Donald Trump now rounds out his first term. He is sliding into home plate before a stadium of transfixed fans and foes. None are confident that he will be scored safe ... or out. To heighten the melodrama, Trump has called into question the integrity of the ump, positing that if he is called out it will be a travesty of justice. Perhaps one that he will not accept.
One thing is certain. Trump consistently manages to baffle both his friends and foes. White House advisor Jared Kushner, among those who know Trump best, passed the code book for decrypting Trump to Bob Woodward, four texts required to make sense of Trump. The most important one is cultural critic Scott Adams's "Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don't Matter."
Whether we wish to treat Trump's first term as a teachable moment or whether we will need to equip ourselves to deal with a second (and, if the increasing likelihood of a Don, Jr. run in 2024 manifests, perhaps a third and a fourth) term it is valuable to crack the Trump code. Let's begin.
Scott Adams was one of very few public intellectuals to have predicted Trump's victory way back when 538 scored a Trump win at 2%. I noted with respect Adams's prediction at Forbes.com in 2015 and at Fortune.com in 2020. Adams and I have an unfair advantage.
We're both professionally trained hypnotists, me accredited by the National Guild of Hypnotists, the oldest, largest and most respected professional association of nonclinical hypnotists. What is hypnosis? To simplify per the late Stanford professor Ernest Hilgard simply "believed-in imagination."
I have the additional unfair advantage of having myself served as a White House official, under Reagan, and having worked intimately and successfully, for or with, executive branch agencies and the Congress. Given that in 1763 George Washington almost bankrupted himself by investing in a venture to drain the Great Dismal Swamp, Adams might consider my long-term immersion in the Swamp a disadvantage. I myself prefer to consider myself a swamp fox than a swamp rat.
In March 2016, Michael Cavna writing at The Washington Post distilled to six the persuasion techniques that really should go down in history as the Adams Principles. These are the factors that Trump used to win and to dominate.
As a side note, let's consider Trump's eerie resemblance to Rufus T. Firefly, the leader of Freedonia in Duck Soup. ("Rufus T. Firefly: You're a brave man. Go and break through the lines. And remember, while you're out there risking your life and limb through shot and shell, we'll be in be in here thinking what a sucker you are.")
So, thanks to Scott Adams, we can watch these principles at work in the endgame to the 2020 election (and, possibly, beyond). The Adams Principles?
1. Trump knows people are basically irrational.
2. Knowing that people are irrational, Trump aims to appeal on an emotional level.
3. By running on emotion, facts don't matter.
4. If facts don't matter, you can't really be "wrong."
5. With fewer facts in play, it's easier to bend reality.
6. To bend reality, Trump is a master of identity politics — and identity is the strongest persuader.
Want more? Adams, now blogging and tweeting at ScottAdamsSays, keeps up a running commentary. I have argued that Trump's profound hypnotic powers, initially beneficial to him, have frequently overflowed to the point where he hypnotizes himself to his catastrophic detriment.
Adams took my point, wittily tweeting in rejoinder that "I never rule out the possibility I am the one hallucinating. But let's see who predicts the best." My purpose was not to dispute Scott Adams but to ponder whether Adams has taken his own thesis, as to Trump's hypnotic prowess, to its logical conclusion.
Trump drives the left apoplectic by his proficient and consistent use of "the Adams Principles." Thus, in watching the televised conclusion to this episode in political history let's consider one final, delicious, irony.
Trump did not invent the rhetorical principles he employs. And Adams simply codifies them. One of the most significant pioneers in promoting the principle that "facts don't matter" surely is left-wing icon Jacques Derrida, founder of deconstructionism.
Per the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "In his final works on sovereignty, in particular, Rogues (2003), Derrida shows that the law always contains the possibility of suspension, which means that even the most democratic of nations (the United States for example) resembles a 'rogue state' or perhaps is the most 'roguish' of all states."
So to my many progressive frenemies may I say? What goes around comes around.
And to add insult to irony …
even Derrida had a precursor.
Rufus T. Firefly.
Hail, hail Freedonia!
Ralph Benko, co-author of "The Capitalist Manifesto" and chairman and co-founder of "The Capitalist League," is the founder of The Prosperity Caucus and is an original Kemp-era member of the Supply Side revolution that propelled the Dow from 814 to its current heights and world GDP from $11T to $88T. He served as a deputy general counsel in the Reagan White House, has worked closely with the Congress and two cabinet agencies, and has published over a million words on politics and policy in the mainstream media, as a distinguished professional blogger, and as the author of the internationally award-winning cult classic book "The Websters' Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World." He has served as senior adviser, economics, to APIA as an advocate of the gold standard, senior counselor to the Chamber of Digital Commerce and serves as co-founder of and senior counselor to Frax.finance, a stablecoin venture. Read Ralph Benko's reports — More Here.
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