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What will it take for Trump’s most devoted fans to have some qualms?

A couple of thoughts on Donald Trump, objective reality, and the declining Dow.

Although it obviously has no effect whatsoever, I can’t quite give up on occasionally pointing out the current incumbent’s staggering lack of intellectual honesty, a quality I prize quite highly.

Intellectual honesty requires that you deal with the established facts, try to keep them in context, and try to have a serious discussion of how to interpret them. It is a universe that Trump seems never to have visited.

In Trump’s world, everything good that occurs is to his credit, everything bad is Barack Obama’s fault (or, I suppose, it will now become “Sleepy Joe’s” fault), and objective reality is scarcely a problem to be acknowledged.

A few thoughts on objective reality: “Reality” means it has to be real. “Objective” means you have to acknowledge even the inconvenient parts. Without both of those aspects, there is no hope of intellectual honesty, which Trump seems to view as a sucker play, like all other forms of honesty or candor.

Now I ask you to glance at this graph, showing the ups and downs of the Dow Jones Industrial Average since 2007. The Dow is not the best, but a commonly cited measure of how the U.S. economy has performed.

It shows a staggering stock crash that happened in the last year of the George W. Bush presidency. The crash ended halfway through Obama’s first term. The Dow then took off on a fantastic run that mostly continued through the remaining six years of Obama’s presidency, and the first almost two years of the Trump presidency. Intellectual honesty requires me to acknowledge that the upward slope is sharper in the first year of the Trump presidency.

But then there are two rather dramatic dips, both during the Trump presidency, including one in 2018 (notwithstanding the genius in the White House) and a second one that continued dramatically yesterday, wiping out much of the Dow gains during the first half of Trump’s term.

I’m not a complete idiot (feel free to differ on that). I know that the second and most recent of those dips has a lot to do with the coronavirus. And, although I believe Trump’s management of the recent crisis has not been especially brilliant (like mockingly downplaying it as long as possible, and never acknowledging that downplaying it was a mistake), I am not so far gone as to blame Trump for the virus.

Nonetheless, he has managed the crisis poorly, it’s still spreading, for which he seemingly accepts no responsibility, and his favorite class — the investor class — has lost billions upon billions of “shareholder value.”

I hope the health crisis will end soon. I hope the stock market will bounce back, although I personally care more about the median income and poverty rate.

But the point of this little rant is about the character of the current incumbent. I have trouble believing, although the long-term chart of his bad-but-steady approval ratings tell me this is so, that his admirers are not sufficiently bothered by his self-adoring, Obama-hating, reality-denying behavior — even in the face of his obvious mismanagement and minimizing of the current virus crisis — to cause his approval rating to go down. What would it take? Evidence that he’s not a loyal or faithful husband?

This is not normal. All presidents since the advent of approval ratings have seen their numbers rise and fall, based generally on the news, but not Trump, who regularly demonstrates not only bad character but incompetence.

I know that partisan polarization, related to media polarization, are at all-time modern highs. I know that not everybody is a news junkie like me, and certainly not a lifelong liberal like me. But what will it take for a significant chunk of the 40 percent who approve of how he’s handling his job to develop some qualms about whether he’s really up to it, really the guy they want in charge of even non-partisan, non-ideological things like leveling with us and managing competently something like the spread of a life-threatening virus?

Comments (32)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/11/2020 - 02:35 pm.

    Can’t have rationale conversations with irrational people! Nor should you expect rationale thinking or behavior.

  2. Submitted by kurt nelson on 03/11/2020 - 02:49 pm.

    Well, they’re embarrassed by their actions, and that will make them slide further into their pit of despair, with their fingers in their ears chanting “I can’t hear you”. like they did when they were 3 years old.

    They will continue to worship at the Faux news, cause they tell it like it is. It’s willful ignorance at best, but to them it’s like they don’t have to think, just read tweets. Must be very reassuring to them for sure.

    Nothing will change the sycophants belief that the pres is the second coming, nothing, even if they have family die from Covid19, they will just do what all repubs do “yeah, but what about Obama”.

    Thankfully, we have Anthony Fauci, who today fully contradicted the pres, numerous times, with facts and reality, not hunches and hopes that spring will put an end to the virus (it won’t).

  3. Submitted by cory johnson on 03/11/2020 - 03:22 pm.

    What specifically could have been done differently? Shut down all international travel and ban public gatherings? Well cue the cries of “Trump the racist dictator!” So far the federal bureaucracy has been the only impediment to slowing the spread of this virus, not the current administration. I sure as heck don’t want a candidate like Biden managing this crisis. He can’t resist verbally abusing people who ask him questions and confuses his sister for his wife. Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/11/2020 - 04:32 pm.

      Tell us, how has the federal bureaucracy the federal bureaucracy “been the only impediment to slowing the spread of this virus”?

      Be specific – “all government employees suck” is not a good enough answer.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/12/2020 - 03:48 pm.

        The current administration reduced staff at the NIH and CDC, reducing the resources available to develop test kits, then resisted using the effective ones developed in Europe.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 03/11/2020 - 04:34 pm.

      The Don Trump administration has completely botched the testing kits. That’s all on him & his team, which we were told would be “the best”. We STILL don’t have enough tests.

      Don Trump & Pence could also stop shaking hands every time they meet someone. Do you have any idea how powerful it would be for them to be on the news giving a fist bump or elbow bump? Leader, who are supposed to, you know, lead, can make small gestures that have huge impacts.

      Here’s another thing: Don’t make corona virus meetings top secret. Like they’ve been doing.

    • Submitted by Brian Simon on 03/11/2020 - 04:58 pm.

      Well, the Trump admin cut CDC funding earlier in its administration. That choice is now affecting the CDC’s ability to respond to this crisis.

      More recently the President claimed the virus would just disappear – he even used the word miraculously. He said a vaccine would be ready soon. He said anyone who wants to be tested can get a COVID-19 test. None of that is true. Of course, most of us know he regularly makes things up to make himself look good, so we’ve consulted more reliable sources for information on how to prepare for this outbreak.

      In my view, a President has an obligation to be direct with us. When there’s bad news, they need to ensure we get the bad news. That doesn’t necessarily mean taking resposibility, or even being the messenger. Certainly, the COVID-19 virus is not “Trump’s fault.” But him being the source of misinformation is a huge problem. He’s creating public confusion over the severity of the pandemic, the risk to Americans, and the appropriate responses for us to take as individuals. His false statements and actions can, quite literally, put our lives at risk by contributing to underpreparedness for this virus. What he seems fundamentally incapable of understanding is that if he doesn’t know something he should say so, and not make stuff up.

    • Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 03/11/2020 - 09:56 pm.

      “What specifically could have been done differently?”

      First, you don’t disband the National Security group tasked with planning for, and reacting to, a pandemic – as Trump did.

      Second, you don’t reduce funding to the CDC – as Trump has attempted to do.

      Third, you don’t contradict your own medical experts and minimize the risk – as Trump has done.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 03/12/2020 - 12:31 pm.

      Look at what South Korea and Taiwan have done.

      South Korea is testing literally thousands of people every day, treating the severe cases in its national health care system, and identifying those who need to self-quarantine.

      Taiwan is doing the same, tracking the infected people through its national health care system, activating the contagious disease command center it set up after the SARS epidemic, ordering local companies to produce more masks and other equipment, providing subsidies to sick people and their caregivers so they don’t have to go into work and spread the virus, providing unemployment compensation to those who are laid off when their job sites shut down, and providing compensation to businesses that have to close or lose most of their customers.

      Of course, while both countries have strong militaries to protect themselves from attack by hostile neighbors, they save an awful lot of money by not going overseas to meddle in other countries.

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 03/13/2020 - 08:26 am.

      Are those enough answers for you, Cory?

  4. Submitted by Joe Musich on 03/11/2020 - 07:54 pm.

    Interesting piece at the BBC with comments from supporters that do not necessarily regularly post here…. it hey spring is only a few days away and it will all go away right … looks like the subject will become even more divisive then now ….the problem is that the pull back to sanity and facts needs to come from the entrenched.

  5. Submitted by BK Anderson on 03/12/2020 - 08:20 am.

    Well, this is becoming a stale subject, but Trump’s followers are largely immune from any examination or critique his actual shortcomings because he is a cult leader, not a politician. Trump fashioned himself as a symbol of American white nationalism, the idea that whites (and particularly white males) should be in charge of American affairs, solely as a result of their ethnicity (and secondarily, their gender).

    It’s not some accident that white males give Trump his strongest base of support, for goodness sake. “They” are the ones that Made American Great, hence their (embarrassing) love of Trump’s MAGA slogan (and apparel).

