The “Likable” Drumpf?

At the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Comedy Central’s Larry Wilmore told some good jokes and some bad jokes, but he got at some real truth when he said this:

…whenever I turn to the TV, I see Trump’s family campaigning for him, gushing all over him. Or as it’s also known as, “Morning Joe.”

Have you seen “Morning Joe”? C’mon, guys, seriously. No, you know it’s true. Guys, “Morning Joe” has their head so far up Trump’s ass they bumped into Chris Christie. You know that’s true. You know I’m not lying. You know that’s true.

Nobody on MSNBC’s Morning Joe had a thing to say about it today. Why? I guess because it’s the awful truth and there isn’t any point in disputing it.

This morning the show actually validated Wilmore’s claim, dancing even deeper into Drumpf’s crowded colon, where not only Chris Christie lives, but so too does other human polyps like player-assaulting Coach Bobby Knight, convicted rapist Mike Tyson, and unrepentant birther and racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski and many of the other regulars on Morning Joe, which is actually transmitted from Drumpf’s poop chute, are in good company.

In any case, I will only share with you one comment by a Morning Joe panelist this morning. Elise Jordan, who is now a political analyst for MSNBC, but who worked in the Bush II administration and recently was a foreign policy aide to Rand Paul’s presidential campaign, was part of a discussion on how irritating Ted Cruz is—everyone on Morning Joe hates Ted Cruz. Using that as her springboard, Jordan said the following:

I think for Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz is a much better contender to go up against her, from the Democratic perspective, just because he wears so thin so quickly. And Donald Trump, you just don’t know what you’re gonna get out of him. And he’s got a likability factor—yes, he has huge unfavorables and, yes, he offends basically every women [sic], but there’s something kinda likable about the guy even as he’s being kind of terrible.

elise jordan.jpgWhere does one start dissecting that stunningly strange analysis? How about with a kind word to Ms. Jordan: You got it right that Cruz would be easier for Hillary to run against. But you got it wrong as to why. It has very little to do with his wearing thin on people. It has a lot to do with the fact that the guy is a religious zealot who abhors compromise and has no sense of where the country is on any of the social issues, not to mention his tax plan would reward the wealthy and hurt the poor, while starving the country of revenues to the tune of nearly $9 trillion over ten years.

But since Cruz is the longest of long shots to win anyway, it ain’t worth discussing him. What is worth discussing it the idea advanced by Jordan that Drumpf’s competitive strength is “you just don’t know what you’re gonna get out of him.”  First of all, we have a good idea of what we’re going to get out of him: more of the same we’ve been getting for months now. Childish insults and incoherent policies—including his own ridiculous tax and tariff policy that would harm ordinary folks—and “two” Corinthians and Tan-ZANE-i-a. He ain’t gonna change that stuff because he can’t change that stuff.

But I’ll grant that there will be some real unpredictability with Drumpf. Why? Because he’s a brilliant strategist? No. Because he’s unstable. His unpredictability is a product of his instability. Period. The man is unhinged, when it comes to the world of facts. He has a love affair with lies. His intellectual boat doesn’t have an anchor. It drifts with the flow of the moment. So, in that sense, there is some, and some dangerous, unpredictability associated with him. But Mrs. Clinton can respond to it by making sure people know that his unpredictability is a sign—a warning—that there is something seriously wrong with the guy’s approach to and understanding of the way the world works, if not something wrong with his mind. The presidency isn’t an office where instability-driven unpredictability is a virtue. At least it shouldn’t be.

In light of that, let’s look at the rest of what Elise Jordan said, something so strange about Drumpf that it bears repeating:

And he’s got a likability factor—yes, he has huge unfavorables and, yes, he offends basically every women [sic], but there’s something kinda likable about the guy even as he’s being kind of terrible.

What do we make of this? It came from a female analyst, one with much experience in the world of policy and politics. Is this something only a female analyst could say about a male candidate? Is this an example of the bad boy syndrome? I ain’t going there. But where I will go is to a New York Times article from 2012.

Richard Friedman is professor of clinical psychiatry. He wrote a piece for the Times titled, “I Heart Unpredictable Love.” It’s an interesting read. Dr. Friedman discussed why people are attracted to “unpredictable romantic partners,” but it has application to what Elise Jordan said about Donald Drumpf, who has a weird romance going with no small number of voters.

Friedman focused on a study done using brain scans that attempted to measure what happens to the brain “when people are given rewards under two different conditions: predicted and unpredicted.” Results indicated there is a “greater activation in the brain’s reward circuit when the reward was unanticipated than when it was delivered in a predictable fashion.” More dopamine—an organic chemical that helps regulate the brain’s reward and pleasure centers—is released when receiving unpredictable rewards than predictable ones, said Dr. Friedman. And he also said:

If you are involved with someone who is unpredictably loving, you might not like it very much — but your reward circuit is sure going to notice the capricious behavior and give you information that might conflict with what you believe consciously is in your best interest.

Does this explain why people, people who should know better, are tempted by Drumpf? Does it explain Elise Jordan’s jaw-dropping remark about Drumpf this morning? Before you are tempted to call me a sexist for implying that her remark is related to her femininity, note that the study Friedman cited, on what happens in the brain regarding unpredictable-predictable rewards, included both women and men. It is clear enough that there are plenty of men who are attracted to Drumpf’s bad boy image and his “you just don’t know what you’re gonna get out of him” unpredictability. Just watch the men react to him both inside and outside of his rallies.

All of this may be loosely connected to another phenomenon that may or may not be something Democrats have to worry about in the upcoming Clinton-Drumpf brawl. It’s called “social desirability bias,” a concept from social psychology that has applicability to the polling numbers we’re all bombarded with every day. The idea is that the results of a poll are dependent on whether a respondent is surveyed online or is asked questions by a live interviewer on the phone. It turns out that it makes a difference in Drumpf’s numbers. From The New York Times last November:

Ever since Mr. Trump rose in the polls, he has fared best in the online ones — sometimes by as much as 10 points better than live-interview telephone surveys conducted over the same period.

There are a number of possible explanations for Mr. Trump’s strength in online polling, which was first noted by Jonathan Robinson, an analyst for Catalist, a data firm associated with the Democratic Party.

One is that voters are likelier to acknowledge their support for Mr. Trump in an anonymous online survey than in an interview with a real person. Plenty of research suggests that the social acceptability of an opinion shapes the willingness of poll respondents to divulge it, and it’s imaginable that voters would be reluctant to acknowledge support for a controversial figure like Mr. Trump.

As Vox points out about his phenomenon,

In the case of Trump…social desirability bias appears alive and well. It seems even Trump’s supporters understand that favoring him is not entirely socially acceptable. But that doesn’t diminish their backing — that Trump is loathed by political elites is part of his appeal.

Elise Jordan, a Republican, may have simply said something out loud this morning that other Republicans, men and women, may only say to themselves or behind closed doors. For them, especially since it appears Drumpf will be their nominee, there is obviously something “likable about the guy even as he’s being kind of terrible.” What these people find likable is beyond my ability to understand. But what they find terrible, and obviously tempting because it is so terrible, is plain to see.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: