Understanding Trump

Source: George Lakoff.com

Author: George.com

Emphasis Mine

There is a lot being written and spoken about Trump by intelligent and articulate commentators whose insights I respect. But as a longtime researcher in cognitive science and linguistics, I bring a perspective from these sciences to an understanding of the Trump phenomenon. This perspective is hardly unknown. More than half a million people have read my books, and Google Scholar reports that scholars writing in scholarly journals have cited my works well over 100,000 times.

Yet you will probably not read what I have to say in the NY Times, nor hear it from your favorite political commentators. You will also not hear it from Democratic candidates or party strategists. There are reasons, and we will discuss them later I this piece. I am writing it because I think it is right and it is needed, even though it comes from the cognitive and brain sciences, not from the normal political sources. I think it is imperative to bring these considerations into public political discourse. But it cannot be done in a 650-word op-ed. My apologies. It is untweetable.

I will begin with an updated version of an earlier piece on who is supporting Trump and why — and why policy details are irrelevant to them. I then move to a section on how Trump uses your brain against you. I finish up discussing how Democratic campaigns could do better, and why they need to do better if we are to avert a Trump presidency.

Who Supports Trump and Why

Donald J. Trump has managed to become the Republican nominee for president, Why? How? There are various theories: People are angry and he speaks to their anger. People don’t think much of Congress and want a non-politician. Both may be true. But why? What are the details? And Why Trump?

He seems to have come out of nowhere. His positions on issues don’t fit a common mold.

He has said nice things about LGBTQ folks, which is not standard Republican talk. Republicans hate eminent domain (the taking of private property by the government) and support corporate outsourcing for the sake of profit, but he has the opposite views on both. He is not religious and scorns religious practices, yet the Evangelicals (that is, the white Evangelicals) love him. He thinks health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, as well as military contractors, are making too much profit and wants to change that. He insults major voting groups, e.g., Latinos, when most Republicans are trying to court them. He wants to deport 11 million immigrants without papers and thinks he can. He wants to stop Muslims from entering the country. What is going on?

The answer requires a bit of background.

In the 1900’s, as part of my research in the cognitive and brain sciences, I undertook to answer a question in my field: How do the various policy positions of conservatives and progressives hang together? Take conservatism: What does being against abortion have to do with being for owning guns? What does owning guns have to do with denying the reality of global warming? How does being anti-government fit with wanting a stronger military? How can you be pro-life and for the death penalty? Progressives have the opposite views. How do their views hang together?

The answer came from a realization that we tend to understand the nation metaphorically in family terms: We have founding fathers. We send our sons and daughters to war. We havehomeland security. The conservative and progressive worldviews dividing our country can most readily be understood in terms of moral worldviews that are encapsulated in two very different common forms of family life: The Nurturant Parent family (progressive) and the Strict Father family (conservative).

What do social issues and the politics have to do with the family? We are first governed in our families, and so we grow up understanding governing institutions in terms of the governing systems of families.

In the strict father family, father knows best. He knows right from wrong and has the ultimate authority to make sure his children and his spouse do what he says, which is taken to be what is right. Many conservative spouses accept this worldview, uphold the father’s authority, and are strict in those realms of family life that they are in charge of. When his children disobey, it is his moral duty to punish them painfully enough so that, to avoid punishment, they will obey him (do what is right) and not just do what feels good. Through physical discipline they are supposed to become disciplined, internally strong, and able to prosper in the external world. What if they don’t prosper? That means they are not disciplined, and therefore cannot be moral, and so deserve their poverty. This reasoning shows up in conservative politics in which the poor are seen as lazy and undeserving, and the rich as deserving their wealth. Responsibility is thus taken to be personal responsibility not social responsibility. What you become is only up to you; society has nothing to do with it. You are responsible for yourself, not for others — who are responsible for themselves.

Winning and Insulting

As the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, said,

“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” In a world governed by personal responsibility and discipline, those who win deserve to win. Why does Donald Trump publicly insult other candidates and political leaders mercilessly? Quite simply, because he knows he can win an onstage TV insult game. In strict conservative eyes, that makes him a formidable winning candidate who deserves to be a winning candidate. Electoral competition is seen as a battle. Insults that stick are seen as victories — deserved victories.

Consider Trump’s statement that John McCain is not a war hero. The reasoning: McCain got shot down. Heroes are winners. They defeat big bad guys. They don’t get shot down. People who get shot down, beaten up, and stuck in a cage are losers, not winners.

The Moral Hierarchy

The strict father logic extends further. The basic idea is that authority is justified by morality (the strict father version), and that, in a well-ordered world, there should be (and traditionally has been) a moral hierarchy in which those who have traditionally dominated should dominate. The hierarchy is: God above Man, Man above Nature, The Disciplined (Strong) above the Undisciplined (Weak), The Rich above the Poor, Employers above Employees, Adults above Children, Western culture above other cultures, America above other countries. The hierarchy extends to: Men above women, Whites above Nonwhites, Christians above nonChristians, Straights above Gays.

We see these tendencies in most of the Republican presidential candidates, as well as in Trump, and on the whole, conservative policies flow from the strict father worldview and this hierarchy.

Family-based moral worldviews run deep. Since people want to see themselves as doing right not wrong, moral worldviews tend to be part of self-definition — who you most deeply are. And thus your moral worldview defines for you what the world should be like. When it isn’t that way, one can become frustrated and angry.

There is a certain amount of wiggle room in the strict father worldview and there are important variations. A major split is among (1) white Evangelical Christians, (2) laissez-fair free market conservatives, and (3) pragmatic conservatives who are not bound by evangelical beliefs.

White Evangelicals

Those whites who have a strict father personal worldview and who are religious tend toward Evangelical Christianity, since God, in Evangelical Christianity, is the Ultimate Strict Father: You follow His commandments and you go to heaven; you defy His commandments and you burn in hell for all eternity. If you are a sinner and want to go to heaven, you can be ‘born again” by declaring your fealty by choosing His son, Jesus Christ, as your personal Savior.

Such a version of religion is natural for those with strict father morality. Evangelical Christians join the church because they are conservative; they are not conservative because they happen to be in an evangelical church, though they may grow up with both together.

Evangelical Christianity is centered around family life. Hence, there are organizations like Focus on the Family and constant reference to “family values,” which are to take to be evangelical strict father values. In strict father morality, it is the father who controls sexuality and reproduction. Where the church has political control, there are laws that require parental and spousal notification in the case of proposed abortions.

Evangelicals are highly organized politically and exert control over a great many local political races. Thus Republican candidates mostly have to go along with the evangelicals if they want to be nominated and win local elections.

Pragmatic Conservatives

Pragmatic conservatives, on the other hand, may not have a religious orientation at all. Instead, they may care primarily about their own personal authority, not the authority of the church or Christ, or God. They want to be strict fathers in their own domains, with authority primarily over their own lives. Thus, a young, unmarried conservative — male or female —may want to have sex without worrying about marriage. They may need access to contraception, advice about sexually transmitted diseases, information about cervical cancer, and so on. And if a girl or woman becomes pregnant and there is no possibility or desire for marriage, abortion may be necessary.

Trump is a pragmatic conservative, par excellence. And he knows that there are a lot of Republican voters who are like him in their pragmatism. There is a reason that he likes Planned Parenthood. There are plenty of young, unmarried (or even married) pragmatic conservatives, who may need what Planned Parenthood has to offer — cheaply and confidentially by way of contraception, cervical cancer prevention, and sex ed.

Similarly, young or middle-aged pragmatic conservatives want to maximize their own wealth. They don’t want to be saddled with the financial burden of caring for their parents. Social Security and Medicare relieve them of most of those responsibilities. That is why Trump wants to keep Social Security and Medicare.

Laissez-faire Free Marketeers

Establishment conservative policies have not only been shaped by the political power of white evangelical churches, but also by the political power of those who seek maximally laissez-faire free markets, where wealthy people and corporations set market rules in their favor with minimal government regulation and enforcement. They see taxation not as investment in publicly provided resources for all citizens, but as government taking their earnings (their private property) and giving the money through government programs to those who don’t deserve it. This is the source of establishment Republicans’ anti-tax and shrinking government views. This version of conservatism is quite happy with outsourcing to increase profits by sending manufacturing and many services abroad where labor is cheap, with the consequence that well-paying jobs leave America and wages are driven down here. Since they depend on cheap imports, they would not be in favor of imposing high tariffs.

But Donald Trump is not in a business that makes products abroad to import here and mark up at a profit. As a developer, he builds hotels, casinos, office buildings, golf courses. He may build them abroad with cheap labor but he doesn’t import them. Moreover, he recognizes that most small business owners in America are more like him — American businesses like dry cleaners, pizzerias, diners, plumbers, hardware stores, gardeners, contractors, car washers, and professionals like architects, lawyers, doctors, and nurses. High tariffs don’t look like a problem.

Many business people are pragmatic conservatives. They like government power when it works for them. Take eminent domain. Establishment Republicans see it as an abuse by government — government taking of private property. But conservative real estate developers like Trump depend on eminent domain so that homes and small businesses in areas they want to develop can be taken by eminent domain for the sake of their development plans. All they have to do is get local government officials to go along, with campaign contributions and the promise of an increase in local tax dollars helping to acquire eminent domain rights. Trump points to Atlantic City, where he built his casino using eminent domain to get the property.

If businesses have to pay for their employees’ health care benefits, Trump would want them to have to pay as little as possible to maximize profits for businesses in general. He would therefore want health insurance and pharmaceutical companies to charge as little as possible. To increase competition, he would want insurance companies to offer plans nationally, avoiding the state-run exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. The exchanges are there to maximize citizen health coverage, and help low-income people get coverage, rather than to increase business profits. Trump does however want to keep the mandatory feature of ACA, which establishment conservatives hate since they see it as government overreach, forcing people to buy a product. For Trump, however, the mandatory feature for individuals increases the insurance pool and brings down costs for businesses.

Direct vs. Systemic Causation

Direct causation is dealing with a problem via direct action. Systemic causation recognizes that many problems arise from the system they are in and must be dealt with via systemic causation. Systemic causation has four versions: A chain of direct causes. Interacting direct causes (or chains of direct causes). Feedback loops. And probabilistic causes. Systemic causation in global warming explains why global warming over the Pacific can produce huge snowstorms in Washington DC: masses of highly energized water molecules evaporate over the Pacific, blow to the Northeast and over the North Pole and come down in winter over the East coast and parts of the Midwest as masses of snow. Systemic causation has chains of direct causes, interacting causes, feedback loops, and probabilistic causes — often combined.

