The Great Unraveling


If, by chance, you have read my blog from time to time, you know that I have long spoken, in metaphorical terms, in an evil experiment in social psychology—an experiment to see just how far you could carry the politics of lying and gaslighting, without losing political support.

I did not foresee that we would come to our present state of affairs. But I would have said that if there ever came a time when the lies and the gaslighting were demonstrably causing massive suffering and loss of life among the intended subjects of the gaslighting, a good many of them would come to their senses.

That appears to be where we are today, Thursday, April 23.

A Massive Split Within the Plutocracy

Check out Politico’s deeply reported story: The Koch network, avatar of the tea party, rejects shutdown protests: The decision reflects changes in the focus and tactics of the Koch-led movement in the Trump era.

A Massive Split Within the Republican Political Class

See, for example, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Trump’s coronavirus rift with Kemp puts Georgia Republicans in a tough spot.

A Massive Split Among White Folks Without a College Degree

Fox News, for example, reports that Michigan white people without college degrees preferred Trump in 2016 by 31 points. Now, that 31 points has slipped to 8 points.

Swing State Poll

A Massive Split Among Republicans Generally

The same unimpeachable source tells us,

Among Republicans [in Michigan], 31 percent think Whitmer’s order is “about right,” and 23 percent think Trump was too slow to respond.

Trump supports protesting state-issued stay-at-home measures and last week tweeted, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN.”

A majority, 61 percent, would rather wait to loosen restrictions, even if it prolongs the economic crisis.  That’s far more than the 24 percent who want to open the economy sooner, even if it means the public health crisis lasts longer.

And this today from Aaron Blake at the New York Times: Another big coronavirus miscalculation by Trump: A new poll shows very few people think Trump should encourage the protesters — even among Republicans:

President Trump has made a series of questionable calculations during the course of the coronavirus outbreak. Chief among them were his decision to downplay the threat for nearly two months, and his later decision to play up the promise of an untested drug treatment, hydroxychloroquine, which studies are now calling into serious question. In each case, the evidence caught up to him, and Trump was forced to change course.

And now another very suspect call is also being lain bare.

New polls suggest very few Americans agree with the protests against various anti-coronavirus measures in a handful of states. In a series of tweets last week, Trump offered nebulous but clear support for the idea that the protesters would “LIBERATE” their states, and he has said that some governors have done “too much” in trying to mitigate the coronavirus.

It was the kind of thing we have come to expect from Trump: A subtle attempt to cast doubt on the recommendations of health officials to continue strict mitigation efforts, and a chance to turn the whole thing into a culture war by seizing upon a divisive political issue.

But the issue has now divided Americans overwhelmingly against Trump and the protesters.

A new CBS News/YouGov poll shows just 23 percent of people support the protesters, while 62 percent oppose them. Support is higher among Republicans (43 percent), but even there nearly half of the president’s own party (46 percent) opposes the protests that Trump egged on, despite the participants flouting health officials’ guidance by gathering in public. …

An Associated Press/NORC poll released Wednesday offers yet more evidence that Trump picked the wrong alliance. It didn’t ask specifically about the protests, but it did ask whether people think anti-coronavirus measures have “gone too far” in their areas. Just 12 percent of all adults agreed with that statement, while twice as many (26 percent) said they don’t go far enough and 61 percent said they were “about right.”

Again, even Republicans aren’t on board. Among them, just 22 percent say the measures go too far — about as many as say they don’t go far enough (19 percent). …

As NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin noted Thursday morning, Trump’s poll numbers have been exceedingly consistent during his presidency. But there was a time in which they dipped significantly: During the highly unpopular GOP push to replace Obamacare. When people’s health and livelihoods were suddenly on the line, they weren’t as interested in engaging in the kind of culture wars Trump has otherwise so effectively stoked.

As I said, a lot of the duped are now concluding, there must be an end to understanding, we we have just about had our fill.

You Can Fool Some of the People Some of the Time

And just how many can you fool? New data provide further insight.

As per the graphic above, a steady 41-42 percent of ‘Mericans, when asked, declare that they “support Trump.” With that thought in mind, let’s take a look at these two posts, which interpret a recent CNN poll probing public attitudes about the Mueller investigation.

CNN poll: Most say Mueller should try to end investigation before Election Day

As Trump keeps raging at Mueller, another poll shows his lies are failing

Great News for Trump!

In June of this year, only 29 percent of Americans said they “approved how President Trump is handling the Russia investigation.” By mid-August, Trump had tweeted himself up another five percent Trump-handling-the-investigation approvers, to bring the number up to 34 percent of our body politic.

Bad News for Trump

Compare that 34 percent figure with the universe of all Trump approvers. After months and months of mendacious witch hunt tweets—and sedulous repetition of the same lies—at least 17 percent of Trump approvers still do NOT “approve of his handling of the Mueller investigation. (7 ÷ 41 = 17 percent.)

