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Why Trump?


Why Trump?

George Lakoff

Donald Trump is winning Republican presidential primaries at such a great rate that he seems likely to become the next Republican presidential nominee and perhaps the next president. Democrats have little understanding of why he is winning — and winning handily, and even many Republicans don't see him as a Republican and are trying to stop him, but don't know 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?


Why Trump? It's the stupidity, stupid.


Did you read Lakoff's article? He argues fairly convincingly that "stupidity" has little to do with it.


And I wholly disagree with that hypothesis.


Of course "the Democratic Party is not taking seriously many of the reasons for Trump's support and range of that support". Ever since the Clintons and others formed the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in 1985 the Party's sole mission has been to GET MORE CORPORATE MONEY THAN THE GOP. Therefore, the Party does not care who wins in November 2016 as long as the Democratic Party nominee is a corporate money magnet who can sustain the flow of corporate cash at least as well as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have.

To that end the Democratic Party's highest 2016 priority, perhaps its only priority is to derail anti-corporate Sanders and make sure corporate money magnet Clinton is nominated.


Sadly, a good part of the Democratic Party is surely more serious about stopping Sanders, whose policies diverge considerably more from those of Hillary Clinton than do those of Donald Trump.


Why Trump? Because the Republican party now has the front runner they deserve!


Lakoff had an idea once. It's a fairly stupid idea, but he's milked it for decades, dazzling folks who do not look behind the curtain that Toto is tugging at, and delighting those who do not want anyone to look behind that curtain.


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This is an interesting essay.

At first I thought it was going to be overly simplistic psychobabble but I think he has something here, especially as he extends his analysis into the frameworks of different folks who fall under the conservative label.

However, there is a lack of analysis here about why dems are so ineffective. I really don't doubt that Lakoff would be able to respond but they only give you so many inches to write. However, I still think it goes back to the way that Democrats have allowed themselves to be co-opted. When you embrace militarism (like Hillary and to a lesser extent, Bernie) you are embracing a strong father role and seeing America as the Strong Father to the WORLD.

There is a lot of pragmatism, especially where profitability is concerned. AND wealth, capitalism are the new religions in America.

For the most part, Democrats have taken the tact of, "IF you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

Democrats have lost their ability to credibly and effectively "push back".


"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."

And therein lies the poverty of Lakoff's political analysis.

This whole piece boils down to this: conservative people are dumb and authoritarian. Progressive people are less dumb and less authoritarian.

There's maybe some truth to that. What Lakoff fails to realize is that the Democratic Party is only slightly less dumb and less authoritarian than the Republican Party.

Lakoff suffers from the Academentia, an unfortunately common mental disorder prevalent among the institutionalized intellectuals of the world, in which they perceive all phenomena as manifestations of that thing which they wrote their dissertation about.

Lakoff writes about metaphors, and so sees everything in terms of metaphors. Which is why he never seems to mention class, and considers himself a progressive while maintaining a comfortable position as one of the few, the wealthy, the elite. A democratic party courtier.

Everything comes down to different conceptions of family, apparently. Okay. And where do those conceptions of family come from? What generates those? Is it the social structures? Well now we have a circle. It doesn't take 5000 words to say that conservatism is authoritarian and progressivism isn't.


I don't agree with a lot of it (delivered with Lakoffs usual annoying intellectual arrogance). but to dismiss the phenomenon of fascism as just "stupidity" is wrong and dangerous.


Lakoff is telling a story here. What story is he decidedly NOT telling?

Where does "capital" reside in Lakoff's gestalt of US politics? Where do "capitalists" reside? Do they have any effect on the themes, memes, process?

For example: Did capital influence the shift of the Democratic Party from the party of the New Deal and the Great Society, to the party of selling out fundamental principles for corporate billions?

Or has the Democratic Party simply failed to grasp the power of narrative, and the importance of understanding the resonance of the strong father figure and the nurturing parent figure?

And importantly for Lakoff: Who will pay Lakoff, based on which story he tells?


Oh, how the discredited, barely-breathing, obviously useless and corrupt Democratic Party would love to have Trump as President!

Think of all the bloviating they could do about how moral and tolerant and wonderful they are compared to that beast Trump, as they shovel corporate cash into their designer duffel bags.

Trump is doing a great job of wrecking the GOP, now if only someone would get up on the Democratic side of the stage and tell the truth too: that the Democratic Party is a nothing more than a corrupt racket!


I vehemently disagree. There is a lot of wisdom to this idea of enculturation to a filial worldview centered upon the strict father/authoritarian family model.

I live in the Deep South and experience this mentality on a daily basis. And no amount of logic, statistical data, or reasoning can change this view.

Sometimes it seems that the forum's regulars are here just to throw pot shots at authors and demean the value of their commentary. It also begs the question whether posters have read the thesis through... or just are tossing aspersions to ensure that others don't read the material.

I think the categories that Mr, Lakoff explores could be divided further with an appreciation for greater nuance; but essentially, the 3 primary "species of Conservative" argument holds merit and explains how people can hold antithetical beliefs (pro guns/anti-abortion, or pro-war and anti-govt. "programs").

Whether Mr. Lakoff has "milked an idea" or rather, sought to broaden the lay person's knowledge of how brain "frames" operate is based on what readers gain from his expertise and scholarship.

YOU are acting like a Conservative in the way you demean and dismiss his arguments.


Today, CNN featured Romney's best efforts at discrediting Trump. He's seen as a dangerous outlier to the Republican machinery.

Bernie Sanders, likewise, is the outlier to the Democratic party. That's why he self-identified as an Independent for most of his career.

I think "your frame" is off in how you ask your perhaps rhetorical question.

