Cognitive Psychology

Lincoln Project’s Sucker Ad, Cognitive Dissonance, and Reason for Hope


Recently, I was listening to some of the talking heads that appear so frequently in our media. I think this one came to me by way of a PODCAST of a cable “news” show. Anywho. Rick Wilson — I know, politics, bedfellows and all that, but I can neither achieve nor sustain with the heir to Lee Atwater, if you know what I mean — one of the founders of the Lincoln Project, was on talking about their new ad, Sucker.

Here’s the ad for you to not watch, except for that one visitor, because buffering or whatever.

The ad explains to MAGA that Trump et al. are just playing them for suckers. They are taking their donations and living lavish lifestyles off of it and not spending it on what they promised.

Wilson was asked why they made the ad and what they thought it would accomplish. He explained that Steve Bannon, the hobo of podcasters, once remarked that if they lost just two or three percent of their support, they couldn’t win. At least, I think it was Steve Bannon.

Anywho, that’s what the Lincoln Project is designed to do: peel off just enough of the base so that Trump and other authoritarian hucksters can’t win. On the one hand, it don’t sound too ambitious to be going after such a small number of people, but, on the other, it seems pretty ambitious to be trying to stop Trump et al. We’ll see how long MAGA and the Lincoln Project lasts after Trump exits stage prison cell.

Cognitive Dissonance Says, It Don’t Work Like That!

Here’s the point of the post: Unfortunately, this ad probably ain’t going to work because cognitive dissonance. From the fairy godmother of cognitive dissonance himself, Leon Festinger, we get:

A man [sic] with conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.

Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter, When Prophecy Fails

To break through a person’s cognitive dissonance, you need to get their attention. This ad probably won’t get the attention of the MAGA voter.

  • SUCKERS: You’re calling your audience suckers. The people you are trying to reach, aren’t going to be happy about it. The overall tone of the ad is insulting to the very group it is trying to reach. It dovetails with one of the complaints that the rural conservative Christian white citizens have had against liberals for years, we condescend to them. I can’t see how very many of them would do anything besides just tune this one out.
  • COGNITIVE DISSONANCE: Once someone is caught up in an organization or other system that requires them to act in ways contrary to their beliefs, they have to do something to help diminish the cognitive dissonance the contradiction creates. Those coping mechanisms follow a predictable path:
    • Revise history: If your behaviors and your beliefs clash, just lie to yourself. Tell yourself that you never believed in anything other than what you’re doing right now. Easy peasy.
    • Out with the old, in with the new: If the old beliefs aren’t getting the job done any more, just get new beliefs! They hardly even realize that’s what they’re doing. This one is closely related to follow-the-leader politics. Why do you think so many “Christians” are behaving so unChristian? And, why pointing to the Sermon on the Mount as the guide for Christian behavior just has no effect.
    • Those aren’t the droids you’re looking for: Anything that contradicts what you’re doing and saying right now, just ain’t important. Motivated reasoning, information avoidance, and confirmation bias all help us convince ourselves that Trump is the very model of a modern stable genius and whatever he’s spending grandmas SSDI check on, is a-okay.
  • DOUBLE DOWN: Far too often, when whatever belief or organization that someone is gaslighting themselves into supporting — And isn’t that all cognitive dissonance is? Gaslighting yourself? — is disproven beyond any possibility of doubt, the true believer just doubles down. Look at Judge Cannon Fodder and the Trump secret document horde fiasco. Did she really put into her response that, sure the Executive Branch has declared and marked these documents as secret, but she isn’t quite convinced that makes them national secrets. She’ll wait to see what the special master has to say about it. WTAF? If that isn’t doubling down on some cognitive dissonance, I don’t know what is.
  • SOCIAL SUPPORT: We base our interpretation of the world on what those around us believe. Nowadays, this includes the legacy news media, cable and talk radio media, social media, all the medias, right? So, if everyone around you says that the short line is the same length as the long one, who are you to disagree, right? If everyone around you is sending the social security check that you’re still collecting for your long dead grandma to Tump’s super pac every month, who would you be if you didn’t, too?

While the goal of the Lincoln Project is to try to dissuade the MAGA hangers on — the MAGA lite crowd, if you will — to not vote for Trump, I guess this ad might succeed, but I just don’t have a lot of faith in it. It will, however, succeed in getting a lot of likes and shares on liberal social media and probably result in donations because pwn MAGA, right?

The Anti-Fascist Coalition: Real Reasons for Hope

If we’re not going to convince MAGA to turn on Trump and his fascist successors, what can we do to preserve our democracy and beat the forces of authoritarianism back? We can remember the coalition that brought us Biden and the Congress in 2020 and the House in 2018. That was the coalition of the anti-Trumpers. In 2020, there were 84 million people who didn’t vote for Trump. Those people are still out there. In 2018, Democrats won the House popular vote by 8.6%.

