Much energy and effort has been spent, not least by me, in trying to understand the Donald Trump phenomenon, what he stands for and why so many people are attracted to him. You would think that all possible theories would have been exhausted by now but I came across this article by Bobby Azarian, a cognitive neuroscientist at George Mason University, that sheds a possible new light on his motivations and methods.
Azarian suggests that Trump only pretends to hold his current views and his old, more liberal views are the clue to his strategy.
There is no doubt that the old Donald Trump sounds like a run-of-the-mill liberal. He was even registered as a Democrat in 2001 and remained that way for years. It’s really hard to imagine that someone like Trump, who is so utterly confident in everything he says and does, would do a complete 180 on such major issues. So if we are to assume that he hasn’t truly changed his beliefs in such a drastic manner, why might he be pretending that he did?
One thing we know about Donald Trump is that he loves to win. He does not at all try to hide this fact either. Trump was probably smart enough to know that if he wanted to have any sort of serious shot at becoming president in a short amount of time, he wouldn’t be able to do it as a democrat. This is because the average democrat tends to be well educated, and their judgment—relatively speaking at least—is based on rationality and reason. Conservatives, on the other hand, take pride in the fact that they often act according to gut instinct, and not measured, logical reasoning. And since their ideology is fundamentally opposed to change of any type, they live in a constant state of fear, which makes them easier to be manipulated. Trump likely knew that if he had any chance of becoming a party’s nominee, it would have to be as a republican. He could get conservatives riled up with emotionally charged rhetoric that played to some of their biggest fears.
Another possible reason why Trump has made such unapologetically bigoted statements could be because they are outrageous enough to take the focus away from his liberal past. His strategy may have been to come out as so right wing that his previous left-leaning positions would not become the main story, and that certainly seems to be pretty much what has happened. To most Americans, Trump is the guy who wants to ban Muslims and keep out immigrants—not the man who used to be pro-choice and a vocal supporter of the Clintons.
Azarian is not the first to suggest that Trump is just pretending to hold many of the views he has been expressing on the campaign trail. But he seems to have put in a lot of thought into the reasons why Trump might be doing this. Is Azarian correct? Is Trump really that shrewd to consciously pull off such a scheme? Who knows? But I thought the article was interesting enough to pass on.