Publisher’s Corner: Does the ‘Persuader’ Have Our Best Interest In Mind?

Legislative Gazette file photo by Kelly Fay.

In the end, it is a matter of priorities.

Right now, our top priority is understanding why Donald Trump is sucking up all the oxygen in the room. People either can’t stand the guy, and I count myself in that group, or they adore him. I truly can’t understand what it is about Trump that people love and I find it extraordinary that the man actually got himself elected to the top political job in this country. The fact that Trump was elected President of the United States indicates to me that there are a lot suckers in our population.

In my opinion, the guy is a big bully and has relied on that status to further himself in the political kingdom. But there is something about Trump that makes a vocal part of the population favor the guy, elevating him to a cult hero. Maybe it’s his bluster and/or blather. Maybe they are secretly afraid of him. Maybe it’s because he says out loud the things they have been thinking. Maybe they see him as “rich and famous” and wish they were, too. I suspect we have all experienced Donald Trump-like people in our lives. They push people around and they make demands that can’t always be met. That success, or lack of it, makes others wrongly respectful of their abilities.

You can look all the way back to your school days to remember who got themselves elected class president and how they did it. In some cases, it was pure bullying or bravado. In some cases, it was a sort of canny brain power that allowed them to arrange facts and persuasive arguments in such a way that the other kids tended to go along with them and their quest for power. They did so because too often, we admire those who can persuade others as they bully their way to the top.

Surely, you remember all those class elections where someone did whatever was necessary to prevail. One way was to gather as many potential voters on their side as they could – even if they resorted to pure bribery to get the majority of votes. There are many tactics our persuaders employ to get us to go along. Right now, we see Donald Trump using pretty much all of them to win, since they have worked for him all his life. I would venture he wins because he knows how the game being played. But our politics are filled with fallacious techniques that we think will work but turn out to have the exact opposite effect.

We know that these techniques are inherent in all elections as in, “Vote for me and I’ll make sure that you are well rewarded.” Donald Trump is the uncontested master of that game. Among all the other persuasive techniques we have been exposed to is the ability to persuade us that it is in our own interest to do what the “persuader” wants us to do. Regrettably, all too often it turns out that what we thought might be in our interest, was not. How many of us have done things that were not in our own best interest and lived to regret it?

What is it in our psyches that makes for these miscalculations on our parts? Some of it comes from our childhood, when siblings or classmates dared us to do things that were really not in our interest. Sometimes we get bullied and live to regret it. Most of all, we are an amalgam of our experiences and we have every reason to examine our lives and to look at the junctures at which we have gone wrong. That’s not always the easiest thing to do in life.