    The other critical aspect of Dear Leader Trump is his reveling in spite and sadism—as one of his followers revealed, Trump wants to make the “right people” suffer. This mostly means Latino immigrants, but his supporters generally approve Trump’s expressions of disdain for all non-whites, and enjoy seeing him implement policies that (they think) will fall most heavily on minorities and women, since THEY surely didn’t Make America Great! And are now wrecking the country!

    So, since this is the (almost entirely emotional) basis for Trump support, their allegiance is pretty strong. In for a penny, in for a pound. And thus it will be quite remarkable if there was a dent in Trump support simply because of his mismanagement of a pandemic that originated in China. Indeed, Covid-19 gives Trump (and Trumpites) the ability to bash the rest of the world, and the hapless UN, which they love doing. Just look at the absurd blaming of Europe in Trump’s ridiculous “speech” last night.

    His supporters claim Trump is great for the economy. That economy is now falling apart. Perhaps the Dem House will attempt some emergency spending measures, but of course these will make the catastrophic fiscal situation and deficits even worse, as a result of “conservative” mismanagement in 2016-18. But basically America is now going to find out what it means to have an unqualified fool in the White House. And Trumpites richly deserve this “discovery”.

  6. Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 03/12/2020 - 09:05 am.

    If I acknowledge the cognitive dissonance of Trump fans, do I get to point out the cognitive dissonance of establishment Dems about eternal war profiteering, corporate, bank and billionaire power and income inequality in this so called democracy, economy as ecocide, and debt servitude of an entire generation?

  7. Submitted by kurt nelson on 03/12/2020 - 12:00 pm.

    I wonder if the pres ever puts his head in his hands and says “man, I’m so over my head in this job, so unqualified”. “The hunches I have are all wrong, the fake number I make up are all wrong”.

    After watching last nights debacle, I’m hoping some of the apologists here can tell us how reassured they are, I mean, if they can without first throwing up in their mouths.

    I do have a question however. Is there a test for Covid 19, the pres never mentioned one. He did surprise the health insurance industry by telling them they are waiving coverage for the virus, except they aren’t.

    Step right up and enlighten us.

  8. Submitted by Tim Smith on 03/12/2020 - 04:45 pm.

    Let me see if I have this right.

    In 2008 the stock market and economy went way down because of a massive GLOBAL recession.

    The market bottomed out on Obamas inauguration day and steadily went up as the world economy came back. The market went up in 10k in his 8 years and he took all the credit and was celebrated for it.

    The market goes up 12 k in Trumps first three years and Obama still getting and taking credit. Also, dems criticize rising stock market because it only helps the rich.

    Now the market goes way down (who cares about 2018? It came back) because of a worldwide pandemic and now its the Presidents fault and his market and economy? Hmmmm

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 03/12/2020 - 07:14 pm.

      Like every other POTUS before him, Obama was wise enough to not conflate a stock market upsurge to himself. Don Trump though, he has taken credit for it not just from his inauguration but from the day of his election.

      I’m surprised Don Trump is not familiar with the well known verse from “Two Corinthians”, live by the sword, die by the sword.

      The stock market has been Don Trump’s favorite metric. Last summer he told us that we may hate him but if we love our 401ks we better vote for him.

    • Submitted by Mike Chrun on 03/12/2020 - 07:20 pm.

      “But what will it take for a significant chunk of the 40 percent who approve of how he’s handling his job to develop some qualms about whether he’s really up to it,”

      Well, apparently a lot more for the cultists to develop even the slightest qualm about the way the great leader is doing.

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 03/13/2020 - 08:34 am.

      Trump was the one who (conspicuously and continuously) tied himself to the rising stock market, Tim, not the American left.

      So I guess the idea is Trump gets to claim credit for every increase in the market, but can’t be blamed for market crashes? That’s a nice set-up, and pretty much how he has operated his entire life–no failure/reverse is ever his fault (the “stable genius” and all…)

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/13/2020 - 10:14 am.

