In 2017 and 2018 for professional reasons I spent a great deal of time with Trump supporters, listening to them in a neutral manner and trying to understand why they believed an infantile orange halfwit with profound narcissistic tendencies and a compulsive need to lie was, for them, “their guy.”
Here’s what I found: clever people always assume that because something is going on inside their own head, necessarily similar processes are occurring inside the heads of others. But this is an error. It’s like being a tall person and automatically assuming everyone else is tall. Now with height we can see our mistake, whereas with intellect it’s less immediately obvious. Nevertheless the disparities are there.
Trump supporters in general are ignorant and not very bright. The reason Trump can play on their fears and resentments is not because he’s politically astute; it’s because he’s a repellent moron who speaks the language of other simple-minded people. Note Trump’s tweets and speeches: everything he utters is simple. There is no complexity in Trumpland. There are simple enemies, simple solutions.
This is why his supporters adore him. They can’t understand the difficult stuff about life but they can understand simplistic sound-bites and easy chants.
“Lock her up!”
“Build the wall!”
“Enemy of the people!”
And on and on and on. This is the primary reason, I found, why Trump supporters adore him. He speaks their language because he’s just like they are, only in technicolor. They don’t care about his crimes and lies because those things matter far, far less than finally seeing a “leader” whose every utterance they can grasp within their limited intellects.
Sure, I know this sounds like I’m denigrating these people. In reality I’m describing why Trump is such a success. And although it’s transiently fashionable to be Politically Correct and pretend that everyone has “equal intelligence” the reality, of course, is that intelligence is just as distributed as height. That’s why most people can’t follow (for example) vector transformation across a Riemannian manifold or perform complex spatial manipulations of conceptual objects in their heads.
Until we understand the real reason that Trump is so powerful, we will not come remotely close to ensuring creatures like him are precluded from gulling the credulous in future. And sadly, feel-good prescriptions about unifying the nation by empathizing and listening are about as far from practicality as it’s possible to come. When a Panzer IV tank is crashing through your home, machine gun blazing, there’s no utility in offering the crew a plate of cookies and a glass of milk.