Let’s summarize what we’ve learned from my very own digest of some socio-neuro studies attempting to pin down why people might have voted for Trump:
- The Dunning-Kruger Effect. This one was fun, wasn’t it? Because once a writer, i.e., me, got past her euphemistic elaborations, it all boiled down to this: a lot of people are stupid and part of the stupidity is not knowing they’re stupid. They are smug in their ignorance, presumably surrounded by people just like them. So we can’t argue with them using facts rather than beliefs because nothing will change their limited minds. They believe they know all they have to know.
On the other hand, it’s discouraging, isn’t it? Really, what we’re trying to do here is find a way to breach the wide gap between us and them, to convince them to inform themselves with facts and to think about those facts. In something approximating rationality.
Well, they can’t, so screw ’em. The good thing is, they are and always will be in the minority. So the solution to “why did these people vote for Trump?” is: we who did not and never could must get our majority asses to the polls every time we are given the opportunity to deny anyone like Trump any public office ever again. We must vote.
- Their brains are different. Conservative brains have amygdalas that are larger than liberal amygdalas. This renders conservatives hypervigilant, prone to reacting to sudden noises and threatening visual images. This specific anatomical difference correlates with people who favored defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism, and the Iraq War. That is, conservatives can be more easily roused to fear, racism and violence by demagogic speeches.
This is unquestionably my favorite because it’s factual. It’s been scientifically tested and mapped. Of course, sadly, it’s also a dead end, but that lifts the burden of helping these people right off our shoulders and dumping the responsibility onto the shoulders of neuroscience. Maybe some neuroscientist can develop a pill. Which they can advertise in TV commercials every third second. Maybe they can come up with a neato name for this pill. Or maybe they’ll just call it Lyrica.
- Terror Management Theory. We face existential terror because we are aware of our own mortality. Ergo, people come up with strategies to manage the terror. One strategy is to develop
worldviews that protect our sense of self-esteem, worthiness and sustainability and allow us to believe that we play an important role in a meaningful world. Our survival instincts, and the need to reinforce our cultural significance in the face of death, often result in displays of prejudice, or the belief that the group with which we identify is superior to other groups. In this way, we confirm our self-importance and insulate ourselves from our deep fear of merely living an insignificant life permanently eradicated by death.
So how would this explain voting for Trump? Indeed, I would argue voting for Trump would tend to confirm you think you’re insignificant. As well as belonging to a group definitively not superior to other groups. (When you slime us as being “elite,” I assume you know what “elite” means, right?)
Unless, of course, you care to delve into the tacit religious implications of this theory: voting for Trump affirms your allegiance to some great supernatural power — for which Trump is a spokesperson, a (small) handmaiden, a surrogate, a lesser but related diety. And he will convey upon you immortality and major significance right after the apocalypse you seem to be working toward. And cultural superiority. Well, maybe not that. But this will take us right back to Reason One, the Dunning-Kruger Effect: smug ignorance and blank incuriosity about learning anything else.
- Trump engaged everyone’s attention fully. Yeah, well, no. Because being fascinated by Trump’s performance did not change anybody’s mind, did not make a Trump voter out of someone watching his performance with horror and (unmanageable) terror.
That’s what I’ve got so far.