07/22/2016 George Lakoff Author of Don’t Think of an Elephant! | UC Berkeley Professor of Linguistics | Founder of Reframe America
There is a lot being written and spoken about Trump by intelligent and articulate commentators whose insights I respect. But as a longtime researcher in cognitive science and linguistics, I bring a perspective from these sciences to an understanding of the Trump phenomenon. This perspective is hardly unknown. More that half a million people have read my books, and Google Scholar reports that scholars writing in scholarly journals have cited my works well over 100,000 times.
As a longtime researcher in cognitive science and linguistics, I bring a perspective from these sciences to an understanding of the Trump phenomenon.
Yet you will probably not read what I have to say in the New York Times, nor hear it from your favorite political commentators. You will also not hear it from Democratic candidates or party strategists. There are reasons, and we will discuss them later this piece. I am writing it because I think it is right and it is needed, even though it comes from the cognitive and brain sciences, not from the normal political sources. I think it is imperative to bring these considerations into public political discourse. But it cannot be done in a 650-word op-ed. My apologies. It is untweetable.
I will begin with an updated version of an earlier piece on who is supporting Trump and why — and why policy details are irrelevant to them. I then move to a section on how Trump uses your brain against you. I finish up discussing how Democratic campaigns could do better, and why they need to do better if we are to avert a Trump presidency.
Who Supports Trump and Why
Donald J. Trump has managed to become the Republican nominee for president, Why? How? There are various theories: People are angry and he speaks to their anger. People don’t think much of Congress and want a non-politician. Both may be true. But why? What are the details? And why Trump?
He seems to have come out of nowhere. His positions on issues don’t fit a common mold.
He has said nice things about LGBTQ folks, which is not standard Republican talk. Republicans hate eminent domain (the taking of private property by the government) and support corporate outsourcing for the sake of profit, but he has the opposite views on both. He is not religious and scorns religious practices, yet the Evangelicals (that is, the white Evangelicals) love him. He thinks health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, as well as military contractors, are making too much profit and wants to change that. He insults major voting groups, e.g., Latinos, when most Republicans are trying to court them. He wants to deport 11 million immigrants without papers and thinks he can. He wants to stop Muslims from entering the country. What is going on?
The answer requires a bit of background.
In the 1900s, as part of my research in the cognitive and brain sciences, I undertook to answer a question in my field: How do the various policy positions of conservatives and progressives hang together? Take conservatism: What does being against abortion have to do with being for owning guns? What does owning guns have to do with denying the reality of global warming? How does being anti-government fit with wanting a stronger military? How can you be pro-life and for the death penalty? Progressives have the opposite views. How do their views hang together?