A Theory about modern trends in the Republican party

Imagine a child of distant, busy parents, who is desperate for love and approval. What skills might this child develop? I think they would try to say and do things that make people react in an approving way. They would become very sensitive to people’s reactions to them.

If they were clever, they might learn that you can say a bunch of things quite fast, one after another, and look for reactions. When there is a positive reaction, double down on whatever statement got that reaction. If there is a negative or no reaction, just jettison that line. It’s a simple evolutionary algorithm.

Thus is born a bullshit artist and con man. That’s how we get a Trump.

I guess it’s an effective tactic to get people to have positive reactions. I think the twin skills, rapid bullshit generation coupled with hypersensitive reaction assessment, are pretty rare. A lot of Republican politicians are trying to emulate him, with varying success. I think the trend is to try to craft bullshit in private based on some kind of ideology, which only captures a piece of the art. Yes, Trump didn’t give a rat’s ass about whether what he said was “true”, but he also didn’t really care whether it was ideologically correct. His imitators have learned that lying doesn’t matter, but they are constrained by caution and by ideology, as well as by the limits of their own imagination.

And the perfect response to being called on for a lie: Outrage! How DARE you! Seems to work. Kavanaugh was a kind of field test, and now it’s used far and wide.

Final note – this is part of the skillset of a mentalist! That’s how they convince you they’re reading your mind: they say a lot of things that might be true and read your reactions. If something doesn’t get a reaction, they quickly move onto the next thing, maybe with a slight headshake, like “where did that signal from beyond come from.” If they do get a reaction, they double down and try for detail. I’ve seen mentalist acts, and it is uncanny (which is the whole idea). Naturally, people get the idea that the mentalist is “saying what I’m thinking”, and it feels intimate and moving.

It’s a neat trick.