Democrats can’t be distracted by the Republican grift that the Lincoln Project is. Giving money to them is just flushing it into Republican hands so they can be the successors to the fascists. They still want everything Ronald Reagan, Poppy, Dubya, and Dick Cheney ever wanted. Politics may make strange bedfellows, but those bedfellows are just a one night stand, and this on will give us the pox if we aren’t careful.

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Image Attribution

1948 Lincoln Continental Convertible” by Collector Car Ads is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

19 replies »

    • I don’t know. People feel a lot of shame around being fooled like this. There are those that react with extreme anger. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone takes a shot at the old man because of it, though.

      Remember, these are the same people who died of #COVID19 claiming it was a hoax and cursing the nurses for not curing them.

      Huzzah!
      Jack

      Like

  1. Thank you! You give a great and important reminder. There are races all over the country who could use a few coins, but the Lincoln Project doesn’t need our money.

    Also thank you for the earworm-I can always listen to a bit or more from “Pirates” https://www.iwin.com/online-games . It’s even still Talk Like a Pirate Day here!

    Not to detract from your message. Music hath charms!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, my, no. I thought I caught that and fixed it. I play MahJongg there for free and no gambling on that site; I missed the address line when I copied the page I wanted to share. I saw that, so I went and got the link I wanted, but apparently didn’t replace this one on the clipboard and didn’t catch this. Aaggghh, because I do not recall this morning what and where that is.

        I’m very sorry I did that, and will be extra careful now, especially when it’s basically bedtime. I hope the games page didn’t mess with your puter.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Howdy Ali!

          No problem. Since the spam filter didn’t flag it, I figured it was okay. I thought it might be something like that, but wanted to be sure. I’m glad it was nothing more than a human problem on your end. Nowadays, you can’t be too careful with these things.

          The “very model of a modern major general” was the most obvious and funniest pun to make about the stable genius claims, I always thought. I even did a post on it. Might have even used that very same clip.

          Huzzah!
          Jack

          Liked by 1 person

  2. One of the hardest things to convince anybody of is that they have been fooled. If there is any real hope (however slim) of convincing the MAGAs that Trump and Co. MIGHT have scammed them, it will be by way of numerous prosecutions and civil damages awards for the whole criminal gang.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The tendency to double down and get mad at those who point out the scam is pretty universal. Given the minority influence guidelines, when a popular politician like DeSantis turns on him and renounces fascism and authoritarianism, it will force MAGA to choose. And, given follow the leader bias, it will cause a substantial number of them to fall in line and change their beliefs.

      Jack

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m trying to picture DeSantis renouncing fascism and authoritarianism. It is rather difficult, definitely much more difficult that picturing him turning on Trump if Trump looks weakened, like a shark smelling blood in the water.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I don’t think any of the crop now vying for office could be the one to turn on fascism and authoritarianism. They’ve gone for hook, line, and sinker. It’s funny how no one who is not steeped in the Big Lie and toeing the Trump-MAGA line is popular in conservative politics. All the anti-Trumpers are small timers or they’ve shut their traps. The one or two office holders who are anti-Trumpers do so quietly. I’m thinking of Maryland governor, Larry Hogan, and Massachusetts governor, Charlie Baker. There’s not a single conservative personality or politician who could lead that kind of renaissance.

          Jack

          Liked by 1 person

          • The ambitious conservatives do appear to have decided that they can’t win without the MAGAs, and are all trying to top each other with over the top rhetoric and stunts, trying to out Trump Trump (a very hard thing to do). The GOP Presidential Primaries in ’24 is already looking like a no-holds-barred food fight in a burning dumpster.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Howdy Bob!

              Trump has put the Republicans and conservatives in a difficult position. Without MAGA support, they cannot win, but to get MAGA support they have to support anti-democratic policies, conspiracy theories, and culture war issues that they don’t really want. Those who can’t stomach it, drop out, attracting MAGA candidates.

              Conservatism no longer is about small government, low taxes, and supporting business and market “solutions.” Now, it is all about religious extremism, minority rule, and white grievance.

              It gets even worse, though. When Trump is on the ballot either literally or figuratively, the base turns out and Trump has delivered new voters and occasional voters. Even though he has increased Republican turn out, it isn’t enough to defeat the anti-Trump.

              There is not enough support for an old school conservative party among conservative and independent voters. Without MAGA voters, they don’t have a prayer. They need gerrymandering, voter suppression, and MAGA to win. The only way to do that is to become the party of fascism.

              Trump has succeeded in opening the door to authoritarian personalities who want to be the next Viktor Orban or even Vladimir Putin. Trump really has been the wrecking ball of our democracy. The oversight system that is prosecuting and investigating him now, will be dismantled should the Republicans ever get another Congressional majority and take the Executive Branch. It will clear the way for a successor to create the single-party, pseudo-democratic, minoirity-rule autocracy that they openly crave.

              Huzzah!
              Jack

              Liked by 1 person

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