San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Op-ed

Let's stop trying to convince people not to vote for Trump

When he started, some thought it was a joke. Now he’s on his way to becoming the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. This is one of those stories that people find so irrational, so inconceivable, that they don’t do anything at first because they think it simply can’t happen. Many believed his campaign would implode or that his big mouth would get him into trouble, but as of today, voters have proved them wrong.

What happened?

If you were to go by what the media is saying, you would find it baffling that Trump is winning state after state. From comedian Louis C.K to President Obama, from the GOP’s own Mitt Romney to what seems like pretty much every journalist in every major newspaper in the United States, all you hear is reasons why you can’t vote for Trump. SNL is making fun of his connections with racism, and John Oliver’s arguments are pretty tough to dismiss. To dismiss rationally, that is.

Therein lies a clue to help us understand what happened. We like to think that we make rational, well-thought-out decisions, especially when it comes to something as important as electing our representatives in government. We wouldn’t choose lightly, would we?

But we do choose lightly. Think of the process of how people choose whom to vote for. How many people do you know who actually read the candidate’s platforms, or who carefully analyze his or her position regarding the issues that are important to them? There’s an overflow of information. It is not uncommon for candidates to mildly shift their views during a campaign, and our lives are often too busy for us to really stop and do a careful assessment of all of them.

We are not going by facts, but instead by an opinion here, an article there. Most of all, we are choosing whom to vote for based on how we feel about them. We kinda like Bernie; he seems honest. Hillary inspires confidence because she seems to know what she’s talking about. Trump is decisive and tells it like it is. We decide whom we like, and we base this on one or two things about them: how we perceived them the first time we saw them, their auras of success, how confident they sound. Sometimes we may not even know exactly why we like them. We just do.

Of course, we don’t want to accept this. It’s hard to admit that you based such an important decision on a whim. But it usually works like that. You make the choice based on very little information, like the impression he made on you, or one single idea she mentioned, or the fact that your family has always voted for that party. It is only after making the choice that you look for rational arguments that will allow you to explain (to others and yourself) why you made that choice.

Our decisions on this and many other subjects – which sports team to support, what school to send the kids to, or what yogurt to buy at the store – are different in the level of importance we attach to them after the fact, but the underlying process might not be so different after all.

Think about it. How did you choose the sports team you support? You didn’t analyze stats or debate which was the best team based on your pre-selected criteria. You just chose. Maybe it was because you lived in that team’s hometown, or because they seem to be winners (this one is actually pretty common). In the same way, you chose which candidate you like, and unlike with your sports team selection, in this one you rationalize afterwards to justify your gut feeling.

But what’s even more important is what happens to us once we have made our choice.  There are few more powerful drivers of behavior than our desire to be consistent. Once we have decided to support an idea, a person, a team, there is something in us that will make us stick by those decisions, even in spite of evidence that it was a poor choice. We seek consistency because that brings predictability into our lives and a sense of coherence.

Our commitment is even stronger when we have made the choice public – by posting a supportive message on social media, say, or by wearing our team’s jersey. How many people do you know who switch teams, or change candidates, or suddenly decide they are not environmentally friendly anymore? Once you decided to endorse the idea, person or team, there is something of you invested in it, and that makes it hard to renounce it later on.

This is why all this campaigning against Trump has been, and probably will continue to be, for the most part unsuccessful. If you already decided you like the guy, and if, furthermore, you’ve made that preference public, then simply out of consistency, chances are rational arguments are not going to make you change your mind (or heart?). There’s a part of you invested in the Trump idea. As John Oliver put it, it might be a part you hate, but it’s a part of you nevertheless. An attack on Trump is an attack on a part of you, which is why all this negative media will most likely only harden your resolve. The attacks, rational as they may be, creates the “us vs. them” mentality that entrenches people into their positions.

So what can be done? For the first part, the messages should not try to convince Trump supporters to change their mind. They should be targeting the undecided or perhaps even “closet supporters,” those who kind of like the guy but haven’t openly endorsed him. The undecided are not emotionally invested yet, and the closet Trump supporters can still save face if they change their mind.

But beyond targeting, the messages should not be about who is the worst candidate, but instead what the alternative is. And this is where the Never Trump movement has failed so far. It has not provided a feasible way out of the Trump conundrum, and that has left some Republicans facing the ugly choice between a poor Republican or a Democrat. It is not clear they would choose the latter.

