconvenient truths, and all the rest of these problems lead to irrational action, and irrational action leads to disaster. That being the case, what therapy is effective in mitigating the kinds of problems Mr. Resnick discusses?
Enquiring Minds Want to Know.
Please take a look for yourself at this morning’s Washington Post-ABC News poll: here and here. No huge surprises, but lots of material for sober reflection.
The first question was, “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president?” Those who “approved” were asked to make a binary choice: did they “strongly approve” or did they “somewhat approve”? Ditto those who “disapproved.”
To provide more enlightenment about why people answered the general question the way they did, two further questions were posed: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Trump is handling the economy?” and “Do you have a favorable or unfavorable impression of Trump as a person?”
- Overall approval is trending up—chiefly among the same demographics that liked him to begin with, such as white folks without a college degree. This is appalling.
- It looks like the ceiling for overall Trump approval is holding at 40 percent. This is reassuring, but only “somewhat reassuring,” not “strongly reassuring.”
- Of the 40 percent of Americans who “approve” of Trump’s presidency, five eighths—or 25 percent of the total population—“strongly approve.” This is the Fox News audience. These are the people who say, “he may be a narcissistic jerk, but he’s OUR narcissistic jerk.” These are the good folks who yell “Lock Her Up!” and thus express their intense yearing to live in a banana republic. These are most of my kinsmen.
I assume that if Trump is shown to be a criminal, these people would not care. They pretty much already know he’s a criminal.
- Setting aside the 10 percent of Americans who “somewhat disapprove” of Trump’s presidency, the number who “strongly disapprove”—46 percent—exceeds by six points the total number of approvers.
One would suppose that people most likely to vote in 2018 are people who either strongly approve or strongly disapprove. The new data show that there are 46 of us for every 25 of them. Blue wave’s still a-comin’.
- Twenty-five percent of the electorate are wishy-washy (“somewhat approve” or “somewhat disapprove”). Their wishy-washiness arises, no doubt, from a myriad of causes, the most prominent of which are either functional illiteracy or general satisfaction with the economy. (Sixty-one percent have an “unfavorable impression of Trump as a person” but only 48 percent “disapprove of the way Trump is handling the economy.”)
By and large, then, the wishy-washies know that Trump is a jerk but think their own economic circumstances are good—and are happy to put up with a jerk if he brings them lower taxes. Put yet another way, for the 25 percent in the middle, it’s not a question of perception—they mostly know that he’s loony-tunes, but they think that personal gain is more important than public good.
- My name is Aardvark, not Nostradamus, so I don’t know what is going to happen. Facts and logic are all I have. Facts and logic would suggest that if Trump goes ahead with his trade war, and the economy goes to hell in a handbasket, he will lose all the wishy-washies as well as some material part of the Fox-loving 25 percent.
… Question for Putin
Trump called on the Russkies to expose Clinton’s email. Let the record reflect that Aardvark is not calling on Putin to engage in any act or omission.
I’m just making an observation, OK?
My observation is that Trump has just about outlived his usefulness as a Russian puppet. His goose is almost cooked. His jig is almost up. He’s unpredictable and getting unpredictableer by the day. There’s a big danger that he will lash out at Russia just to try to prove he isn’t a Russian lackey.
President Pence, by contrast, will have no special need to show he isn’t a Russian stooge. He would be far more predictable and far more manageable.
Logically, whatever Putin has on Trump—peepee tapes, Russian mafia connections, whatever it is—this would be a mighty opportune time for Putin to let it all hang out.
Just an observation, folks.
Meantime, Jonathan Chait gives us five reasons to conclude that the peepee tapes are probably real. Pathetic. Hilarious. Highly persuasive.
And, lastly, I had to look up “rusty trombone.” I have absolutely no intention of telling you what it means. But if you can’t help yourself, there is a Wikipedia entry, accompanied by a suitable illustration.
Yesterday, April 12: Senator Grassley tries to explain agricultural economics to The Donald, while John Kelly face palms.
Thanks to Martin Longman, who calls our attention to Trump’s removal of his twitter post of the top picture.
And enjoy Today’s 5 Best Quotes From Freaked-Out Trump Sources, Ranked:
- Quote: “There was fear in Trump’s orbit that the president is liable to erupt in anger in coming days, escalating his attacks against Mueller at a time when his attorneys are negotiating a possible interview.”
Source: “Trump’s orbit”
- Quote: “Mr. Trump’s advisers have spent the last 24 hours trying to convince the president not to make an impulsive decision that could put the president in more legal jeopardy and ignite a controversy that could consume his presidency.”
Source: “several people close to Mr. Trump”
- Quote: “He’s sitting there bitching and moaning. He’s brooding and doesn’t have a plan.”
Source: “a Republican close to the White House”
- Quote: “He’s losing his shit,” the operative added. “We’re at a different level now.”
Source: “a GOP operative close to the White House”
- Quote: “Jesus take the wheel.”
Source: “a former White House official”
Apparently, one of the products sold in this pyramid marketing scheme was a urine test. But I don’t believe it tested for pregnancy.
All this happened before the pyramid collapsed.
But not to worry …
David Brooks, you are, at least as far as I can tell, a very nice man; you are intelligent; and you have lots of interesting things to say. Your knowledge of social science and political theory are to be commended. But your niceness can get in the way of your ability to see straight. This morning, in A Renaissance on the Right, you write,
The core problem today is not tribalism. It’s excessive individualism, which has eaten away at our uniting faith and damaged our relationships with one another. Excessive individualism has left us distrustful and alone — naked Lockeans. When people are naked and alone they revert to tribe. Tribalism is the end product of excessive individualism.
As it happens, over the last few days, my posse and I have been shaking our heads over the tribalistic, Trumpian nonsense spewed out on our high school facebook page by some of our benighted classmates from back in the sixties.
No, David, Billy Bob and Mollie May are not naked Lockeans. Billy Bob and Mollie May have never, in their entire lives, met a naked Lockean. Billy Bob and Molly May would not recognize a naked Lockean if he bit them on the ass. Nor do Billy Bob and Molly May suffer from excessive individualism. What Billie Bob and Mollie May suffer from is the very same ruthless tribalistic thinking that ruled their Scots-Irish, slave holding, Indian killing ancestors.
And, by the way, Happy 275th Birthday, Thomas Jefferson.
James Comey’s book will be out next Tuesday. I preordered my copy. You can get yours here.
Meanwhile, some idiot at the Republican National Committee has created lyincomey.com. By all means, take a look. The site flashes a series of out-of-context quotes from Maxine Waters, Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi, all saying bad things about Comey.
Don’t the RNC numbnuts grasp that, if prominent Democrats have been pissed off with Comey at times in the past, the reasonable inference is that Comey is not in the Democrats’ hip pocket, but is instead trying to call ‘em like he sees ‘em?
And speaking of pea brains …