The Trump Presidency is often (rightly) portrayed as being divorced from reality. I believe these are the symptoms of his worldview.
Trump believes that he has been successful in his life because he is genetically superior. He regularly talks about coming from “good genes”. In his eyes, his success is not the result of his starting with millions of dollars, or his willingness to make decisions that hurt other people for his benefit.
He believes in positive thinking. He decides what is true, and acts as though it is the case. He believes in this because it generally works for him. People learn how the world works through personal experience. From his perspective it has made him the most powerful man in the world.
His narrow understanding complex topics lead him to make decisions that display a complete misunderstanding of the topics at hand, but his ego insists that he’s right. It leads him to attempt to predict a place to have a rally during a pandemic that is unlikely to experience a super spreader event, without understanding that he is creating one.
“What is always the source of the world is the present; the past doesn’t explain a thing. The past trails behind the present like the wake of a ship and eventually disappears.”
— Alan Watts
This misplaced ego is what drives his decision making process, not the experience of experts. Experts can be found willing to say whatever he already believes. Some honestly believe it.
True wisdom is understanding that you can only ever know a tiny fraction of what is true. We’re each incredibly limited. Throughout our lives, we build an incomplete model of the world influenced by our values, our world view, and concepts. Reality is always more complex, especially if you are attempting to guess future behavior of a country full of individuals with free will.
Any political strategy which depends on anticipating the future is unlikely to succeed. The most well meaning policy will be exploited by whoever is willing to look for a way to take advantage of it. Ideas of economic growth rising all boats are pipe dreams when that growth is obtained through consolidation and automation.
“Yet, though all the changes we are observing tend in the direction of a comprehensive central direction of economic activity, the universal struggle against competition promises to produce in the first instance something in many respects even worse, a state of affairs which can satisfy neither planners nor liberals: a sort of syndicalist or “corporative” organization of industry, in which competition is more or less suppressed but planning is left in the hands of the independent monopolies of the separate industries. This is the inevitable first result of a situation in which the people are united in their hostility to competition but agree on little else. By destroying competition in industry after industry, this policy puts the consumer at the mercy of the joint monopolist action of capitalists and workers in the best organized industries. Yet, although this is a state of affairs which in wide fields has already existed for some time, and although much of the muddled (and most of the interested) agitation for planning aims at it, it is not a state which is likely to persist or can be rationally justified. Such independent planning by industrial monopolies would, in fact, produce effects opposite to those at which the argument for planning aims. Once this stage is reached, the only alternative to a return to competition is the control of the monopolies by the state — a control which, if it is to be made effective, must become progressively more complete and more detailed. It is this stage we are rapidly approaching. When, shortly before the war, a weekly magazine pointed out that there were many signs that British leaders, at least, were growing accustomed to thinking in terms of national development by controlled monopolies, this was probably a true estimate of the position as it then existed. Since then this process has been greatly accelerated by the war, and its grave defects and dangers will become increasingly obvious as time goes on.”
— F. A. Hayak “The Road to Serfdom” 1944
Politically, many of us have become voters rather than citizens. We optimistically spend billions on elections, as if it’s still just a numbers game in a polarized society. We seem to agree that money in politics is a problem, and then we donate to candidates for other people’s elections.
It is worth understanding that your opposition makes decision within their own framework, rather than your own. A culture of appeasement regardless of justice does poorly in the face of a culture of rebellion and control, especially when they see legitimate problems with your world view.
Arguing about what is “True” is often less useful than understanding the views of the person you’re talking to.
Imagine that you’re having a gun control debate. You believe that military grade weapons do not belong in the hands of private citizens. The person you’re talking to believes that private citizens should be able to have any weapons, in case their government has devolved into tyranny.
There is a potentially interesting historical and constitutional question about the intent of the founding fathers when authoring the second amendment. There is also a serious implication that they may take up arms against their opposition if they believe their rights are being violated.
This is why I believed that it was critical that we address Trump’s abuse of power at each step during his presidency. Focusing on winning an election without addressing his narrative ignores the unseen world view of his base. Calling him a liar is meaningless without engaging in a dialog that brings both sides to a common understanding.
So let’s look back at the idea of dumping money into elections in order to ensure a victory. Did the process of obtaining this victory discredit Trump’s claims of the evils of the Democratic party?
How are any positive changes possible when they’re likely to result in increasing violent opposition?
How we expect our political system to function if we refuse to stand up for our apparent core values? Any policies pursued in that environment are built upon quicksand.