Sometimes we think that if we devote enough resources – energy, time or money – then we can change people. The truth is, negative messages don’t change people; they only make them more defensive regarding their position and paralyze action. If you want to create some sort of change, frame your message it in a positive manner, providing an alternative that is preferable by comparison.

Randall Trejos works as a business developer, helping startups and medium-sized companies grow. He’s the co-director of the Founder Institute in Costa Rica and a strategy consultant at Grupo Impulso. You can follow his blog La Catapulta or contact him through LinkedIn. He writes The Tico Times’ “Doing Business” column, published twice-monthly.

 

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dht

I’m not well versed in these things, and I’m not an American. I can’t say trump is a good or bad choice for America, but I suggest the article (with respect as is very well written)may be somewhat one-sided and not cover all the possibilities.

A lot of Americans I’ve spoken to over the last few years feel they have been hoodwinked, lied to, and manipulated for so long that it is also possible they just want someone at the helm they believe will tell them the truth and focus on protecting them and their (the middle class Americans who pay for everyone else) interests.

Most of the Americans I’ve had the pleasure of knowing are great people. Maybe they just need a government worthy of them for a change.

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Daniel Bizier

Bingo! We are fed up with all the rotten politicians. lobbyist and special interest groups; it’s not so much that we like the person for shallow reasons as the article seems to suggest.

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NothingButNet

Trump is a Blowhard. Clinton is an elitist. Sanders would bankrupt the country. Cruz would take government standstill to a whole new level. That leaves Kasich. He has the best chance (and experience) to balance the Federal budget, so he gets my vote.

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Richard Parker

There is one reason why Trump is so popular with so many people in the US, our politicians are a disgrace. They lie, cheat, steal and kill and they do it over and over again. So, it’s no surprise the people are looking for another option, who wouldn’t? Most of our clown-like politicians would make Mao Tse-tung blush. The mess we have in Washington DC either gets cleaned up this time or it’s over. Period. Over.
https//waitforthedownfall.wordpress.com/oops-did-i-just say-that/

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dht

This is impressive! It make me want to believe there is still a chance for democracy to survive. Thanks to all who have taken the time to share their views.

I thought you might like to see a few quotes from some of our most well know politicians and statesmen over the ages (taken from “What Rulers Believe”. I can’t attest to their accuracy and confess I have assumed that part, but it does seem to give a rare glimpse into the true mind of those we accept as leaders of men…

Joseph Stalin
“Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed”

Mao Zedong
“The cult of xenophobia is the cheapest and surest method of obtaining from the masses the ignorant and savage patriotism, which puts the blame for every political folly or social misfortune upon the foreigner.”

Adolf Hitler
“Terrorism is the best political weapon, for nothing drives people harder than a fear of sudden death.”

“I have not come into this world to make men better, but to make use of their weaknesses.”

“What good fortune for those in power that people do not think.”

“[I]n the simplicity of their minds, [people] more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie… It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have such impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and continue to think that there may be some other explanation.”

Hermann Göring
“Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece… But… the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

Winston Churchill
“One may dislike Hitler’s system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.”

Vladimir Lenin
“Our power does not know liberty or justice. It is established on the destruction of the individual will.”

Napoleon Bonaparte
“Of all our institutions public education is the most important… we must be able to cast a whole generation in the same mold.”

Henry Kissinger
“The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.”

Charles de Gaulle
“In order to become the master, the politician poses as the servant.”

Benito Mussolini
“The Truth Apparent, apparent to everyone’s eyes who are not blinded by dogmatism, is that men are perhaps weary of Liberty. They have a surfeit of it… we have buried the putrid corpse of liberty … the Italian people are a race of sheep.”

and finally maybe someone willing to be ashamed of what we’ve allowed these other men to achieve at our expense…

Prince Phillip, duke of Edinburgh
“I must confess that I am tempted to ask for reincarnation as a particularly deadly virus.”