Direct causation is easy to understand, and appears to be represented in the grammars of all languages around the world. Systemic causation is more complex and is not represented in the grammar of any language. It just has to be learned.

Empirical research has shown that conservatives tend to reason with direct causation and that progressives have a much easier time reasoning with systemic causation. The reason is thought to be that, in the strict father model, the father expects the child or spouse to respond directly to an order and that refusal should be punished as swiftly and directly as possible.

Many of Trump’s policy proposals are framed in terms of direct causation.

Immigrants are flooding in from Mexico — build a wall to stop them. For all the immigrants who have entered illegally, just deport them — even if there are 11 million of them working throughout the economy and living throughout the country. The cure for gun violence is to have a gun ready to directly shoot the shooter. To stop jobs from going to Asia where labor costs are lower and cheaper goods flood the market here, the solution is direct: put a huge tariff on those goods so they are more expensive than goods made here. To save money on pharmaceuticals, have the largest consumer — the government — take bids for the lowest prices. If Isis is making money on Iraqi oil, send US troops to Iraq to take control of the oil. Threaten Isis leaders by assassinating their family members (even if this is a war crime). To get information from terrorist suspects, use water-boarding, or even worse torture methods. If a few terrorists might be coming with Muslim refugees, just stop allowing all Muslims into the country. All this makes sense to direct causation thinkers, but not those who see the immense difficulties and dire consequences of such actions due to the complexities of systemic causation.

Political Correctness

There are at least tens of millions of conservatives in America who share strict father morality and its moral hierarchy. Many of them are poor or middle class and many are white men who see themselves as superior to immigrants, nonwhites, women, nonChristians, gays — and people who rely on public assistance. In other words, they are what liberals would call “bigots.” For many years, such bigotry has not been publicly acceptable, especially as more immigrants have arrived, as the country has become less white, as more women have become educated and moved into the workplace, and as gays have become more visible and gay marriage acceptable. As liberal anti-bigotry organizations have loudly pointed out and made a public issue of the un American nature of such bigotry, those conservatives have felt more and more oppressed by what they call “political correctness” public pressure against their views and against what they see as “free speech.” This has become exaggerated since 911, when anti-Muslim feelings became strong. The election of President Barack Hussein Obama created outrage among those conservatives, and they refused to see him as a legitimate American (as in the birther movement), much less as a legitimate authority, especially as his liberal views contradicted almost everything else they believe as conservatives.

Donald Trump expresses out loud everything they feel — with force, aggression, anger, and no shame. All they have to do is support and vote for Trump and they don’t even have to express their ‘politically incorrect’ views, since he does it for them and his victories make those views respectable. He is their champion. He gives them a sense of self-respect, authority, and the possibility of power.

Whenever you hear the words “political correctness” remember this.

Biconceptuals

There is no middle in American politics. There are moderates, but there is no ideology of the moderate, no single ideology that all moderates agree on. A moderate conservative has some progressive positions on issues, though they vary from person to person. Similarly, a moderate progressive has some conservative positions on issues, again varying from person to person. In short, moderates have both political moral worldviews, but mostly use one of them. Those two moral worldviews in general contradict each other. How can they reside in the same brain at the same time?

Both are characterized in the brain by neural circuitry. They are linked by a commonplace circuit: mutual inhibition. When one is turned on the other is turned off; when one is strengthened, the other is weakened. What turns them on or off? Language that fits that worldview activates that worldview, strengthening it, while turning off the other worldview and weakening it. The more Trump’s views are discussed in the media, the more they are activated and the stronger they get, both in the minds of hardcore conservatives and in the minds of moderate progressives.

This is true even if you are attacking Trump’s views. The reason is that negating a frame activates that frame, as I pointed out in the book Don’t Think of an Elephant! It doesn’t matter if you are promoting Trump or attacking Trump, you are helping Trump.

A good example of Trump winning with progressive biconceptuals includes certain unionized workers. Many union members are strict fathers at home or in their private life. They believe in “traditional family values” — a conservative code word — and they may identify with winners.

Why Has Trump won the Republican nomination? Look at all the conservative groups he appeals to!

Why His Lack of Policy Detail Doesn’t Matter

I recently heard a brilliant and articulate Clinton surrogate argue against a group of Trump supporters that Trump has presented no policy plans for increasing jobs, increasing economics growth, improving education, gaining international respect, etc. This is the basic Clinton campaign argument. Hillary has the experience, the policy know-how, she can get things done, it’s all on her website. Trump has none of this. What Hillary’s campaign says is true. And it is irrelevant.

Trump supporters and other radical Republican extremists could not care less, and for a good reason. Their job is to impose their view of strict father morality in all areas of life. If they have the Congress, and the Presidency and the Supreme Court, they could achieve this. They don’t need to name policies, because the Republicans already have hundreds of policies ready to go. They just need to be in complete power.

How Trump Uses Your Brain to His Advantage

Any unscrupulous, effective salesman knows how to use you brain against you, to get you to buy what he is selling. How can someone “use your brain against you?” What does it mean?

All thought uses neural circuitry. Every idea is constituted by neural circuitry. But we have no conscious access to that circuitry. As a result, most of thought — an estimated 98 percent of thought is unconscious. Conscious thought is the tip of the iceberg.

Unconscious thought works by certain basic mechanisms. Trump uses them instinctively to turn people’s brains toward what he wants: Absolute authority, money, power, celebrity.

The mechanisms are:

1. Repetition. Words are neurally linked to the circuits that determine their meaning. The more a word is heard, the more the circuit is activated and the stronger it gets, and so the easier it is to fire again. Trump repeats. Win. Win, Win. We’re gonna win so much you’ll get tired of winning.

2. Framing: Crooked Hillary. Framing Hillary as purposely and knowingly committing crimes for her own benefit, which is what a crook does. Repeating makes many people unconsciously think of her that way, even though she has been found to have been honest and legal by thorough studies by the right-wing Bengazi committee (which found nothing) and the FBI (which found nothing to charge her with, except missing the mark ‘(C)’ in the body of 3 out of 110,000 emails). Yet the framing is working.

There is a common metaphor that Immorality Is Illegality, and that acting against Strict Father Morality (the only kind off morality recognized) is being immoral. Since virtually everything Hillary Clinton has ever done has violated Strict Father Morality, that makes her immoral. The metaphor thus makes her actions immoral, and hence she is a crook. The chant “Lock her up!” activates this whole line of reasoning.

3. Well-known examples: When a well-publicized disaster happens, the coverage activates the framing of it over and over, strengthening it, and increasing the probability that the framing will occur easily with high probability. Repeating examples of shootings by Muslims, African-Americans, and Latinos raises fears that it could happen to you and your community — despite the miniscule actual probability. Trump uses this to create fear. Fear tends to activate desire for a strong strict father — namely, Trump.

4. Grammar: Radical Islamic terrorists: “Radical” puts Muslims on a linear scale and “terrorists” imposes a frame on the scale, suggesting that terrorism is built into the religion itself. The grammar suggests that there is something about Islam that has terrorism inherent in it. Imagine calling the Charleston gunman a “radical Republican terrorist.”

Trump is aware of this to at least some extent. As he said to Tony Schwartz, the ghost-writer who wrote The Art of the Deal for him, “I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and it’s a very effective form of promotion.”

5. Conventional metaphorical thought is inherent in our largely unconscious thought. Such normal modes of metaphorical thinking are not noticed as such.

Consider Brexit, which used the metaphor of “entering” and “leaving” the EU. There is a universal metaphor that states are locations in space: you can enter a state, be deep in some state, and come out that state. If you enter a café and then leave the café , you will be in the same location as before you entered. But that need not be true of states of being. But that was the metaphor used with Brexit; Britons believed that after leaving the EU, things would be as before when the entered the EU. They were wrong. Things changed radically while they were in the EU. That same metaphor is being used by Trump: Make America Great Again. Make America Safe Again. And so on. As if there was some past ideal state that we can go back to just by electing Trump.

6. There is also a metaphor that A Country Is a Person and a metonymy of the President Standing For the Country. Thus, Obama, via both metaphor and metonymy, can stand conceptually for America. Therefore, by saying that Obama is weak and not respected, it is communicated that America, with Obama as president, is weak and disrespected. The inference is that it is because of Obama.

7. The country as person metaphor and the metaphor that war or conflict between countries is a fistfight between people, leads to the inference that just having a strong president will guarantee that America will win conflicts and wars. Trump will just throw knockout punches. In his acceptance speech at the convention, Trump repeatedly said that he would accomplish things that can only be done by the people acting with their government. After one such statement, there was a chant from the floor, “He will do it.”

8. The metaphor that The nation Is a Family was used throughout the GOP convention. We heard that strong military sons are produced by strong military fathers and that “defense of country is a family affair.” From Trump’s love of family and commitment to their success, we are to conclude that, as president he will love America’s citizens and be committed to the success of all.

9. There is a common metaphor that Identifying with Your Family’s National Heritage Makes You a Member of That Nationality. Suppose your grandparents came from Italy and you identify with your Italian ancestors, you may proudly state that you are Italian. The metaphor is natural. Literally, you have been American for two generations. Trump made use of this commonplace metaphor in attacking US District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is American, born and raised in the United States. Trump said he was a Mexican, and therefore would hate him and tend to rule against him in a case brought against Trump University for fraud.

10. Then there is the metaphor system used in the phrase “to call someone out.” First the word “out.” There is a general metaphor that Knowing Is Seeing as in “I see what you mean.” Things that are hidden inside something cannot be seen and hence not known, while things are not hidden but out in public can be seen and hence known. To “out” someone is to made their private knowledge public. To “call someone out” is to publicly name someone’s hidden misdeeds, thus allowing for public knowledge and appropriate consequences.

This is the basis for the Trumpian metaphor that Naming is Identifying. Thus naming your enemies will allow you to identify correctly who they are, get to them, and so allow you to defeat them. Hence, just saying “radical Islamic terrorists” allows you to pick them out, get at them, and annihilate them. And conversely, if you don’t say it, you won’t be able to pick them out and annihilate them. Thus a failure to use those words means that you are protecting those enemies — in this case Muslims, that is, potential terrorists because of their religion.