      Get some facts straight: The market went down because of financial mismanagement in 08…. The TARP program, which GWB/the FED implemented, stabilized the market. Obama & team kept the market/economy stable and didn’t do anything stupid, (why didn’t
      Obama blow up TARP? Trump would have out of sheer spite) putting it on an excellent trajectory. So Trump gets in office and gooses the economy with $T+ deficits, and harping on the FED for lower interest rates, during the best of the best of the best of times, and what does it get 1-2 qtrs of 3% growth (for all kinds of reasons/another discussion). In essence there aren’t many tools left in the tool box. Now comes an unforseen risk, the C-Virus. So Trump instead of getting out in front of it, calls it a left wing/mass media hoax. And then surprise its not a hoax, and the markets don’t agree with him. So the markets were able to absorb his bad behavior and exceptionally poor management for 3 years because of the original Obama/FED trajectory it was his own ignorant attitude (everything that isn’t to his liking is a hoax or fake) that blew things up over the last month. IT is clear, if its bad someone else has to be responsible, if its good only Trump is responsible.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/15/2020 - 10:30 am.

    This conversation is trapped in a feedback loop and going nowhere.

    I think if anyone really wants to move this discussion forward and make some important observations they need to step away from the “polarization” narrative. The polarization narrative itself is build upon a foundation of false equivalence and pseudo-balance.

    We don’t live in a divided nation, we live in a nation that’s responding to a right wing insurgency. At this point, I see the narrative of polarization as a form of ongoing denial. I think the only reason the narrative of polarization hangs on is that it serves the old establishment illusion of objectivity. Although I will say that I’ve never seen an establishment media THIS critical of a POTUS.
    Instead of admiring our divisions we need to be looking at whether or not we’re coalescing around a response to Fascism? In political terms the only serious question is whether or not returning the pre-Trump status quo will, or going back to where we were before Trump got elected, will be an antidote to right wing extremism?

    If you really want to understand the “minds” of Trump supporters, that’s a different subject, and you’re never going to get there by watching polls or reading about politics. The psychological and group dynamics of Trump follower mentalities has been described and documented for decades. In general this mentality was described by Eric Hoffer in 1951 as that of “true believers” in his book: “The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements”

    The first notable case study of True Believers was published by Leon Festinger et al back in 1956, and many more have followed.

    One of the primary features of true believers is the tendency to double down on their beliefs when faced with incontrovertible refutation or disconfirmation.

    Here’s the Wiki description of “When Prophecy Fails”:

    Festinger and his collaborators, Henry Riecken and Stanley Schachter, examined conditions under which disconfirmation of beliefs leads to increased conviction in such beliefs in the 1956 book When Prophecy Fails. The group studied a small apocalyptic cult led by Dorothy Martin (under the pseudonym Marian Keech in the book), a suburban housewife.[50][51] Martin claimed to have received messages from “the Guardians,” a group of superior beings from another planet. The messages purportedly said that a flood would destroy the world on December 21, 1954. The three psychologists and several more assistants joined the group. The team observed the group firsthand for months before and after the predicted apocalypse. Many of the group members quit their jobs and disposed of their possessions in preparation for the apocalypse. When doomsday came and went, Martin claimed that the world had been spared because of the “force of Good and light”[52] that the group members had spread. Rather than abandoning their discredited beliefs, group members adhered to them even more strongly and began proselytizing with fervor.

    Festinger and his co-authors concluded that the following conditions lead to increased conviction in beliefs following disconfirmation:

    1. The belief must be held with deep conviction and be relevant to the believer’s actions or behavior.
    2. The belief must have produced actions that are arguably difficult to undo.
    3. The belief must be sufficiently specific and concerned with the real world such that it can be clearly disconfirmed.
    4. The disconfirmatory evidence must be recognized by the believer.
    5. The believer must have social support from other believers.[53]

    Festinger also later described the increased conviction and proselytizing by cult members after disconfirmation as a specific instantiation of cognitive dissonance (i.e., increased proselytizing reduced dissonance by producing the knowledge that others also accepted their beliefs) and its application to understanding complex, mass phenomena.”

    You can read the entire Wiki dedicated to Festinger’s book here:

    The only thing we need to note is that while Trump doesn’t qualify as a cult leader in any legitimate way, the true believer mentality clearly sustains his followers.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/15/2020 - 10:51 am.

    One of the fictions that polarization narrative promotes is that of the “bipartisan regime”, i.e. the fantasy that bipartisanship produce anything other than gridlock, failure, and stagnation.

    The historical fact is that great progress and legislation has always emerged from political victories, not bipartisan “cooperation”. The more Democrats promised bipartisan cooperation beginning in the 1980’s, the less cooperation they got, leading to Obama’s historical status as a lame duck for 6 of his 8 years in office.

