Friday, January 27, 2017

Trump's lies and inability to acknowledge widely agreed upon facts that don't flatter his ego- Why we should be concerned

Guest post by Yehoshua

Sorry for the speech, but...

Many here have poo-poo’d Trump’s habit of stating falsehoods with a claim along the lines of “all politicians lie.” I would like to explain why the issue is a qualitatively different one here than with past presidents.

Let us contrast Trump’s reaction to two different claims: One, that the Russians interfered in the election on his behalf, and two, that there was overwhelming voter fraud in the election. With regard to the first claim, there is a fair amount of evidence that it is true. The intelligence agencies all agree that Russia did interfere in the elections, with the hacking and release of the DNC emails, as well as in other ways. There does seem to be some level of disagreement as to what degree of confidence there is that the interference was specifically to get Trump elected, rather than just undermining public confidence in democracy in general. Yet, even with regard to the unanimously agreed-upon assessment that Russia did intervene, Trump repeatedly refused to accept it as true. He famously said, several times, that it could have been China, or, as he said on another occasion, “some 400 pound guy in his parents’ basement” (forgive me if the quote is not exact.

Concerning the voter fraud claims, there is, in short, absolutely no evidence that there was any large-scale fraud in the election of 2016. There was a Pew report from years past showing that there is a lack of modernization of the voter rolls, which lead to deceased people not being purged as soon as they should be, or people being registered in two different states (Trump’s daughter being one example of that). But there was no suggestion that those inefficiencies have led to actual voter fraud, and certainly not on the scale that Trump is suggesting. Elections in the U.S. are run on a local level. Even in a Democratic-leaning state such as California, many many counties have Republicans on the local election boards, who are the ones to administer the elections. Not one of them (as far as I know) has suggested that there has been significant voter fraud, certainly not one the scale of “millions of votes.”

So why would Trump refuse to believe the reports of Russian intervention despite the great deal of evidence to it being true, yet believe in the voter fraud l=claim, despite there being no evidence for it being true?

There is a concept in psychology called “motivated reasoning.” From Wikipedia: “The processes of motivated reasoning are a type of inferred justification strategy which is used to mitigate cognitive dissonance. When people form and cling to false beliefs despite overwhelming evidence, the phenomenon is labeled "motivated reasoning." In other words, "rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.”

Trump seems to be subject to this fault as much as one can imagine.

Trump won the election. There is no question about that. Both campaigns ran their campaigns according to the rule that the Electoral College results are what matters. For Trump, this is not enough. He feels the need to believe that not only did he win, but that he is fabulously popular. Thus, his assertion that it was “a landslide,” when in fact, historically, it was a relatively close election. His need to believe that he is popular resulted in the ridiculous claims about how many people came to witness his inauguration, and that only through selectively changing the camera angles did the photos look like there had been more people there in 2009 (not true). Or that this was the first time that the grass was covered with a white covering, making it look emptier, (not true). Or that the Secret Service instituted new security measures, keeping people from attending (not true). Or that more people rode the Metro to downtown than in '09 and '13 (not true).

Presidents enter the office with certain beliefs. All do. It is inevitable that over the four years they serves, there will be times that the facts on the ground do not accord with their beliefs. When that happens, it is crucial that those surrounding the president inform him of the facts, and that the president be able to assimilate that information to change and act accordingly.

The first week of the Trump presidency has demonstrated that neither of those necessary elements are present here. Those who surround him are unable to convince him to stop claiming that there was widespread fraud in the election. This is despite his own lawyers stating as much in their briefs in the recount cases. His press secretary admits that he does not believe it, but that Trump believes what he wants to believe.

While the question of whose inaugural was better attended is a trivial one, and the ridiculous claims of voter fraud can be laughed off as well, the question is: What will happen when there is a similar challenge to Trump’s beliefs on issues of major importance? What if his rosy perspective on Russia is challenged by now aggression in Europe on the part of Putin? What if his economic team realizes that the tariff policy he wants to institute will lead to a recession? By all indications, it is difficult to believe that anything could change his views.