I’ll stop here, though I could go on. Here are ten uses of people’s unconscious normal brain mechanisms that are manipulated by Trump and his followers for his overriding purpose: to be elected president, to be given absolute authority with a Congress and Supreme Court, and so to have his version of Strict Father Morality govern America into the indefinite future.

These ten forms of using people’s everyday brain mechanisms for his own purposes have gotten Trump the Republican nomination. But millions more people have seen and heard Trump and company on tv and heard them on the radio. The media pundits have not described those ten mechanisms, or other brain mechanisms, that surreptitiously work on the unconscious minds of the public, even though the result is that Big Lies repeated over and over are being believed by a growing number of people.

Even if he loses the election, Trump will have changed the brains of millions of Americans, with future consequences. It is vitally important people know the mechanisms used to transmit Big Lies and to stick them into people’s brains without their awareness. It is a form of mind control.

People in the media have a duty to report it when the see it. But there are constraints on the media.

Certain things have not been allowed in public political discourse in the media. Reporters and commentators are supposed to stick to what is conscious and with literal meaning. But most real political discourse makes use of unconscious thought, which shapes conscious thought via unconscious framing and commonplace conceptual metaphors. It is crucial, for the history of the country and the world, as well as the planet, that all of this be made public.

And it is not just the media. Such responsibility rests with ordinary citizens who become aware of unconscious brain mechanisms like the ten we have just discussed. This responsibility also rests with the Democratic Party and their campaigns at all levels.

Is the use of the public’s brain mechanisms for communication necessarily immoral? Understanding how people really think can be used to communicate truths, not Big Lies or ads for products.

This knowledge is not just known to cognitive linguists. It is taught in Marketing courses in business schools, and the mechanisms are used in advertising, to get you to buy what advertisers are selling. We have learned to recognize ads; they are set off by themselves. Even manipulative corporate advertising with political intent (like ads for fracking) is not as dangerous as Big Lies leading to authoritarian government determining the future of our country.

How Can Democrats Do Better?

First, don’t think of an elephant. Remember not to repeat false conservative claims and then rebut them with the facts. Instead, go positive. Give a positive truthful framing to undermine claims to the contrary. Use the facts to support positively-framed truth. Use repetition.

Second, start with values, not policies and facts and numbers. Say what you believe, but haven’t been saying. For example, progressive thought is built on empathy, on citizens caring about other citizens and working through our government to provide public resources for all, both businesses and individuals. Use history. That’s how America started. The public resources used by businesses were not only roads and bridges, but public education, a national bank, a patent office, courts for business cases, interstate commerce support, and of course the criminal justice system. From the beginning, the Private Depended on Public Resources, both private lives and private enterprise.

Over time those resources have included sewers, water and electricity, research universities and research support: computer science (via the NSF), the internet (ARPA), pharmaceuticals and modern medicine (the NIH), satellite communication (NASA and NOA), and GPS systems and cell phones (the Defense Department). Private enterprise and private life utterly depend on public resources. Have you ever said this? Elizabeth Warren has. Almost no other public figures. And stop defending “the government.” Talk about the public, the people, Americans, the American people, public servants, and good government. And take back freedom. Public resources provide for freedom in private enterprise and private life.

The conservatives are committed to privatizing just about everything and to eliminating funding for most public resources. The contribution of public resources to our freedoms cannot be overstated. Start saying it.

And don’t forget the police. Effective respectful policing is a public resource. Chief David O. Brown of the Dallas Police got it right. Training, community policing, knowing the people you protect. And don’t ask too much of the police: citizens have a responsibility to provide funding so that police don’t have to do jobs that should be done by others.

Unions need to go on the offensive. Unions are instruments of freedom — freedom from corporate servitude. Employers call themselves job creators. Working people are profit creators for the employers, and as such they deserve a fair share of the profits and respect and acknowledgement. Say it. Can the public create jobs. Of course. Fixing infrastructure will create jobs by providing more public resources that private lives and businesses depend on. Public resources to create more public resources. Freedom creates opportunity that creates more freedom.

Third, keep out of nasty exchanges and attacks. Keep out of shouting matches. One can speak powerfully without shouting. Obama sets the pace: Civility, values, positivity, good humor, and real empathy are powerful. Calmness and empathy in the face of fury are powerful. Bill Clinton won because he oozed empathy, with his voice, his eye contact, and his body. It wasn’t his superb ability as a policy wonk, but the empathy he projected and inspired.

Values come first, facts and policies follow in the service of values. They matter, but they always support values.

Give up identity politics. No more women’s issues, black issues, Latino issues. Their issues are all real, and need public discussion. But they all fall under freedom issues, human issues. And address poor whites! Appalachian and rust belt whites deserve your attention as much as anyone else. Don’t surrender their fate to Trump, who will just increase their suffering.

And remember JFK’s immortal, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Empathy, devotion, love, pride in our country’s values, public resources to create freedoms. And adulthood.

Be prepared. You have to understand Trump to stand calmly up to him and those running with him all over the country.

___

George Lakoff is Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley. His most recent book is The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant! His previous books on politics and social issues are Moral Politics (1996, 2002), Don’t Think of an Elephant! (2004), Whose Freedom? (2008), The Political Mind (2008), and The Little Blue Book, with Elisabeth Wehling (2012). The third edition of Moral Politics will be published in September in time for the 2016 election. His website is georgelakoff.com.

See: https://georgelakoff.com/2016/07/23/understanding-trump-2/

Khan confrontation keys in on human decency — and that could haunt Trump

political correctness is one thing, fundamental sense of decency quite another

Source: Washington Post

Author: Phillip Rucker

Emphasis Mine

Donald Trump, as he has repeatedly over the course of his 14-month presidential campaign, said several things over the past week that could have caused lasting damage to any ordinary candidate.

The Republican nominee invited the Russian government to uncover and release Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton’s private emails. He showed himself to be at best confused and at worst ignorant about the turmoil in Ukraine. He maligned a four-star general as a failure.

All were shocking in their way, although none is likely to register in a broad or lasting way among voters.

Trump’s belittling of the Muslim American parents of a dead U.S. soldier may be different, according to political strategists in both parties, who say the ongoing episode could challenge the notion of Trump as a Teflon candidate.

So far, they say, Trump’s repeated offenses haven’t doomed his candidacy because many voters see each Trump insult as a dagger at political correctness, every blemish a welcome reminder that the celebrity-mogul candidate is willing to take on the established order.

But in the case of Khizr and Ghazala Khan — whose son Humayun Khan, an Army captain, was killed in Iraq in 2004 by a suicide bomb — Trump is taking on grieving parents, not elites or the status quo.

“Nobody minds when he attacks other politicians; in fact, they like it. He’s instilling an ­accountability that doesn’t exist. But they don’t like it when he goes after real people, and they wish he would stop,” said GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who conducted a focus group about Trump with voters Friday in Columbus, Ohio.

David Axelrod, a former strategist for President Obama, agreed. “I think people appreciate and even enjoy when he kicks the high and mighty in the butt, but I think they recoil when he is unkind to people who are vulnerable or when he is nasty to people who are thoroughly honorable,” he said.

Axelrod added, “I just think people have a fundamental sense of decency, and they want their president to have a fundamental sense of decency, even if they’re tough and willing to take on so-called political correctness.

Trump lashed out at the Charlottesville family after Khizr Khan admonished Trump at last week’s Democratic National Convention. Trump responded by questioning why Ghazala Khan stood by her husband silently and suggesting that she “wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.” She has said she was too overcome with grief to speak on stage. Trump also equated his work as a real estate developer to the sacrifice the Khans made when they lost their son in war.

Trump’s response to the Khans was in keeping with his impulse to attack mercilessly whenever he is slighted, a trait that he, his advisers and others believe has generally worked in his favor.

“There are millions of voters who are willing to ignore their discomfort because he is the candidate of change,” Luntz said. “He does go too far and voters don’t like it, but it proves that he is different and it proves that he is absolutely, positively willing to take on the status quo.”

Critics believe that in the case of the Khans, Trump has gone way too far, comparing it to a famed turning point for McCarthyism in the 1950s. Grilled by then-Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy at a congressional hearing as part of the Wisconsin Republican’s crusade to root out communist sympathizers, then-Army counsel Joseph N. Welch asked, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Initial reports suggest the Khan episode has hurt Trump, at least for now. A pair of national polls taken over the weekend and released Monday showed a ­sizable bump for Clinton, suggesting the Khan affair, coupled with a successful Democratic convention, was working to her advantage. Clinton led 52 percent to 43 percent in a CNN-ORC survey and 47 percent to 41 percent in a CBS News survey. Polls consistently show that Trump’s biggest vulnerabilities are on questions of character and temperament. Three-quarters of Americans said Trump does not show enough respect for people he disagrees with, and 55 percent said this was a “major problem,” according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll in May.

Still, Trump’s race with Clinton has remained relatively close through the summer, in part because Clinton is weighted down by her own troubles, chiefly doubts about her trustworthiness.

The latest example came Sunday, when Clinton claimed in a Fox News interview that FBI Director James B. Comey said her past public statements about her use of private email as secretary of state were “truthful.” In fact, Comey has not said whether her public statements were truthful, and he has said some of her emails contained classified information.

Axelrod and other strategists drew parallels between the Khan clash and an earlier episode that similarly touched a nerve: Trump’s mocking at a rally in November of disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski.

Priorities USA, the leading pro-Clinton super PAC, has conducted extensive research to determine the most effective ways to attack Trump and found that video footage of Trump making wild arm and hand gestures to impersonate Kovaleski registers in focus groups as among the most damning. The footage has been featured in numerous anti-Trump ads.

Voters were willing to overlook comments about Ted Cruz’s family because Ted Cruz is a politician,” said Guy Cecil, the super PAC’s chief strategist. “They may have even been willing to overlook his disgusting comments about John McCain because John McCain is a politician. . . . This is something much meaner. This is something that is completely out of bounds.”

Cecil was referring to Trump’s provocative and unsubstantiated suggestion that Rafael Cruz, the father of the senator from Texas, may have been implicated in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as well as Trump’s belittling of the Vietnam War service of McCain, a senator from Arizona. Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter, a former adviser to Obama, said Trump’s comments about the Khans are breaking through to voters because they violate people’s expectations of decency and empathy.