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ginger

I live in the USA and here. Trump is no more a Wild Card than the other O Bombs and Hill Liar that make money on greed and bribes. TRUMP HAS MORE BUSINESS SENCE than all of them. NO ONE liked REGAN an Actor when he was Running and did a lot of good. I rather a business man that has money than a one year Senator that is looking to make money. An WHO and WHY would anyone trust the Anonymous Campaign Slander. Who is paying them. AS far as Trump not liking women??????? Most all his worker/ women like him and said he has done right by them… Costa Rica for Trump. I am a business woman that appreciates his STRAIGHT tell you like it is, NOT what you want to hear with all the Puff and B.S. that they never can do. Hill Liar has been in the Government…WHY HAS SHE NOT MADE THE CHANGES SHE IS RANTING ABOUT NOW…???????????? MAKES YOU WONDER. TRUMP ALL THE WAY

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Ken Morris

The Trump issue aside, the thesis of this article rests upon the dubious and dangerous assumption of epistemological ignorance leading toward nihilism. This is the only place an argument which maintains that decisions are fundamentally irrational and impervious to rational rebuttal can lead. Essentially, the author tells us that facts and reason be damned, people will choose both their yogurt and presidential preferences based upon emotional criteria immune to any and all contrary evidence. Worse, he tells us that once people make these irrational choices, they stubbornly cling to them even more irrationally than they initially made them.

Obviously, this argument could be true. People may have no more capacity for reason than a mothball, be no more persuaded by evidence than a door knob, and be no readier to alter a mistaken decision than a bird that tries to escape from indoors by repeatedly flying into a closed window. However, if humanity really is this completely stupid, we all might as well give up. At minmum, we should definitely close the universities and stop all other research, since it’s plainly wasted money.

But of course, this argument can’t be true, or at least Trejos can’t believe it’s true. To advance the argument that humanity makes utterly irrational choices presupposes that the writer himself is capable of discriminating between rational and irrational choices, since it’s only by means of this capacity to discriminate that the writer could be aware that others are making irrational choices.

Thus, what we really have is an elitist argument. Some people, including Trejos, know the difference between rational and irrational choices, and can therefore make rational choices for themselves. Other people, here including Trump supporters and yogurt shoppers, however, don’t know the difference between rational and irrational choices, and they therefore make irrational choices.

This then puts Trejos and his fellow elitists in the self-appointed position of feeling empowered and entitled to manipulate the irrational masses.

Enter here the real danger: Trejos denies that reason and evidence are effective means to manipulate the masses. He therefore suggests making an end run around these nobler historical tactics of persuasion in favor of other tactics.

As such, Trejos is essentially proposing the marketer’s approach to public discourse, in which reason and evidence are ignored in favor of gimmicks that trick the gullible masses.

Many centuries ago the strategy proposed by Trejos was called sophistry, and many centuries ago that strategy was also known to be effective. Indeed, Aristotle included his discussion of emotions in his work on rhetoric, not in his work on psychology.

A few though then saw through the ruse and rejected it as immoral. The only moral course is to engage our fellow human beings on the grounds of reason and evidence, and to credit our opponents with these same capacities that we assume that we ourselves possess.

True, yogurt is now sold primarily by sophistry, and increasingly presidents are elected by the same method.

But we don’t have to stoop to this. If we don’t agree with Trump supporters, we owe them the respect to explain our disagreements to them on the assumption that they are every bit as capable as we are of reasoning and assessing evidence.

The alternative is a public life run by marketing elites who dumb it down just as surely as they dumb down yogurt sales.

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Ricky Racer

Yea well I have live in the states most of my life and seen the repetitive political corruption steadily increase. Trump is the wild card no doubt, but people like myself are tired of ex lawyers being elected as president. The U.S. Has been bought out by big corporations and now run by the elite. Yes trump has his own money and is himself a big corporation, only difference is in my opinion not working for the big elites like Soros, Rockefellers etc, but instead a rouge businessman that is not under the direct control of the puppet masters. Now let’s take Hillary, been bought out many years ago and as corrupt as they come. She should be in prison not running for president! Then we have Bernie, or feel the burn, all I can say is dreams of grandeur and doesn’t stand a chance with puppet masters pulling the strings. So really the only theat now is Trump keeping puppet masters working overtime throwing everything they got. So instead of all the dirt, FBI, CIA, etc, pending charges which should alone be enough to stop any possible candidate she is still running, explain that? But yet you have all the media including TIco Times trying to reason and justify why Trump has the following he commands instead of asking why Hillary is not behind bars. I’m not voting this year because of course there is no good choice like Ron Paul, but if I really felt the need it would go to Trump, a few bankruptcies and a not so complete foreign plan is no comparison to the trail of deaths and political corruption Hillary has left in her path, it’s a no brainier.

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ginger

AMEN, SHE has been in the government and what has she done??? NoW all this B.S. and promises… NOT… Trump all the way.

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ccdagp

True,
Let’s stop trying to convince people not to vote for Trump

Let them be known for they are easy prey.

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