Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, has devoted his blog posts to Donald Trump since August 2015.
You can read the back catalogue here. Do read the comments, which are fascinating. N.B.: The more recent posts might say ‘0 comments’, but if you click, you’ll see several hundred, if not 1,000+.
Adams’s premise is that Trump is a ‘master persuader’, using words in a unique way that stick in our memory. Adams has studied persuasion and recognises the technique. In this YouTube video, just under five minutes long, he explains Trump’s verbal strategy to CNN:
Yet, not all Americans are so persuaded. Indeed, some are frightened.
Adams’s post of February 11 discusses the physical reaction of fear that some people experience when Trump’s name is mentioned. Adams observes:
I have seen people’s bodies twist up and go into full panic at the thought of him being president. I’m talking about actual, literal, bodily fear, as if a monster is already in house and you don’t know where it is hiding. Even professional members of the media feel this fear.
And yet I feel none of that fear – not even a trace amount. To me, Trump looks like the safest candidate in the history of presidential elections, and I don’t even share his politics on a number of topics. So I have to ask myself why I have zero fear of Trump while so many others are in full panic mode. Should I be more afraid?
I, too, think Trump is the ‘safest candidate’ America has had in a very long time. Perhaps the safest since Reagan, and anyone who was at least a teenager in 1980 remembers how left-wing pundits and journalists tried to frighten everyone, saying he was stupid and warmongering — a potentially lethal combination for one who was in charge of pressing the nuclear button. By 1982, having voted against him in 1980, I had changed my mind about him completely.
However, I digress. Back to a summary of Adams’s post on why Donald Trump terrifies people along with some of my own input.
Can we say it is because of his social policies? Not really. Trump has said nothing about cutting welfare programmes. He also wants a form of universal health care.
The reason might concern what Trump says about building a wall between the US and Mexico. Yet, a double fence has been partially built already. This came about during Bush II’s administration via the Secure Fence Act 2006. This fence was partially constructed by 2009, but work stopped because Congress refused to allocate $1.2bn and remains unfinished today. It seems like such a small sum. Get it finished.
Then Trump said there should be a temporary ban on Muslim travel to and from the United States until immigration officials have a clearer idea of the terrorist threat to America. That statement turned out to be rather prescient considering that days later the San Bernardino attack took place. Not long after that, a Muslim family from England was refused permission to fly — under Obama’s watch — to the US before Christmas. A relative was said to have had extremist links.
Trump is telling the truth about porous borders and real terrorism.
Adams rightly points out that the flip side of this is that Trump wants Americans to live in safety (emphases in the original):
… he is consistent about protecting U.S. Citizens from non-citizens. That’s the job description of the President of the United States. If you are a citizen, Trump has the strongest immigration plan for keeping YOU safe, even if it is bad news for non-citizens.
All past presidents have had robust deportation programs for illegal immigrants. Trump might do more of it, and I respect any argument that says more deportations might be too much. But I don’t see any risk of legal citizens being deported. So I have trouble understanding how this topic could make legal citizens physically afraid.
Trump detractors will say that it’s his behaviour on the hustings. Even then:
he can turn off the “bad boy” act any time he wants. He is completely honest about playing the clown for the primaries, in order to win. We have never seen a candidate this transparent.
Also keep in mind that Trump is the non-drinker in the crowd. If you want to assess the risk of bad presidential decisions under pressure, you have to factor in how many of the other candidates would be on prescription meds or enjoying a stiff drink after work. And what about the general health of a candidate? That probably matters for decision-making under pressure. Trump is the safe bet on this dimension.
Trump does not drink because his older brother Fred died from alcoholism.
Trump’s alpha white male brashness is undoubtedly the top reason why he terrifies some people. Adams explains that much of this is an act for primary season. His seeming unpredictability becomes predictable. He says the media understand it better now, even if they oppose his candidacy.
Adams goes on to unpack what appears to be a lack of empathy on Trump’s part, yet it is what New York empathy looks like. Adams is from upstate New York. I have known dozens of New Yorkers, mostly at university, and, yes, they are like Donald Trump, so maybe that is why I, like Adams, have gravitated towards him. Adams explains:
Where I grew up, in upstate New York, empathy looks exactly like Trump. Political correctness wasn’t a thing when I grew up, and probably isn’t a thing in my old hometown today. If you’re trying to “make America great” or anything productive at all, you’re 100% empathetic according to the way I was raised. Anything else is posture. Where I grew up, you have to be useful or go home. Trump is trying to be useful. That’s empathy, according to my people.
You see Trump’s ambitions as coming from narcissism and ego. Every famous person has a bit of that. But I can tell you as a protestant-raised kid from New York, where emotions go to hide forever inside people’s bodies, that Trump’s approach is what passes for empathy for white, New York protestants. If we’re trying to be useful, it’s because we care.
Trump is a Presbyterian, incidentally.
Adams opened the floor to his readers who responded in droves. There were 2,228 comments. Generally, people thought Trump terrifies people because he:
1/ Represents a real threat to political correctness and the culture that has been shaped around it;
2/ Would expose and possibly overturn the combine between MSM and left- as well as right-wing politics;
3/ Is not a career politician and won’t act like one if elected: he will do what he says and not back off.
Donald Trump is popular with a large number of Americans because he has effectively tapped into their frustrations about moving from a high-trust to a low-trust society. Trump would not use those words and his supporters might not either, but, essentially, this is what is happening in America and in western Europe.
An article on Those Who Can See describes the differences between high-trust and low-trust societies. It is lengthy, but the paragraphs are short and there are a number of useful graphs to illustrate the points about trust.
It is worth pointing out that, even on the same continent, one can have high-trust and low-trust societies, independent of race or creed. The article explains that western Europe developed differently during the Middle Ages. A map of the continent shows a curved line marking the east-west boundary. The ever-expanding EU and associated migration from eastern to western Europe is a great source of social frustration. We’re getting more low-trust people in high-trust environments, and there are times when low-trust refuses to join high-trust in a social compact. But I digress.
Back to Trump. He might not win the nomination. I hope he does. He might not win the presidency, although I think he would have an excellent chance. He knows much of the US and, by the end of primary season, will also know the rest of the nation like the back of his hand.
Furthermore, he is an honest sinner. What don’t we know about him would qualify as too much information.
But there is something more.
As one of Adams’s readers puts it, Trump is the greatest way that Americans can object to their left-right-MSM establishment.
Trump knows the players. He has been at the top for so long, he knows the ins and outs of every major scandal and combine.
He has the power and the personality to tell the truth about both.
That is why Donald Trump terrifies people.
And that is precisely why he should be America’s next president.