“They worry about what kind of role model this sets for their kids,” Cutter said. “They don’t want a president who is insulting people based on their disability or religion or gender or threatening to knock somebody in the head.”

During the Republican primaries, rival campaigns found that political fallout for Trump tended to be limited to the group he was offending. For instance, his incendiary rhetoric about Mexican Americans and illegal immigration hurt him with Latino voters, and his misogynistic commentary hurt him with women.

But research showed that Trump’s mocking of Kovaleski crossed demographic boundaries, said Tim Miller, a top staffer first on former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign and later at an anti-Trump super PAC.

“People found that to just be so vulgar and indecent that they just couldn’t help but be turned off by it, even those that wanted to excuse Trump at every step along the way,” Miller said.

He added, “The big question here with the Khan situation is, will that transcend just the Muslim community or just the community of veterans and be something that is universally regarded as inhuman and indecent?”

Scott Clement contributed to this report.

See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/khan-confrontation-keys-in-on-human-decency–and-that-could-haunt-trump/2016/08/01/67e6ff46-57ea-11e6-831d-0324760ca856_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1

Understanding Trump

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Source: Huff Post

Author: George Lakoff

Emphasis Mine

(N.B.:The nomination of Trump has provided an incredible vindication for George Lakoff’s insights into American politics.  This is a very informative and valuable essay, which should be read and understood by all progressives – one might recall the Donald’s acceptance speech while reading.  At the “end of the day”, we must work hard to win, and the harder we work, the more we will win.)

There is a lot being written spoken about Trump by intelligent and articulate commentators whose insights I respect. But as a longtime researcher in cognitive science and linguistics, I bring a perspective from these sciences to an understanding of the Trump phenomenon. This perspective is hardly unknown. More that half a million people have read my books, and Google Scholar reports that scholars writing in scholarly journals have cited my works well over 100,000 times.

As a longtime researcher in cognitive science and linguistics, I bring a perspective from these sciences to an understanding of the Trump phenomenon.

Yet you will probably not read what I have to say in the New York Times, nor hear it from your favorite political commentators. You will also not hear it from Democratic candidates or party strategists. There are reasons, and we will discuss them later this piece. I am writing it because I think it is right and it is needed, even though it comes from the cognitive and brain sciences, not from the normal political sources. I think it is imperative to bring these considerations into public political discourse. But it cannot be done in a 650-word op-ed. My apologies. It is untweetable.

I will begin with an updated version of an earlier piece on who is supporting Trump and why — and why policy details are irrelevant to them. I then move to a section on how Trump uses your brain against you. I finish up discussing how Democratic campaigns could do better, and why they need to do better if we are to avert a Trump presidency.

Who Supports Trump and Why

Donald J. Trump has managed to become the Republican nominee for president, Why? How? There are various theories: People are angry and he speaks to their anger. People don’t think much of Congress and want a non-politician. Both may be true. But why? What are the details? And Why Trump?

He seems to have come out of nowhere. His positions on issues don’t fit a common mold.

He has said nice things about LGBTQ folks, which is not standard Republican talk. Republicans hate eminent domain (the taking of private property by the government) and support corporate outsourcing for the sake of profit, but he has the opposite views on both. He is not religious and scorns religious practices, yet the Evangelicals (that is, the white Evangelicals) love him. He thinks health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, as well as military contractors, are making too much profit and wants to change that. He insults major voting groups, e.g., Latinos, when most Republicans are trying to court them. He wants to deport 11 million immigrants without papers and thinks he can. He wants to stop Muslims from entering the country. What is going on?

The answer requires a bit of background.

In the 1900s, as part of my research in the cognitive and brain sciences, I undertook to answer a question in my field: How do the various policy positions of conservatives and progressives hang together? Take conservatism: What does being against abortion have to do with being for owning guns? What does owning guns have to do with denying the reality of global warming? How does being anti-government fit with wanting a stronger military? How can you be pro-life and for the death penalty? Progressives have the opposite views. How do their views hang together?

The answer came from a realization that we tend to understand the nation metaphorically in family terms: We have founding fathers. We send our sons and daughters to war. We have homeland security. The conservative and progressive worldviews dividing our country can most readily be understood in terms of moral worldviews that are encapsulated in two very different common forms of family life: The Nurturant Parent family (progressive) and the Strict Father family (conservative).

(N.B.: it has been noted that the most common characteristic of Trump supporters is that they support an authoritarian outlook.)

What do social issues and the politics have to do with the family? We are first governed in our families, and so we grow up understanding governing institutions in terms of the governing systems of families.

In the strict father family, father knows best. He knows right from wrong and has the ultimate authority to make sure his children and his spouse do what he says, which is taken to be what is right. Many conservative spouses accept this worldview, uphold the father’s authority, and are strict in those realms of family life that they are in charge of. When his children disobey, it is his moral duty to punish them painfully enough so that, to avoid punishment, they will obey him (do what is right) and not just do what feels good. Through physical discipline they are supposed to become disciplined, internally strong, and able to prosper in the external world. What if they don’t prosper? That means they are not disciplined, and therefore cannot be moral, and so deserve their poverty. This reasoning shows up in conservative politics in which the poor are seen as lazy and undeserving, and the rich as deserving their wealth. Responsibility is thus taken to be personal responsibility not social responsibility. What you become is only up to you; society has nothing to do with it. You are responsible for yourself, not for others — who are responsible for themselves.

Winning and Insulting

As the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” In a world governed by personal responsibility and discipline, those who win deserve to win. Why does Donald Trump publicly insult other candidates and political leaders mercilessly? Quite simply, because he knows he can win an onstage TV insult game. In strict conservative eyes, that makes him a formidable winning candidate who deserves to be a winning candidate. Electoral competition is seen as a battle. Insults that stick are seen as victories — deserved victories.

Electoral competition is seen as a battle. Insults that stick are seen as victories — deserved victories.

Consider Trump’s statement that John McCain is not a war hero. The reasoning: McCain got shot down. Heroes are winners. They defeat big bad guys. They don’t get shot down. People who get shot down, beaten up, and stuck in a cage are losers, not winners.

The Moral Hierarchy

The strict father logic extends further. The basic idea is that authority is justified by morality (the strict father version), and that, in a well-ordered world, there should be (and traditionally has been) a moral hierarchy in which those who have traditionally dominated should dominate. The hierarchy is: God above Man, Man above Nature, The Disciplined (Strong) above the Undisciplined (Weak), The Rich above the Poor, Employers above Employees, Adults above Children, Western culture above other cultures, America above other countries. The hierarchy extends to: Men above women, Whites above Nonwhites, Christians above nonChristians, Straights above Gays.

We see these tendencies in most of the Republican presidential candidates, as well as in Trump, and on the whole, conservative policies flow from the strict father worldview and this hierarchy

Family-based moral worldviews run deep. Since people want to see themselves as doing right not wrong, moral worldviews tend to be part of self-definition — who you most deeply are. And thus your moral worldview defines for you what the world should be like. When it isn’t that way, one can become frustrated and angry.

There is a certain amount of wiggle room in the strict father worldview and there are important variations. A major split is among (1) white Evangelical Christians, (2) laissez-fair free market conservatives, and (3) pragmatic conservatives who are not bound by evangelical beliefs.

White Evangelicals

Those whites who have a strict father personal worldview and who are religious tend toward Evangelical Christianity, since God, in Evangelical Christianity, is the Ultimate Strict Father: You follow His commandments and you go to heaven; you defy His commandments and you burn in hell for all eternity. If you are a sinner and want to go to heaven, you can be ‘born again” by declaring your fealty by choosing His son, Jesus Christ, as your personal Savior.

Such a version of religion is natural for those with strict father morality. Evangelical Christians join the church because they are conservative; they are not conservative because they happen to be in an evangelical church, though they may grow up with both together.

Evangelical Christianity is centered around family life. Hence, there are organizations like Focus on the Family and constant reference to “family values,” which are to take to be evangelical strict father values. In strict father morality, it is the father who controls sexuality and reproduction. Where the church has political control, there are laws that require parental and spousal notification in the case of proposed abortions.

Evangelicals are highly organized politically and exert control over a great many local political races. Thus Republican candidates mostly have to go along with the evangelicals if they want to be nominated and win local elections.

Pragmatic Conservatives

Pragmatic conservatives, on the other hand, may not have a religious orientation at all. Instead, they may care primarily about their own personal authority, not the authority of the church or Christ, or God. They want to be strict fathers in their own domains, with authority primarily over their own lives. Thus, a young, unmarried conservative — male or female —may want to have sex without worrying about marriage. They may need access to contraception, advice about sexually transmitted diseases, information about cervical cancer, and so on. And if a girl or woman becomes pregnant and there is no possibility or desire for marriage, abortion may be necessary.

Trump is a pragmatic conservative, par excellence. And he knows that there are a lot of Republican voters who are like him in their pragmatism. There is a reason that he likes Planned Parenthood. There are plenty of young, unmarried (or even married) pragmatic conservatives, who may need what Planned Parenthood has to offer — cheaply and confidentially by way of contraception, cervical cancer prevention, and sex ed.

Young or middle-aged pragmatic conservatives want to maximize their own wealth… That is why Trump wants to keep Social Security and Medicare.

Similarly, young or middle-aged pragmatic conservatives want to maximize their own wealth. They don’t want to be saddled with the financial burden of caring for their parents. Social Security and Medicare relieve them of most of those responsibilities. That is why Trump wants to keep Social Security and Medicare.

Laissez-faire Free Marketeers

Establishment conservative policies have not only been shaped by the political power of white evangelical churches, but also by the political power of those who seek maximally laissez-faire free markets, where wealthy people and corporations set market rules in their favor with minimal government regulation and enforcement. They see taxation not as investment in publicly provided resources for all citizens, but as government taking their earnings (their private property) and giving the money through government programs to those who don’t deserve it. This is the source of establishment Republicans’ anti-tax and shrinking government views. This version of conservatism is quite happy with outsourcing to increase profits by sending manufacturing and many services abroad where labor is cheap, with the consequence that well-paying jobs leave America and wages are driven down here. Since they depend on cheap imports, they would not be in favor of imposing high tariffs.

