How could Donald Trump, a man who’s given tons of cash to liberals, be so beloved by outspoken conservatives who previously prided themselves on despising Republicans for being RINOS and “squishies”?
It helps that Trump studied the landscape of the true believers and then, in a deliberate pivot, indulged their “beliefs.” I put “beliefs” in quotes because, frankly, I am not sure what anyone believes any more.
Pick a topic, and Trump has been on both sides. See guns. Immigration. Taxes.
His ideology is a non-ideology of free-flowing, ever-changing dispositions. He’s a political mood ring.
And there is the genius of Trump: His principle is the replacement of principles with an amorphous, pragmatic, deal-making continuum. His ideology is a non-ideology of free-flowing, ever-changing dispositions. He’s a political mood ring.
As a non-ideologue, I’m open to this new kind of animal, and without any hint of hypocrisy.
What I find troubling are those strident ideologues who now embrace Trump – a centrist of fluid belief – after castigating other hardworking conservatives for not being rigid enough. Maybe I’ll forgive it, but I won’t forget.
In his classic book, “Influence,” Robert Cialdini describes a trick played by killer female fireflies. Male fireflies do what they can to avoid them, because, as I just said, they are deadly. But these females have figured out a way to trap these hapless males. They hacked the courtship code that fireflies use to let each other know they’re ready to mate. The killer females mimic the flashing signals, which attract the males into their deathly grasp. They die.
Cialdini explains that this copying of triggers so you can trick creatures into doing what you desire also happens among humans – especially in sales, all the time. Mimic the triggers, and people come running.
But I know now that it also happens in politics. Trump, through a decade of observing conservative commentary and listening to talk radio, learned the triggers – and now he expertly mimics the signals that draw the fireflies of the right to his light.
I think he actually believes what he says, but what he says can change, depending on circumstance. Meaning: It’s what he says that drives belief, not the reverse.
Who reacts to his triggers? The needy media, hungry for both ratings and popularity. (Note: These are two different things. You can have high ratings but still “feel” unpopular.) They flock to him, for in this exchange they find fame, ratings, love from a famous person and a path to better living. Yet he expends very little. He blinked the code, and they came running. He learned to exploit the desires and insecurities of the right – primarily those on their way up, or down.
And the results are confusing, for it’s so strange to see hardcore conservatives now perfectly fine with very un-conservative ideas (no entitlement reform, pro-eminent domain, promises of trade wars and tariffs).
But it’s not a new thing. You see it among politicians when they engage in the shameless ploy of logrolling – that exchange of favors that makes conservatives act liberal, and liberals act conservative. It’s a seemingly bizarre vote done as a favor.
Trump has effectively logrolled the media. Right wing mouthpieces ignored Trump when he dissed war heroes. They dismissed his insane JFK conspiracies. They happily ignore his contradictions on taxes, abortion and foreign policy. But this is their indebtedness, their reciprocity in full flower.
And this leads me to my final point, as explained by Cialdini, and others:
The world exists on favors. On trust. If I do something for you, you reciprocate. It’s pretty much the evolutionary engine for civilization. But in this process, there are those who master such moves and use them to exploit those who, frankly, are willing to be exploited.
Don’t blame Trump. Blame those who dropped like flies before him.
Greg Gutfeld currently serves as host of FOX News Channel's (FNC) The Greg Gutfeld Show (Saturdays 10-11PM/ET) and co-host of The Five (weekdays 5-6PM/ET). He joined the network in 2007 as a contributor. Click here for more information on Greg Gutfeld.