The Democrats of the DLC have basically taken over former Republican positions because THAT is where the Big Money is. Period. So long as Big Money runs the show--and that is a systemic problem (and Mr. Lakoff gave that aspect brief mention)--it will reward those who work for IT. That means--the corporations or 1%.

So it's not that Dems are ineffective. It's that Democrats as many in this forum have pointed out, have assumed formerly Republican pro-business and pro-war stances.

But then Sanders is digging his heels in--and Alan Grayson and Elizabeth Warren are doing likewise--to push back against the right wing pro business agenda that's become the political norm of both established parties.

Since they are Democrats and their message resonates (given how quickly Bernie Sanders' message has caught on and gained amazing tread given the way he's been marginalized the whole way), obviously the issue is which PART of the Democratic Party gets to define the agenda.

And while Trump, as a member of the 1% is not likely to help the average working man or woman, he gives the appearance of being against Party Politics (for the 1%) as usual. And so does Sanders.

What I'm saying is that the influence of lobbyists and the costs of campaigns give Big Money disproportionate sway over actual candidates and their policies/positions.

To turn around and judge the parties on the basis of this patronage and ask what the parties are doing "wrong," is not really the question. The few Democrats who have not embraced wholly pro-business positions hold the set of values that most Democrats identify with.

Hillary Clinton's party machine essentially subducted the Black Vote in the south. That is not the same thing as a fair fight; nor does it define what most citizens want.


Lakoff mentions the powerful voting bloc of Christian Evangelicals and their racist, sexist worldview.

Since very few people who comment in this forum understand or give a shit about the erosion of the church-state wall, and the degree to which Evangelical Christians are chipping away at women's rights and public schools... I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Lakoff's accurate depiction of this demographic (angy white guys who want to feel superior to other races... and women) is what really triggered the litany of anguished critiques of the man and his essay.

It's as if the inner Conservative that exists in so many white guys is easily roused... but they talk a good game about class and/or the class war. They don't seem to care much about the actual rights or fates of persons other than those like themselves.


A bit too neat, but worth rumination


Siouxrose, the strict father/authoritarian model is not a world view; i.e., it is not a social construction that males invented to suppress females. Are you aware of the Milgram studies? What Milgram found is that people who would reject sadism will actually act sadistically when ordered to do so by an authority figure. Hence, the Nazis at Nuremberg were simply stating a truth about humans when they said that they were just following orders. So also was Tennyson when he wrote: "Theirs not to reason why. Theirs but to do and die."

Evolutionary psychologists hold the view that we evolved to obey authority figures. The argument is this: humans require a long period of learning. Therefore, a child who obeys an adult without question who tells her not to touch that poisonous snake is more likely to survive and reproduce (thus passing on the genes that produce the behavior to unquestioningly follow orders) than is a child who learns by trial and error. (Of course, this hypothesis is not falsifiable; so it can be questioned because it is not a scientific fact. Stephen Gould calls the hypotheses produced by evolutionary psychologists "just-so stories").

Hunter-gatherer societies do not subjugate women because both men and women contribute to the food supply. But with the invention of agriculture, male patriarchs (who control the land necessary to produce food) became dominant in the culture (women stopped being providers of food and became brood mares to increase the population by becoming pregnant). And Gods were invented as the ultimate authority figure. This is why ancient moral codes were obtained from a god (Moses got the Ten Commandments from Yahweh in the form of a burning bush) and the people better not disobey the law or Yahweh will whack them.

The Trump phenomenon is nothing more that what happened when Archie Bunker was on TV. Old Archie made politically incorrect statements and people who agreed with Archie didn't like the fact that elitists think they are not politically correct would put bumper stickers on their cars: "Archie Bunker for President."

The problem with cognitive psychologists is that there is no more reason to believe what they have to say about the brain than there is to believe what evolutionary psychologists have to say about human behavior. The problem with psychology is B. F. Skinner, who thought that once psychologists know enough about how the human brain works, they will be able to predict how humans will behave just like astronomers can predict when another eclipse of the sun will happen.

However, astronomers can predict the motion of objects in the sky because the universe is governed by Newtonian physics. Human behavior, however, is almost certainly a chaotic (nonlinear) system like the weather that is governed by the butterfly effect (the flapping of the wings of a butterfly in the Amazon can cause a hurricane in the Atlantic). It is impossible to predict the weather more than a few weeks into the future. A few weeks after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, all the sophisticated mathematical models of the National Weather Service predicted Hurricane Rita would destroy Houston. Do you remember Rita?

Psychologists will never be able to predict human behavior anymore than the weather person can predict the weather. Meteorologists admit this (they discovered chaos theory), and psychologists continue to think they can do something that is impossible.


Lakoff's frame completely elides the role of the entrenched power of capital. He lays the entire situation to political party manipulation of our primitive brains, and he counsels the Democratic Party about how to better play our unconscious.

As i've asserted repeatedly here - (on many issues) - it is neither one nor the other, but both / and:

  • We humans are entirely susceptible to crass manipulation of our complex multi-layered consciousness;

  • Centers of power act in every element of society the economy and the polity, to extend and secure their power, and to expand their claim on wealth.

Lakoff encourages us to focus on the first bullet point, specifically through the lens he has developed. Taking Lakoff's analysis and prescription, eroding the rampant power of the rampantly powerful is to be achieved by rolling out a better political party marketing campaign, embodying a specific psychological counter-narrative.

However much you might appreciate aspects of Lakoff's frame - (he barely scratches the surface in terms of understanding or countering patriarchy) - Lakoff elides the role that capital and capitalists play in the evolution of the US political economy, and in the evolution of the two major political parties' marketing campaigns.

He does so quite explicitly in the service of the Democratic Party. Lakoff's work is an ongoing service to those in the Democratic Party who sold the party to the corporate sector, and those who now manage the party on behalf of those corporations.