But Donald Trump is not in a business that makes products abroad to import here and mark up at a profit. As a developer, he builds hotels, casinos, office buildings, golf courses. He may build them abroad with cheap labor but he doesn’t import them. Moreover, he recognizes that most small business owners in America are more like him — American businesses like dry cleaners, pizzerias, diners, plumbers, hardware stores, gardeners, contractors, car washers, and professionals like architects, lawyers, doctors, and nurses. High tariffs don’t look like a problem.

Many business people are pragmatic conservatives. They like government power when it works for them. Take eminent domain. Establishment Republicans see it as an abuse by government — government taking of private property. But conservative real estate developers like Trump depend on eminent domain so that homes and small businesses in areas they want to develop can be taken by eminent domain for the sake of their development plans. All they have to do is get local government officials to go along, with campaign contributions and the promise of an increase in local tax dollars helping to acquire eminent domain rights. Trump points to Atlantic City, where he build his casino using eminent domain to get the property.

If businesses have to pay for their employees’ health care benefits, Trump would want them to have to pay as little as possible to maximize profits for businesses in general. He would therefore want health insurance and pharmaceutical companies to charge as little as possible. To increase competition, he would want insurance companies to offer plans nationally, avoiding the state-run exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. The exchanges are there to maximize citizen health coverage, and help low-income people get coverage, rather than to increase business profits. Trump does however want to keep the mandatory feature of ACA, which establishment conservatives hate since they see it as government overreach, forcing people to buy a product. For Trump, however, the mandatory feature for individuals increases the insurance pool and brings down costs for businesses.

Direct vs. Systemic Causation

Direct causation is dealing with a problem via direct action. Systemic causation recognizes that many problems arise from the system they are in and must be dealt with via systemic causation. Systemic causation has four versions: A chain of direct causes. Interacting direct causes (or chains of direct causes). Feedback loops. And probabilistic causes. Systemic causation in global warming explains why global warming over the Pacific can produce huge snowstorms in Washington DC: masses of highly energized water molecules evaporate over the Pacific, blow to the Northeast and over the North Pole and come down in winter over the East coast and parts of the Midwest as masses of snow. Systemic causation has chains of direct causes, interacting causes, feedback loops, and probabilistic causes — often combined.

Direct causation is easy to understand, and appears to be represented in the grammars of all languages around the world. Systemic causation is more complex and is not represented in the grammar of any language. It just has to be learned.

Empirical research has shown that conservatives tend to reason with direct causation and that progressives have a much easier time reasoning with systemic causation. The reason is thought to be that, in the strict father model, the father expects the child or spouse to respond directly to an order and that refusal should be punished as swiftly and directly as possible.

Many of Trump’s policy proposals are framed in terms of direct causation.

Immigrants are flooding in from Mexico — build a wall to stop them. For all the immigrants who have entered illegally, just deport them — even if there are 11 million of them working throughout the economy and living throughout the country. The cure for gun violence is to have a gun ready to directly shoot the shooter. To stop jobs from going to Asia where labor costs are lower and cheaper goods flood the market here, the solution is direct: put a huge tariff on those goods so they are more expensive than goods made here. To save money on pharmaceuticals, have the largest consumer — the government — take bids for the lowest prices. If Isis is making money on Iraqi oil, send US troops to Iraq to take control of the oil. Threaten Isis leaders by assassinating their family members (even if this is a war crime). To get information from terrorist suspects, use water-boarding, or even worse torture methods. If a few terrorists might be coming with Muslim refugees, just stop allowing all Muslims into the country. All this makes sense to direct causation thinkers, but not those who see the immense difficulties and dire consequences of such actions due to the complexities of systemic causation.

Political Correctness

There are at least tens of millions of conservatives in America who share strict father morality and its moral hierarchy. Many of them are poor or middle class and many are white men who see themselves as superior to immigrants, nonwhites, women, nonChristians, gays — and people who rely on public assistance. In other words, they are what liberals would call “bigots.” For many years, such bigotry has not been publicly acceptable, especially as more immigrants have arrived, as the country has become less white, as more women have become educated and moved into the workplace, and as gays have become more visible and gay marriage acceptable.

As liberal anti-bigotry organizations have loudly pointed out… bigotry, those conservatives have felt more and more oppressed by what they call ‘political correctness.’

As liberal anti-bigotry organizations have loudly pointed out and made a public issue of the unAmerican nature of such bigotry, those conservatives have felt more and more oppressed by what they call “political correctness” — public pressure against their views and against what they see as “free speech.” This has become exaggerated since 911, when anti-Muslim feelings became strong. The election of President Barack Hussein Obama created outrage among those conservatives, and they refused to see him as a legitimate American (as in the birther movement), much less as a legitimate authority, especially as his liberal views contradicted almost everything else they believe as conservatives.

Donald Trump expresses out loud everything they feel — with force, aggression, anger, and no shame. All they have to do is support and vote for Trump and they don’t even have to express their ‘politically incorrect’ views, since he does it for them and his victories make those views respectable. He is their champion. He gives them a sense of self-respect, authority, and the possibility of power.

Whenever you hear the words “political correctness” remember this.

Biconceptuals

There is no middle in American politics. There are moderates, but there is no ideology of the moderate, no single ideology that all moderates agree on. A moderate conservative has some progressive positions on issues, though they vary from person to person. Similarly, a moderate progressive has some conservative positions on issues, again varying from person to person. In short, moderates have both political moral worldviews, but mostly use one of them. Those two moral worldviews in general contradict each other. How can they reside in the same brain at the same time?

Both are characterized in the brain by neural circuitry. They are linked by a commonplace circuit: mutual inhibition. When one is turned on the other is turned off; when one is strengthened, the other is weakened. What turns them on or off? Language that fits that worldview activates that worldview, strengthening it, while turning off the other worldview and weakening it. The more Trump’s views are discussed in the media, the more they are activated and the stronger they get, both in the minds of hardcore conservatives and in the minds of moderate progressives.

This is true even if you are attacking Trump’s views. The reason is that negating a frame activates that frame, as I pointed out in the book Don’t Think of an Elephant!It doesn’t matter if you are promoting Trump or attacking Trump, you are helping Trump.

A good example of Trump winning with progressive biconceptuals includes certain unionized workers. Many union members are strict fathers at home or in their private life. They believe in “traditional family values” — a conservative code word — and they may identify with winners.

Why Has Trump won the Republican nomination? Look at all the conservative groups he appeals to!

Why His Lack of Policy Detail Doesn’t Matter

I recently heard a brilliant and articulate Clinton surrogate argue against a group of Trump supporters that Trump has presented no policy plans for increasing jobs, increasing economics growth, improving education, gaining international respect, etc. This is the basic Clinton campaign argument. Hillary has the experience, the policy know-how, she can get things done, it’s all on her website. Trump has none of this. What Hillary’s campaign says is true. And it is irrelevant.

Trump supporters and other radical Republican extremists could not care less, and for a good reason. Their job is to impose their view of strict father morality in all areas of life. If they have the Congress, and the Presidency and the Supreme Court, they could achieve this. They don’t need to name policies, because the Republicans already of hundreds of policies ready to go. They just need to be in complete power.

How Trump Uses Your Brain to His Advantage

Any unscrupulous, effective salesman knows how to use you brain against you, to get you to buy what he is selling. How can someone “use your brain against you?” What does it mean?

All thought uses neural circuitry. Every idea is constituted by neural circuitry. But we have no conscious access to that circuitry. As a result, most of thought — an estimated 98 percent of thought is unconscious. Conscious thought is the tip of the iceberg.

Unconscious thought works by certain basic mechanisms. Trump uses them instinctively to turn people’s brains toward what he wants: Absolute authority, money, power, celebrity.

The mechanisms are:

1. Repetition. Words are neurally linked to the circuits the determine their meaning. The more a word is heard, the more the circuit is activated and the stronger it gets, and so the easier it is to fire again. Trump repeats. Win. Win, Win. We’re gonna win so much you’ll get tired of winning.

2. Framing: Crooked Hillary. Framing Hillary as purposely and knowingly committing crimes for her own benefit, which is what a crook does. Repeating makes many people unconsciously think of her that way, even though she has been found to have been honest and legal by thorough studies by the right-wing Bengazi committee (which found nothing) and the FBI (which found nothing to charge her with, except missing the mark ‘(C)’ in the body of 3 out of 110,000 emails). Yet the framing is working.

There is a common metaphor that Immorality Is Illegality, and that acting against Strict Father Morality (the only kind off morality recognized) is being immoral. Since virtually everything Hillary Clinton has ever done has violated Strict Father Morality, that makes her immoral. The metaphor thus makes her actions immoral, and hence she is a crook. The chant “Lock her up!” activates this whole line of reasoning.

3. Well-known examples: When a well-publicized disaster happens, the coverage activates the framing of it over and over, strengthening it, and increasing the probability that the framing will occur easily with high probability. Repeating examples of shootings by Muslims, African-Americans, and Latinos raises fears that it could happen to you and your community — despite the miniscule actual probability. Trump uses this to create fear. Fear tends to activate desire for a strong strict father — namely, Trump.

4. Grammar: Radical Islamic terrorists: “Radical” puts Muslims on a linear scale and “terrorists” imposes a frame on the scale, suggesting that terrorism is built into the religion itself. The grammar suggests that there is something about Islam that has terrorism inherent in it. Imagine calling the Charleston gunman a “radical Republican terrorist.”

Trump is aware this to at least some extent. As he said to Tony Schwartz, the ghost-writer who wrote The Art of the Deal for him, “I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and it’s a very effective form of promotion.”

5. Conventional metaphorical thought is inherent in our largely unconscious thought. Such normal modes of metaphorical thinking that are not noticed as such.

Consider Brexit, which used the metaphor of “entering” and “leaving” the EU. There is a universal metaphor that states are locations in space: you can enter a state, be deep in some state, and come out that state. If you enter a café and then leave the café , you will be in the same location as before you entered. But that need not be true of states of being. But that was the metaphor used with Brexist; Britons believe that after leaving the EU, things would be as before when the entered the EU. They were wrong. Things changed radically while they were in the EU. That same metaphor is being used by Trump: Make America Great Again. Make America Safe Again. And so on. As if there was some past ideal state that we can go back to just by electing Trump.

