Remember Achilles? He was the invincible Greek hero of the Trojan War whose only vulnerability was a tiny spot on his heel. One carefully placed arrow from Paris, the Prince of Troy, and Achilles was destroyed. According to a prominent Cognitive Scientist, Donald Trump’s secret vulnerability is that he has to be a winner. It’s the myth he rode to power, tapping into deep Conservative longings. Fortunately, we can exploit his Achilles’ heel to unravel him and his base of supporters.
Don’t let anyone forget, Trump is the loser who couldn’t even muster a majority.
George Lakoff is a Cognitive Linguist, that is, a scientist who studies how language interacts with and effects your brain.
He has written hundreds of newspaper articles, peer-reviewed research papers, and books on the subjects of “brain science” and language. For the last few decades, he has worked on how political messaging affects the brain, and why liberals and conservatives have such different views of the world.
Lakoff has been studying Donald Trump and his populist messaging for over a year. He just released a study on how Trump won the conservative vote, and how liberals and the media became unwitting accomplished in his improbable rise to power. He also shows how the majority of Americans, who did not elect him President, can use his tactics against him and his supporters.
The loser, for the majority of voters, will now be a minority president-elect. Don’t let anyone forget it. Keep referring to Trump as the minority president, Mr. Minority and the overall Loser. Constant repetition, with discussion in the media and over social media, questions the legitimacy of the minority president to ignore the values of the majority. The majority, at the very least, needs to keep its values in the public eye and view the minority president’s action through majority American values.
Conservatives flock to the strong father figure.
According to Lakoff, the metaphors of the “nation as a family” resonates deeply with Americans. It’s encoded in language like founding fathers, sending our sons and daughters to war, and homeland security. Where Liberals and Conservatives fundamentally differ the family we seek. Liberals seek a nurturing parent, and Conservatives idealize a strict father figure.
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…
When his children disobey, it is the strict father’s 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.
This family view also enforces a strict “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 non-Christians, Straights above Gays.”
How Liberals can use Trump against Trump.
Conservatives flocked to Trump, in short, because he promised to be that strict father to a wayward nation. “That is why those who voted for Trump didn’t care if he constantly lied, or if he treated women outrageously, or if he was ignorant of foreign policy,” Lakoff concludes. “What mattered was the voter’s moral identity, the voter’s sense of right and wrong, the voter’s self-respect as conservatives.”
If Trump thrives as a strong father figure, and Conservatives have placed all their hopes in that, then it won’t be very hard to dismantle the myth.
First, explains Lakoff, “there are certain things that strict fathers cannot be: A Loser, Corrupt, and especially not a Betrayer of Trust.”
Trump is all three.
Betrayer of trust: It’s already manifest. He has unrepentantly broken many of his most-repeated campaign promises. He has made no moves to reach out to progressive voters. And his proposal of a steroid-enhanced “trickle down economics” (which Republicans themselves proved never works) will spell inevitable doom for the millions of rural voters who are counting on his promises of wealth and prosperity.
Corrupt: Clearly. He won’t separate himself from his foreign and domestic business interests. His administration is being built on nepotism. We now know that his campaign team had regular, close communication with the Russian government.
Loser: Trump lost the popular vote by over 2 million votes. He is not the majority leader. He is the biggest lose ever in popular vote count. This has to be said, over and over and over again.
Of all three, it’s being called loser that gets Trump the most riled up and juvenile. Just look at the twitter storm he launched once serious calls were made for ballot recounts. Now imagine how much progressives and moderates – the majority of vote casters this election – could torment Trump by mercilessly referring to him as the loser. Humiliations galore.
What you can do.
As we said before, get the message into the media that Trump is the loser of this election. Say it mercilessly. But we have to stop keeping him in the spotlight by pointing out his flaws. That just galvanizes his base. Rather, says Lakoff, we have to highlight our “positive moral view” and show why the Progressive approach is better. To effectively fight for what is right,” he concludes, “you have to first say what is right and why.”
There’s more! Can we bring the rural voters back to the progressive movement?
Think about all the small rural towns that voted for the Trump myth. These aren’t places where everyone fends for themselves and gets punished into success. Everyone knows your name. They look out for their own. They lend helping hands to each other without blinking an eye. In other words, within their places, they follow the model of the nurturing family.
What will they do when Trump starts enacting his self-serving agenda? Jobs won’t flock to these towns. Infrastructure will pass them by. There will be no era of dynastic wealth. Millions will lose their health care. Salaries may fall because Trump believes salaries are actually too high. That will be the chance to unravel to myth that the strict father is best.
Lakoff urges Progressives to take to the internet, “framing American values accurately and systemically day after day, telling truths framed by American majority moral values — and appealing honestly and forthrightly to those…values in small towns across America. The idea that must be brought across is empathy.” He concludes “This is basic progressive thought: citizens care about citizens and provide public resources for all, maximizing freedom. It fits in-group nurturance. And it undermines — rather than negates — strict father morality.”
Featured image from youtube.com