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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Categories: Cognitive Psychology