6. There is also a metaphor that A Country Is a Person and a metonymy of the President Standing For the Country. Thus, Obama, via both metaphor and metonymy, can stand conceptually for America. Therefore, by saying that Obama is weak and not respected, it is communicated that America, with Obama as president, is weak and disrespected. The inference is that it is because of Obama.

7. The country as person metaphor and the metaphor that war or conflict between countries is a fistfight between people, leads the inference that just having a strong president will guarantee that America will win conflicts and wars. Trump will just throw knockout punches. In his acceptance speech at the convention, Trump repeatedly said that he would accomplish things that can only be done by the people acting with their government. After one such statement, there was a chant from the floor, “He will do it.”

8. The metaphor that The nation Is a Family was used throughout the GOP convention. We heard that strong military sons are produced by strong military fathers and that “defense of country is a family affair.” From Trump’s love of family and commitment to their success, we are to conclude that, as president he will love America’s citizens and be committed to the success of all.

9. There is a common metaphor that Identifying with your family’s national heritage makes you a member of that nationality. Suppose your grandparents came from Italy and you identify with your Italian ancestors, you may proud state that you are Italian. The metaphor is natural. Literally, you have been American for two generations. Trump made use of this commonplace metaphor in attacking US District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is American, born and raised in the United States. Trump said he was a Mexican, and therefore would hate him and tend to rule against him in a case brought against Trump University for fraud.

10. Then there is the metaphor system used in the phrase “to call someone out.” First the word “out.” There is a general metaphor that Knowing Is Seeing as in “I see what you mean.” Things that are hidden inside something cannot be seen and hence not known, while things are not hidden but out in public can be seen and hence known. To “out” someone is to made their private knowledge public. To “call someone out” is to publicly name someone’s hidden misdeeds, thus allowing for public knowledge and appropriate consequences.

This is the basis for the Trumpian metaphor that Naming is Identifying. Thus naming your enemies will allow you to identify correctly who they are, get to them, and so allow you to defeat them. Hence, just saying “radical Islamic terrorists” allows you to pick them out, get at them, and annihilate them. And conversely, if you don’t say it, you won’t be able to pick them out and annihilate them. Thus a failure to use those words means that you are protecting those enemies — in this case Muslims, that is, potential terrorists because of their religion.

I’ll stop here, though I could go on. Here are ten uses of people’s unconscious normal brain mechanisms that are manipulated by Trump and his followers for his overriding purpose: to be elected president, to be given absolute authority with a Congress and Supreme Court, and so to have his version of Strict Famer Morality govern America into the indefinite future.

These ten forms of using with people’s everyday brain mechanisms for his own purposes have gotten Trump the Republican nomination. But millions more people have seen and heard Trump and company on tv and heard them on the radio. The media pundits have not described those ten mechanisms, or other brain mechanisms, that surreptitiously work on the unconscious minds of the public, even though the result is that Big Lies repeated over and over are being believed by a growing number of people.

Even if he loses the election, Trump will have changed the brains of millions of Americans, with future consequences. It is vitally important people know the mechanisms used to transmit Big Lies and to stick them into people’s brains without their awareness. It is a form of mind control.

People in the media have a duty to report it when the see it. But the media comes with constraints.

Certain things have not been allowed in public political discourse in the media. Reporters and commentators are supposed to stick to what is conscious and with literal meaning. But most real political discourse makes use of unconscious thought, which shapes conscious thought via unconscious framing and commonplace conceptual metaphors. It is crucial, for the history of the country and the world, as well as the planet, that all of this be made public.

And it is not just the media, Such responsibility rests with ordinary citizens who become aware of unconscious brain mechanisms like the ten we have just discussed. This responsibility also rests with the Democratic Party and their campaigns at all levels.

Is the use of the public’s brain mechanisms for communication necessarily immoral? Understanding how people really think can be used to communicate truths, not Big Lies or ads for products.

This knowledge is not just known to cognitive linguists. It is taught in Marketing courses in business schools, and the mechanisms are used in advertising, to get you to buy what advertisers are selling. We have learned to recognize ads; they are set off by themselves. Even manipulative corporate advertising with political intent (like ads for fracking) is not as dangerous as Big Lies leading to authoritarian government determining the future of our country.

How Can Democrats Do Better?

First, don’t think of an elephant. Remember not to repeat false conservative claims and then rebut them with the facts. Instead, go positive. Give a positive truthful framing to undermine claims to the contrary. Use the facts to support positively-framed truth. Use repetition.

Second, start with values, not policies and facts and numbers. Say what you believe, but haven’t been saying. For example, progressive thought is built on empathy, on citizens caring about other citizens and working through our government to provide public resources for all, both businesses and individuals. Use history. That’s how America started. The public resources used by businesses were not only roads and bridges, but public education, a national bank, a patent office, courts for business cases, interstate commerce support, and of course the criminal justice system. From the beginning, the Private Depended on Public Resources, both private lives and private enterprise.

Over time those resources have included sewers, water and electricity, research universities and research support: computer science (via the NSF), the internet (ARPA), pharmaceuticals and modern medicine (the NIH), satellite communication (NASA and NOA), and GPS systems and cell phones (the Defense Department). Private enterprise and private life utterly depend on public resources. Have you ever said this? Elizabeth Warren has. Almost no other public figures. And stop defending “the government.” Talk about the public, the people, Americans, the American people, public servants, and good government. And take back freedom. Public resources provide for freedom in private enterprise and private life.

The conservatives are committed to privatizing just about everything and to eliminating funding for most public resources. The contribution of public resources to our freedoms cannot be overstated. Start saying it.

And don’t forget the police. Effective respectful policing is a public resource. Chief David O. Brown of the Dallas Police got it right. Training, community policing, knowing the people you protect. And don’t ask too much of the police: citizens have a responsibility to provide funding so that police don’t have to do jobs that should be done by others.

Unions need to go on the offensive. Unions are instruments of freedom — freedom from corporate servitude. Employers call themselves job creators. Working people are profit creators for the employers, and as such they deserve a fair share of the profits and respect and acknowledgement. Say it. Can the public create jobs. Of course. Fixing infrastructure will create jobs by providing more public resources that private lives and businesses depend on. Public resources to create more public resources. Freedom creates opportunity that creates more freedom.

Third, keep out of nasty exchanges and attacks. Keep out of shouting matches. One can speak powerfully without shouting. Obama sets the pace: Civility, values, positivity, good humor, and real empathy are powerful. Calmness and empathy in the face of fury are powerful. Bill Clinton won because he oozed empathy, with his voice, his eye contact, and his body. It wasn’t his superb ability as a policy wonk, but the empathy he projected and inspired.

Values come first, facts and policies follow in the service of values. They matter, but they always support values.

Give up identity politics. No more women’s issues, black issues, Latino issues. Their issues are all real, and need public discussion. But they all fall under freedom issues, human issues. And address poor whites! Appalachian and rust belt whites deserve your attention as much as anyone else. Don’t surrender their fate to Trump, who will just increase their suffering.

And remember JFK’s immortal, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Empathy, devotion, love, pride in our country’s values, public resources to create freedoms. And adulthood.

Be prepared. You have to understand Trump to stand calmly up to him and those running with him all over the country.

___

George Lakoff is Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley. His most recent book is The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant! His previous books on politics and social issues are Moral Politics (1996, 2002), Don’t Think of an Elephant! (2004), Whose Freedom? (2008), The Political Mind (2008), and The Little Blue Book, with Elisabeth Wehling (2012). The third edition of Moral Politics will be published in September in time for the 2016 election.

This Blogger’s Books and Other Items from…

The ALL NEW Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate

The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate
by George Lakoff

Moral Politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think

Moral Politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think
by George Lakoff

See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/george-lakoff/understanding-trump_b_11144938.html

The Conservative Crackup: How Progressives Can Exploit the GOP’s Implosion and Attain an ‘Earthquake Election’

Could Trump be a godsend for the Democrats?

Source: AlterNet

Author: Heather Digby parton/Salon

Emphasis Mine

It’s fair to say that most Democrats and a good many Republicans are still in a state of shock over the fact that a narcissistic, know-nothing, billionaire demagogue is actually going to be on the ballot this November as the GOP nominee for president. Democrats are nervous that this outrageous character is going to be normalized over the next few months and there are signs that the media is on board with that project. Many Republicans worry that he spells the end of their party altogether. And everyone aside from his fanatical following is desperately worried about what could happen if he actually manages to win the most powerful office on earth.

Take, for example, the comments by GOP strategist Mike Murphy on MSNBC earlier this week:

I think he is a stunning ignoramus on foreign policy issues and national security, which are the issues I care most about. And he’s said one stupid, reckless thing after another, and he’s shown absolutely no temperament to try to learn the things that he doesn’t know, and he doesn’t know just about everything. …The guy has a chimpanzee-level understanding of national security policy.

When he’s right he’s right. And it’s not just foreign policy where Trump shows a pan troglodyte level of understanding. Just Thursday night Trump appeared at a Chris Christie fundraiser and said to the audience of big donors, “Look, a lot of you don’t know the world of economics and you shouldn’t even bother. Just do me a favor, leave it to me.” He talked up his proposal for a 35 percent tariff on imports if an American company moves its manufacturing out of the country without clearing it with him first:

“At least the United States is going to make a hell of a lot of money. And these dummies say, ‘Oh well that’s a trade war.’”

“Trade war? We’re losing $500 billion in trade with China. Who the hell cares if there’s a trade war?”

Apparently the Donald is unaware that trade wars have been known to lead to shooting wars. Or, at the very least, they tend to result in some very unpleasant economic fallout.  But then, knowing his history, these would be features, not bugs. Is it any wonder there’s a growing sense of panic among sane members of both parties?

Right now polls are showing that Republicans are consolidating around him and it looks like a cage match in the works with Trump and the likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in a close fought cage match. However, Trump is probably getting a post clinch bump while the two Democrats are still involved in an intense contest with their partisans still in their corners so these numbers aren’t actually all that meaningful.

In fact, , looked beyond that superficial snapshot to the underlying structure of the electorate in the wake of Trump. In a memo he titles “The GOP Crash and the Historic Moment for Progressives” Greenberg writes:

We are witnessing the crash of the Republican Party as we know it, and progressives should dramatically change their strategy to maximize conservative losses and move the stalled progressive reform agenda in the election’s aftermath.