And let’s look at another data point. As to Trump’s awareness of his campaign’s various Russian contacts, there is as yet no definitive proof concerning “what did Trump know and when did he know it.” But 57 percent of all ‘Mericans have already concluded that “Trump knew about contacts between his campaign operatives and Russians.” (And that, by the way, is a very reasonable supposition, because Trump his denied knowledge—and, like the proverbial Cretan—Trump never tells the truth.)

Meanwhile, 36 percent of Americans have drunk deeply of the Kool Aid, and have reached the conclusion, on Trump’s say-so alone, that Trump lacked knowledge of Russian contacts.

That leaves at least 12 percent of Trump approvers who either think that Trump is lying through his teeth, or don’t know or don’t care whether Trump is lying through his teeth. (5 ÷ 41 = 12 percent.)

Driving that Wedge

Conclusion: Trump is doing a fabulous job of driving a wedge between a hard core of the most gullible Americans, and everyone else.


A Perennial Conundrum, Solved by Aardvark


As you struggle to rid your mind of the image of Donald Trump spanked in his tighty whities, permit me to raise once again the puzzling question posed by this headline: Kaine: Trump is ‘lying’ or ‘delusional’ on DACA.

OK, so which is it, lying or delusional behavior?

For a long time I went with delusional. I now know that was too simple.

Like the Cretan in the paradox, Trump always lies.

But he doesn’t lie cleverly. Instead, he always tries to gaslight you by telling a lie that’s exactly 180 degrees from the truth. In consequence, the public has come to learn that if they want to know the truth, all they have to do is figure out what is the precise opposite of what Don the Con just said.

Prime example last week: the tweet that all the big law firms and high powered lawyers yearn to be his defense counsel. When the truth is that none of them want to work for him.

And, by the way, let me pause to tell you why they won’t work for him. There are many good and sufficient reasons, but here’s the main one. The big law firms depend on hiring a stream of highly intelligent and ambitious law graduates. And highly intelligent law graduates, finishing their legal education in 2018, are not going to work for the law that works for Donald Trump. And the management committee bloody well knows it. Trust me on this one.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program.

It’s reasonably clear now that Don the Con always lies, and a lot of the time he knows he’s lying. His mental disability lies in his failure to gauge the effect of his lying. He believes he is a superhero with the magical power to gaslight the public. But his act has just about run its course.

Seventy-two percent of registered voters now want Mueller to continue his investigation. Eleven percent think Mueller should be fired.

Congressman Costello has figured out that the game is over, the jig is up. Fox News will figure it out some time in the next little while.

And that, of course, will be the moment when Trump starts a war.


The Gaslighting Isn’t Working, but Trump Will Fire Mueller Anyway


The Gaslighting Isn’t Working

Gaslighting is

a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.[1][2]

Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The term owes its origin to the 1938 Patrick Hamilton play Gas Light and its 1940 and 1944 film adaptations.

Gaslighting is a winning technique for Trump, but only with the hardest core of ignoramuses. To sum up,

— The reality is that public opinion is protecting the special counsel right now more than Republicans on Capitol Hill. “Mueller is largely seen as running a fair investigation, and confidence has held steady or even grown over recent months,” our in-house pollster Emily Guskin notes:

A Pew Research Center poll released last week found that 61 percent of Americans are very or somewhat confident that Mueller ‘will conduct a fair investigation,’ up six percentage points from … January, and from 56 percent in December. The rise is modest but statistically significant. … Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents fueled the rise in support … Just under half of Republicans, 46 percent, express confidence in Mueller’s probe this month, hardly changed from 45 percent two months ago.

A Marist poll last month found that 53 percent considered Mueller’s investigation to be fair, up five points from January, while 28 percent said it was not fair, and 20 percent had no opinion: “A 70 percent majority of Americans said Mueller should be allowed to finish the investigation, while 16 percent said he should be fired. Republicans, who largely approve of Trump’s performance, opposed firing Mueller by roughly 2 to 1, 55 percent to 27 percent.” [emphasis in original]

Let’s say it again. Despite the best efforts of Trump and Fox News, half of the Republicans have confidence in Mueller. And among the other half, who think Mueller is incompetent or corrupt, only half of them think it would be a good idea to shitcan him. (I suppose the rest want to see what he comes up with.)

So if Trump fires Mueller, all of Fox News, along with most gullible and easily misled 16 percent of the American public, will jump for joy.

But Trump Will Fire Mueller Anyway

As Jonathan Chait says, it’s a matter of character.

But more than that, it will be an act of desperation. When all your alternatives are really bad, you make the choice that seems the least desperate of all the desperate choices you have.

As the Geico ad says, that’s what you do.