    This isn’t to deny nature of compromise, but clearly the fantasy of bipartisan governance has been a failed and ironically one-sided regime for decades. While Democrats promise to work with Republicans, Republican’s promise to crush Democrats and liberals. And so it goes.

    The narrative of polarization is a false narrative because it characterizes our crises as a break-down of successful bi-partisanship that never existed in the first place. The true nature of the crises isn’t a breakdown of cooperation, it’s the defeat of Democrats and the marginalization of liberal politics. The antidote isn’t to “restore” a failed regime (i.e. “bi-partisanship) but to mount a liberals response to a Fascist insurgency.

    The establishment media and elite cling to the bi-partisan illusion and the polarization narrative simply because it allows some semblance of “neutrality” that preserves some vestiges of their former comfort zones. They can pretend they stand outside politics as observers or “centrists” who don’t need to confront extremism… they can in effect deny the existence of extremism by describing the crises as a mere breakdown of cooperation rather than an attack on our democracy.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/16/2020 - 12:07 pm.

    Just to put a finer point on it, and because this “issue” of continued Trump support seems to be unnecessarily pernicious… the answer to the question: What will it to change Trump supporters minds?” is simple, for the most part nothing will changer their minds because this isn’t an intellectual scenario.

    I discussed the true believer phenomena in a previous post, but to get to the guts of it you need to understand the psychological nature of power relations. Feminists intellectuals did a lot really good work on this back in the late 70’s and 80’s.

    One factor that makes someone like a Trump supporter immune to information, conversion, and persuasion is the fact that their attraction to Trump isn’t intellectual to begin with. This is not a group of people who make evidence based decisions in the first place, and the psychology of power will always determine their responses.

    In a nutshell if you look at these Trump supporters you will note that one common characteristic is either a position of powerlessness, or a fear of losing power and influence. One thing that makes a populist popular is that they promise to empower the powerless, and or protect the power of select groups and individuals. It’s that promise of power, and perceived proximity to power that drives these psyche’s, and what has been called by some “the will to power” is impervious to information, persuasion, or facts. The emotional yield of perceived empowerment overwhelms almost all other concerns and is nearly impervious to experience.

    For instance despite the fact that their cities and government was clearly collapsing, Nazis continued to enforce Hitler’s commands because the mere power of being ENFORCERS clearly overwhelmed their perceptions of reality. You see this here and now with the increases in racist and sexist expressions by Trump supporters who perceive themselves as potential enforcers or at least agents of the “new” order. You don’t “talk” these people out of being what they are anymore than we talked people out of being Nazis, or Stalinists.

    So we can stop asking this question and move on. We’re not going to change these people or their priorities although we can live them as long as we don’t let them end up in charge of anything important. As agents of liberty in a Liberal democracy our mission is to retain control and power and wrest it away from true believers who are leading us into crises and possible destruction. Don’t expect these people to change… ever. We need to find a way to govern ourselves despite them.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/16/2020 - 03:03 pm.

      “There are three kinds of people in the world:
      Those who don’t know and don’t know they don’t know;
      Those who don’t know and do know they don’t know; and
      Those who know and know how much they still don’t know.”
      So which one do folks think align with the Trump cult?
      On occasion, you will see an extension of: “Those who don’t know and don’t know they don’t know”; they don’t want to know that they don’t know, and are proud that they don’t know!

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2020 - 08:11 am.

        Maybe there are just two kinds of people… those who organize their intellects around what they know, and those who organize their intellects around what they believe. This is a group that hangs it’s hat firmly on what they believe… knowledge isn’t a serious consideration.

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2020 - 08:36 am.

    I guess another interesting question that could flow out of this conversation would be how true believers emerge in society? Is there some quality such as education, or socialization that encourages or discourages these kinds of traits? I would be nice if we could reduce the numbers, I must say 25%-35% is a little alarming.

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 03/18/2020 - 09:13 am.

      Thanks for your interesting observations. I certainly agree that the “discussion” of how to “reach” a Trumpite (your “True Believer”) is a complete dead end.

      But I do think you are downplaying the level of intellectual and moral collapse of the citizenry, however, since to continue to “approve” of Trump circa Feb 2020 (as a rock solid 42% do) indicates that the True Believer mindset is much above 25-35%.

      We are shackled to an (intellectual) corpse.

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