Rightfully shaken by off-year losses, low base turnout and Trump’s appeal to some union members, progressive strategy has been cramped by worst-case assumptions and by the goal of stopping the GOP from expanding their Electoral College map. That caution risks missing the opportunity to magnify GOP losses, expand the Democratic map and targets, shift control of states and legislatures, break the gridlock and create momentum for reform.

Greenberg narrows the Conservative Crackup down to what he calls a three-front civil war. The first front is between Trump and his Tea party followers against the Republican establishment. He characterizes their agenda as a “nationalist economic appeal” that attacks immigrants, trade deals and “disloyal” American corporations. Trump’s basically appealing to a large faction that is upset with diversity and “political correctness”. (I would just add that Trump’s status as the King of the birthers made him a true hero to this crowd.)

The second front in the civil war is between the religious conservatives who are angry that the establishment failed to stop social progress under the Obama administration.  Their sense of betrayal over the failure to stop marriage equality is profound. This group is the reason why Ted Cruz came in second.

Both of those fronts in the GOP civil war are well-known by now. Plenty of pundits and analysts have looked at these splits to determine if they are fatal to the GOP’s hope for any kind of national electoral success going forward. They do portend some major problems for the party but it’s hard to see how it benefits the Democrats unless these folks just stay home or run third party candidates. It’s the third front where Greenberg sees that opportunity and it’s one to which nobody is paying much attention:

Third and just as important, moderate Republicans are deeply alienated from a GOP establishment that views them as illegitimate. This third front in the civil war has not been covered by the media, in part because no GOP candidate has been willing to seek their votes on the issues that matter to them.

None of the pundits have speculated that the silence on their agenda has anything to do with the primary or what will happen in the election ahead. The moderates are a stunning 31 percent of the party base, and they are heavily college-educated and socially liberal. They are conservatives on immigration, regulation, taxes and national security, but as a college educated majority, they accept the science and urgency of addressing climate change. And most importantly, they are the one bloc that accepts the sexual revolution. That changes everything.

I find that number of 31% very surprising. From what we see and hear in the media, the moderate Republican is as extinct as the dodo. I know a few who live in California, people I think of as “Disco-Republicans”, who are essentially ideologically center-left but can’t stand being associated with liberals for social/tribal reasons.  They refused to vote for Jeb and Rubio because they felt they were pandering too much to the conservatives! Greenberg thinks these people are getable for the Democrats; his polling shows that 10% are willing to vote for Clinton over Trump.

The question is what it will take to get them to vote for Democrats in this election, and perhaps, more importantly, to demonstrate to the Republicans that it’s in their best interest to cooperate after the election on certain issues. They are already socially liberal so there no need to try to appease anyone on those important issues. Where Greenberg sees an opening is in national investment, bank regulation and corporate governance which dovetails nicely with the populist agenda coming from the left wing of the party as well.

But Greenberg believes that to maximize progressive gains, the party also needs to intensely focus on turning out certain voters “who now know the stakes.” That would be the “Rising American Electorate” we’ve all heard so much about:

Our new poll on behalf of WVWVAF shows a 10-point surge in the highest measure of voter interest among Democrats, key parts of the Rising American Electorate (specifically, the unmarried women and minorities), and college-educated women, a key part of the Democratic coalition. Our focus groups for the Roosevelt Institute and WVWVAF showed us that millennials and unmarried women are closely following the GOP primary battles, the GOP’s hatred of Obama and Donald Trump’s xenophobia and sexism. They now understand the stakes like no time before.

He says that African Americans and Hispanics see their communities as being under attack and despite their suspicion of Clinton, millennials understand their values are at stake as well.

Finally, there’s the working class vote. Their polling shows that working class voters respond well to demands to “level the playing field.”  Obviously, much of the working class are people of color and are already among the most loyal members of the Democratic Party. But Greenberg’s polling shows that the right messaging can attract certain members of the white working class as well, particularly millennials and financially pressed unmarried women, both groups of which have already been successfully courted by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Greenberg concludes:

Trump’s chauvinism and hostility to America’s diversity has cost him electorally and led to the early consolidation of the Rising American Electorate. But the primaries also show we have a new opportunity to achieve an earthquake election and win strongly among both the RAE, and the working class (where Democrats have lagged) if they strategize to win the big economic argument.

It’s hard to see a bizarre election such as this one as an opportunity to do anything but survive it. Trump is a wild card and the Republicans are like cornered animals right now, unpredictable and dangerous. But these situations do present opportunities as well and if Greenberg is right and the Democrats pay attention and all the stars align, we could come out of this with a big progressive win, setting the stage for a fertile time of renewal and progress. Maybe Trump’s crazy campaign will end up having been a positive influence on America after all.

 

Heather Digby Parton, also known as “Digby,” is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/progressives-can-exploit-gops-implosion?akid=14280.123424.zK3Bw7&rd=1&src=newsletter1056814&t=12

Trump Embraces Blunt Sexism: His Supporters Love the Absurd Idea That Even the Smartest Woman Isn’t as Good as a Man

His constant slams on women works with his ardent backers—but it will destroy him in November.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte/Salon

Emphasis Mine

Donald Trump never met a preposterous statement he wasn’t willing to stand by, and so it is with his apparent belief that women are unfairly advantaged over men in our societyOn Fox News on Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Trump why he would say that Hillary Clinton is a talentless hack who is coasting on the “woman card,” i.e. the unearned privilege he believes women enjoy over men, and Trump defended himself by pulling his P.C.-police-suppress-the-truth card.

“Well, I’m my own strategist and I like that—what I said and it’s true,” Trump said. “I only tell the truth and that’s why people voted for me.”

The audacity of it is stunning, of course. If he hadn’t been born a white man in a wealthy family, Trump would be a used car salesman in Des Moines who spends his weekends on desultory Match. com dates with divorcees who never call him again. Meanwhile, a huge amount of Clinton’s appeal is that she’s a smart and talented woman who has overcome a huge amount of sexist abuse in order to get as far as she has.

But Trump’s bleating about the “woman card” epitomizes the appeal he has to his supporters, even as he manages to alienate everyone else in the country. There’s a certain logic to his argument if you believe, as most conservatives do, that sexism is a thing of the past and that feminists are just making up stories to “play the victim” and earn the sweet, sweet cash they supposedly get from saying sexism still exists.

The problem with the “sexism is over” argument is that women in this country are still not equal. There’s a persistent pay gap. Women are underrepresented in congress and no woman has ever been the president. While women graduate from college at greater rates than menthey are less likely to get plum jobs and promotions.

Looking over the statistics, there’s really only two ways to explain the inequities: Either women are being treated unfairly or women are simply inferior to men. Feminists stand by the first argument, pointing out multiple studies that show that sexist beliefs about women and systematic discrimination holds women back.

Conservatives, however, reject the notion that sexism is still a thingforcing them to argue that women fall behind because they’re simply not as good as men. There are a lot of euphemisms for this argument—they usually say it’s because of women’s “choices” instead of bluntly claiming that women are inferior—but the gist is there: It’s not sexism, it’s that women aren’t good/smart/ambitious enough.

Once you buy into the argument that women’s inequality is due to women’s inferiority, it’s not much of a leap to start assuming that any woman who does go far must be getting some unfair advantage. For Trump and the sexist men who support him, it’s easier to believe that Clinton’s success is due to a feminist conspiracy to promote women over more deserving men than to admit that there are women out there that are smarter and more capable than they are. It’s the same mentality that led Trump and the folks who support him to embrace “birther” theories about Barack Obama. It was easier to believe he was installed by a shadowy cabal than accept the possibility that an African-American man could be a legitimately elected official.

Trump’s simplistic sexism has become déclassé in mainstream conservative circles. Instead, the trend has been to accept some women into leadership positions, as long as they remain firmly in the minority and don’t ever rise to the tippy-top positions reserved for men. This simultaneously props up the argument that conservatives aren’t sexist while maintaining a belief in female inferiority. The gist of things is that while a small handful of exceptional women are good enough to compete with men, most are not. And even those who are smart enough will never be quite as good as the men at the top.

Ted Cruz’s selection of Carly Fiorina as his running mate is a perfect illustration of the delicate dance that conservatives are performing with gender politics. On one hand, he’s trying to show off how non-sexist he supposedly is by picking a woman. On the other hand, he went out of his way to pick someone who isn’t as smart as he is, as evidenced by her long history of professional and political failures. The pick allows him to appear to respect women while reinforcing conservative beliefs that women aren’t quite as capable as men. If anything, by picking someone who isn’t very good, Cruz is subtly reaffirming the belief that women in leadership are incompetents who get a leg up not because of talent but because of “political correctness.”

John McCain did the same thing in 2008 with his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Now there is a hack who only got as far as she did because powerful men wanted to be seen as the kind of people who promote women. She was a bad pick for his campaign, but a good pick for pushing the belief that women aren’t as smart as men and can only really get far because of their supposed female privilege.

Under the circumstances, it’s easy to see why so many voters prefer Trump. He doesn’t play these complicated games of pretending to respect women while rejecting the possibility that women really can be equal to men. His belief systems are far more straightforward: He doesn’t think women are smart and any woman’s success that challenges him will be waved away as a gimme handed to her because of “political correctness.” For those who are sick of pretending to believe things they don’t want to believe, such as in the possibility that women can be smart, the Trump method is far more appealing than the elaborate systems of B.S. that other conservatives have built.

That, plus it’s always thrilling to misogynists to hear that, simply by virtue of being male, they are better than a woman who was her class valedictorian, an accomplished lawyer, a senator and the secretary of state. But odds are low Trump will get far with the general electorate by suggesting that even the smartest woman somehow pales in comparison to a mediocre man.

Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte. 

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/trump-embraces-blunt-sexism-his-supporters-love-absurd-idea-even-smartest-woman-isnt?akid=14217.123424.vApA3m&rd=1&src=newsletter1055746&t=8

A Psychotherapist’s Take on Donald Trump’s Outrageously Unfiltered Rhetoric

In Trump’s presence, it’s not only OK to be racist; it’s patriotic and even an act of belonging and self-esteem.

