via Politico

The MAGA folks are not our enemy. They are victims.

I have been sarcastic and sometimes mean to people who have been misled by a very savvy swindler. Essentially asking them to admit that they are stupid is the wrong approach. Their trusting nature competed with Trump’s cynicism. The outcome was never in doubt.

In 2016, at Trump rallies, there was a frequently used dialog in which Trump would ask “What are we going to build?” The Oedipus Rex chorus responds in unison: “A wall!” Trump continues: “And who is going to pay for it?” Response: “Mexico!”

What they got is about 300 miles of repaired secure fencing. Mexico’s check is in the mail.

These folks have been intellectually fleeced. To admit that is to admit that you were stupid. That is what con artists do! They make people believe that they are responsible for their own victimization. Donald Trump is an accomplished con artist. Very accomplished!

Each additional deception causes the victims to increase their sponsorship of deceit. We amplify the problem. When we call them stupid or naive they feel forced to further defend their intellect.

Rational reasoning starts with a question which leads to an attempt to find evidence to answer the question.

Irrational reasoning starts with an answer. The process continues through selective observation to find evidence to support the predetermined outcome.

With irrational reasoning the sources of evidence are less authoritative than found with rational reasoning. Thus they end up with reliance on One America News advancing nonsensical claims rather than the New York Times which (usually) holds journalists to standards.

A con artist as accomplished as Trump instinctively knows this. Over the last five years he has devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy into the delegitimization of mainstream media. Supporters who are already defending their intelligence are eager to go along with Enemy of the People drivel. Every day, those “enemies” are telling the person that they are an idiot.

Trump’s “gift” is forcing people to become irrational reasoners. Some people call it gaslighting; causing people to question their perception of reality. Political gaslighting occurs when a political figure uses lies, denials, or manipulation of information to control people.

Gaslighters create a cycle. Their victims become dependent upon them. That dependency is used to make the victims more dependent. It is the basis upon which cults are created.

Psychologists tell us that this is a form of induced cognitive dissonance. When people have conflicting beliefs they will resolve the stress by changing one of those beliefs so that the two are consistent.

In this case a highly skilled flimflammer (Trump) has been able to destroy the concept of objective truth. It is easiest to reconcile matters by accepting Trump’s rhetoric.

Trump truths are a form of dogma. They are accepted as incontrovertible truth irrespective of evidence to the contrary. For the follower to believe otherwise is to admit that they’ve been scammed which is to feel foolish and no one wants to admit having been a fool.

How do we respond?

It is not an easy task. Some very smart people have been victims of cults.

The last thing we should do is to call victims idiots. Doing so will only stiffen their resolve. What might work is a two-fold approach (reverse-gaslighting). Keep it simple:

  1. Within you is an inner-strength. You have the ability to separate truth from falsity and right from wrong.
  2. What you might want to do is to go back in time to candidate Trump and start to analyze his motives. You are capable of honestly doing that.

One thing is certain. Trump will never voluntarily give up his hold on these people. Then there are the enablers who know perfectly well that Trump is a dishonest charlatan. Among these enablers are members of the religious right who already have credibility among these folks.

If Trump goes to prison (which I doubt — sorry about that) then many of his supporters will believe that he was unfairly railroaded. No matter what happens to Trump to diminish his credibility his supporters will come up with some rationale in the form of denial lest they be forced to admit that they have been intellectually fleeced by a con artist.

Trump has been an extreme danger to our country. Not because he has the nuclear codes but because he is an idiot savant. In a vast sea of ignorance there is an island of genius: The manipulation of others.

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