  1. At the risk of being censored again, I will clean up my comment and give it another try.

    I would just like to state, and I assume that I speak for many others, that I get tremendous enjoyment tuning into this blog every now and then and viewing the comments of the mesugaim ledovor echod who just can't get over the fact that Trump won and is actually doing great things for this country. I almost feel sorry for you people, because we sort of went through the same thing with Obama, the only difference being that Trump will get much more done because he is a doer and not a talker and because he has both houses of Congress behind him. But I don't feel that sorry. I know that it is not mussardik, but I unfortunately take great pleasure in your discomfort, and as it seems, I will be doing so for the next four, and G-d willing eight years. Keep it up, guys!

  2. It's called schadenfreude, and yes it's not a very Jewish sentiment. Regardless of that, though, like all emotions it will tend to cloud one's judgment, and while under its sway you seem likely to misread & misunderstand much of what you read on this subject. Yehoshua evidences no difficulty accepting that Hillary bungled the election terribly or (take your pick) that after a generally rocky campaign Trump won with some brilliantly played stumping in the final weeks/days. He won; she lost. Where's in the above is the claimed denial you grin so gluttonously over?

  3. "historically, it was a relatively close election"

    I assume you're employing understatement? Well, it would befit the context, anyway; given the odds, anything short of a decisive loss by Trump would surely have been an electoral credit to him and a serious testament to Hillary's unpopularity (as Sanders' unexpected showing very much was). All the more so, his narrow win.

    FYI, I think it comes out to being the 5th closest in American history (total 58 elections), after 2000 (very arguably the closest), 1960, and two of 1888, 1876, & 1824 (don't remember which was not so close as the other two).

    Of course, that just makes the whole "landslide" claim all the more incredible, esp. about matters so quantifiable, so factual, & so very plain. He should just stick to "one of the greatest upsets" in American political history, which is both still to his credit & eminently defensible.

  4. In addition to the example of Tiffany Trump you cite, other examples of Trump inner circle who were registered to vote in two different states for the 2016 election:
    . son-in-law Jared Kushner
    . chief strategist Steven Bannon
    . Press Secr. Sean Spicer
    . Treasury Secr. nominee Steven Mnuchin.

  5. I can very much get over the fact that Trump won. I have no problem recognizing the truth, even when it doesn't match my preferred outcome. As for "doing great things for this country," I have yet to see them. His wall is an expensive non-solution to a problem that does not exist, his first act as president was to take away low-interest mortgages from low- and middle-income first-time house buyers, his ban against refugees is an immoral (and probably illegal) solution to a non-existent problem, and if there is anything else I missed, sorry.

  6. UPDATE (2wks later)

    Gotta roll it back from Top 5 Closest to Top 7 Closest (of our 58 elections), as I have learned that another two 20th-c. elections were much closer than I'd thought.

    Most recently, 1976 Carter/Ford was ultimately decided narrowly by just two States (also in the Rustbelt, as this election was) with no less than fifteen States won by a margin of 2.5% or less (incl. biggies NJ & PA) and eleven of those easily less than 2% (VA, biggies CA & IL, and ulimate decisors OH & WI). What's more, remaining biggies TX & NY were won by sub-4% margins, MI & FL by about 5.5%.
    2016, by contrast, was only 8 States <2.5% and decided by three, not two, with the mammoth States (CA, TX, NY) nowhere in question. Still, in both the election was decided by less than one-thirtieth of one percent of the nation's electorate.

    Eclipsing both of these was 1916 Hughes' attempt to oust incumbent Wilson as the "Great War" raged over Eurasia. Hughes swept most of the largest States (NY, PA, IL), while Wilson drew a whopping majority of them at 30/48. In the end, just lone, newly settled, & then rather moderately sized CA decided the election by a mere 0.38% of that State's vote, being just one-eightieth of one percent of the nation's electorate.

    So our eight closest elections (i.e., those victories trailing in at the 13th percentile) are, reverse chronologically, 2016, 2000, 1976, 1960, 1916, 1888, 1876, 1824.

    So with this election falling well out of the Top 4 of 58 mark, I guess it safe to say that it was very but not wildly close (like 2000 or 1976 were).

  7. I see you upvoted my Comment of two weeks ago on the rank of this election's margin. So as not to leave you at all misinformed I direct you now to the updated research I just appended to it.


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