Source: AlterNet

Author:Richard Brouillette / Salon

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/psychotherapists-take-donald-trumps-outrageously-unfiltered-rhetoric?akid=14126.123424.Dqrt5R&rd=1&src=newsletter1053651&t=8

Donald Trump’s War on the First Amendment

His commitment to free speech extends only to himself.

Source: alternet

Author: Bill Blum/TruthDig

Emphasis Mine

If you were to ask Donald Trump’s supporters what they most admire about the GOP front-runner, chances are they would cite his so-called authenticity, his willingness to “tell it like it is” and, perhaps more than anything else, his rejection of that great bugaboo of the Obama Age: political correctness.

Such qualities ought to mean that whatever else Trump may be—a blowhard, a demagogue, a bigot, a reality TV huckster, a malignant narcissist, an unparalleled deal maker—he’s an ardent believer in press protections, free speech and the First Amendment. Indeed, in a Feb. 27 appearance on the Fox News channel, Trump seemed—at first—to be saying so, declaring, “I love free press. I think it’s great.”

But like much of what is taken as a given in the crazy-town vortex that is the Trump presidential campaign, the image of the candidate as a champion of free speech is a mirage. The bullying billionaire can sling mud and demean his real and imagined enemies with the best of them. The problem, however, is that he can’t take it when others fire back.

The very next sentence that Trump uttered during the Fox interview revealed a diametrically opposite view of the First Amendment. “We ought to open up the libel laws,” he said, thus making it easier to sue journalists who write critical things about him.

Trump’s on-air comments came a day after he had addressed the same subject at a rally in Fort Worth, Texas. Unhappy with certain news reports, he told a throng of cheering followers, “I think the media is among the most dishonest groups of people I’ve ever met. They’re terrible. If I become president, oh, do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems.”

He added:

One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope we do, and we’re certainly leading, is I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws so that when The New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.

What Trump probably means by “opening up” our libel laws is that, as president, he would work to overturn a line of landmark Supreme Court decisions dating back to the court’s unanimous 1964 decision in The New York Times v. Sullivan.

Prior to Sullivan, defamation lawsuits were governed exclusively by state law, and they were often slanted in favor of plaintiffs, especially rich ones who could afford the steep costs involved. To prevail, plaintiffs only had to establish that they had been defamed by a preponderance of the evidence—the lowest standard of proof in our legal system. As a practical matter, this meant that anyone wishing to criticize the wealthy and the powerful did so at considerable personal risk.

The Sullivan case changed all that by constitutionalizing defamation law throughout the United States. The justices wrote that in order to protect our “profound national commitment” to uninhibited, robust and wide-open debate that “may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks,” the First and Fourteenth amendments would heretofore serve as protection for defamation defendants. Public officials, they further instructed, must be precluded from recovering damages for allegedly defamatory statements related to official conduct unless they establish by “clear and convincing evidence” (a far higher standard of proof) that such statements are made with “actual malice”—that is, that they are made with the knowledge that they are false or with reckless disregard for the truth.

In a series of subsequent decisions in the late ’60s and early ’70s, the court extended Sullivan and the “actual malice” rule

to defamation lawsuits brought by “public figures,” such as Trump and many of the corporations that he controls and operates.

This is what has the Republican hopeful so hopping mad. In the years following Sullivan and its legal progeny, less than 10 percent of defamation cases brought by public figures have resulted in plaintiff victories.

Trump is nothing if not litigious. As the political journalist Olivia Nuzzi of The Daily Beast wrote last year—in an article titled “Donald Trump Sued Everyone but His Hairdresser”—Trump has filed cases against “people, businesses, and entire cities and countries. He’s sued a newspaper, his ex-wife, a quaint business card store in Georgia and a Native American tribe. He’s cried breach of contract, government favoritism, fraud, and libel.”

And when it comes to libel, contrary to his daily pontifications about being a “winner,” you can count Trump and his business interests among the biggest courtroom losers.

Perhaps the best-known legal setback to date occurred in the litigation surrounding Trump University, a venture Trump helped to found in 2004 to “train, educate and mentor entrepreneurs on achieving financial independence through real estate investing.”

There are currently three major lawsuits pending against Trump and his now-defunct real estate program—two federal class actions initiated by former students in San Diego and one brought in New York by the state’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman.

Although the cases are separate and distinct from a technical standpoint, they share a common nucleus of allegations, which have been summarized in an online posting by the San Diego lawyers representing the former students. According to the attorneys, “Trump University and Trump violated federal law across the delivering access to Trump’s real estate techniques taught by ‘hand-picked’ professors at an elite ‘university,’ when in fact Trump was not substantively involved in the Live Events curriculum or selecting the instructors and the New York State Education Department had warned Trump it was unlawful to call it a ‘university.’ ”

The oldest of the San Diego cases was filed in 2010 by Tarla Makaeff, a yoga instructor who at first named only Trump University as a defendant. Trump himself was added to the case as a personal defendant two years later.

Makaeff enrolled in Trump University classes in 2008, spending $1,495 for an introductory session and later forking over $34,995 to enroll in the school’s “Gold Elite” program, which entitled her to four three-day “advanced” training workshops, a three-day mentoring session and other benefits.

Although Makaeff filled out evaluation forms praising the courses, she had changed her mind by the fall of 2009. She then requested a refund of her tuition but was denied. Thereafter, she wrote letters to the Better Business Bureau, her bank and government agencies, and she posted comments online, complaining that she had been pressured to give the school good evaluations and that the university had failed to deliver on its promises and had engaged in fraudulent and unfair business practices.

Trump University responded to Makaeff’s lawsuit with a defamation counterclaim. Makaeff’s lawyers, in turn, moved to strike the counterclaim, citing the Sullivan case and characterizing the counterclaim as a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” or SLAPP.

As the Digital Media Law Project explains on its website, SLAPPs are lawsuits “filed in retaliation for speaking out on a public issue or controversy.” They usually, but not always, come in the guise of a defamation complaint. The goal of a SLAPP plaintiff isn’t necessarily to win a case on the merits but to intimidate and silence critics.

To combat the chilling effect that SLAPPs have on First Amendment rights, 28 states (including California) and the District of Columbia have enacted anti-SLAPP statutes that provide procedures for pretrial motions to dismiss or strike them.

Even though Makaeff’s case was filed in federal court, the California anti-SLAPP law applied to her fraud and unfair business-practice claims because those were based on California law. It took three years of heated litigation, but in 2013 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Makaeff’s motion to strike, finding that she had spoken out on a matter of public concern and that Trump University was a public figure insofar as the dispute over its real estate offerings was concerned. As such, the court also held that Trump University could not meet the “actual malice” standard articulated by the Sullivan case.

In a stinging rebuke of its claim that Makaeff’s previous endorsement of the school showed that she had acted with malice when she later complained, the court wrote: “As the recent Ponzi-scheme scandals involving onetime financial luminaries like Bernard Madoff and Allen Stanford demonstrate, victims of con artists often sing the praises of their victimizers until the moment they realize they have been fleeced. Makaeff’s initial enthusiasm for Trump University’s program is not probative of whether she acted with actual malice.”

The school was subsequently ordered to pay Makaeff’s lawyers nearly $800,000 in attorneys’ fees.

Last week, Makaeff asked the trial judge assigned to her case to permit her to withdraw as a class representative and named plaintiff because of health issues. If her request is granted, the case will be carried forward by three other named plaintiffs. A pretrial conference to set a trial date has been calendared for May 6.

Trump’s loss to Makaeff is by no means his most embarrassing SLAPP setback. That honor goes to a case Trump filed a decade ago in New Jersey.

In 2006, Trump sued Time Warner Books and writer Timothy O’Brien, then a reporter with The New York Times and now the editor of Bloomberg View, alleging that he had been libeled in a biography O’Brien had written, “TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald.”

Instead of bringing the lawsuit in New York, which has an anti-SLAPP statute, Trump opted for a venue in New Jersey, which doesn’t have one. The alleged defamation that Trump cited was O’Brien’s claim in the book that, considering all of the real estate mogul’s assets and liabilities, Trump’s net worth was actually in the neighborhood of $150 million to $250 million rather than the $5 billion to $6 billion that he had claimed.

Even without an anti-SLAPP law to lean on, O’Brien won a state appellate court ruling in 2011, granting summary judgment in his favor and finding that Trump could not, as a matter of law, meet the Sullivan test of actual malice. For all the mischief he had caused, Trump was ordered to fork over a cool $1 million in legal fees.

Interviewed about his ordeal with Trump for an article published last week in The Washington Post, O’Brien told reporter Paul Farhi: “We blew him up on the whole notion that I set out with reckless disregard and malice. My lawyers drew and quartered him.”

Unbowed and seemingly gearing up for more battles, Trump is quoted in the same article as saying that he knew he couldn’t win the case against O’Brien. “I spent a couple of bucks on legal fees, and they spent a whole lot more,” he admitted. “I did it to make his life miserable, which I’m happy about.”

And that’s precisely the problem with Trump’s war on the First Amendment. He loves the combat. He thrives on it. And no matter how many lives he imperils in the process, and no matter how many times he comes up short in court, he has no intention of relenting.

As president, of course, Trump would have no power to repeal or negate the Sullivan decision. It would take a constitutional amendment to accomplish that, or a highly unlikely reversal by the Supreme Court.

Nonetheless, if elected, Trump could do real damage, vetoing pending legislation to enact a federal anti-SLAPP law and using his bully pulpit to dissuade the 22 states without such statutes from enacting them.

And then there’s all the legal baggage he would drag with him to the White House. The civil suits that he has initiated and been the target of won’t be stayed just because he’s traded Trump Towers for the Oval Office. As the Supreme Court held in Paula Jones’ lawsuit against Bill Clinton, sitting presidents are not immune

from civil litigation arising out of events that transpired before they took office.

Derailing Trump’s war on the First Amendment or at least confining it to isolated courtroom skirmishes should be easy, but only if we keep one principle foremost in mind: that he must never, ever—and here words almost fail me—become president of the United States.

 

Bill Blum is a former judge and death penalty defense attorney. He is the author of three legal thrillers published by Penguin/Putnam (“Prejudicial Error,” “The Last Appeal” and “The Face of Justice”) and is a contributing writer for California Lawyer magazine.

See:http://www.alternet.org/donald-trumps-war-first-amendment?akid=14064.123424.0zQ2EW&rd=1&src=newsletter1052620&t=6