How Rational Ignorance Shapes Our Politics
To understand why so many voted to re-elect Trump after four years of historic political turmoil featuring a failed pandemic response, a devastating economic shock and a crisis in racial justice its necessary to understand the forces that propelled him to victory in 2016.
In recent publications, Berkeley scholars have suggested that Trump won with an unconventional coalition of white working class and middle-class Americans who were motivated by resentment: The culture and economy gave them no recognition and no respect for their work. Their industries were changing, their jobs were shifting overseas or lost to automation. They perceive that Black, Latinx and Asian people, and immigrants, are advancing at their expense.
Trump supporters massed for a rally in Washington, D.C., days after Democrat Joe Biden emerged as the winner of the U.S. presidential race.
But some Berkeley scholars suggested that for many voters, support for Trump or any leader is a more passive choice that takes shape in a subrational sphere.
Gabriel Lenz, an expert in political psychology, is the author of Follow the Leader? How Voters Respond to Politicians Performance and Policies . He sees political opinion shaped by a force that is almost prosaic: an apathetic lack of awareness.
Gabriel Lenz, UC Berkeley political scientist
Lenz and other political scientists call it rational ignorance.
Smart Men Acting Stupid
In attempting to succeed in the Trump-era Republican Party, some politicians are masquerading as what they imagine voters want, with results that ring almost comically false.
About the author: David A. Graham is a staff writer at The Atlantic.
In 2013, Bobby Jindal, then the governor of Louisiana and a presidential hopeful, delivered some tough love to the Republican National Committee: We must stop being the stupid party. Specifically, he continued, we must stop insulting the intelligence of voters. We need to trust the smarts of the American people. We have to stop dumbing down our ideas and stop reducing everything to mindless slogans and taglines for 30-second ads.
Even in the pre-Trump GOP, this was a bracing message, but Jindal was the person to make it: Known for his wonkish mien, Jindal had graduated from Brown at 20, scored a Rhodes Scholarship, become the youngest president of the University of Louisiana system, and then won the governorship.
Jindals speech is unthinkable today, not only because the Republican Party has moved in an even more decisively anti-intellectual direction, but also because the kinds of politicians who resemble Jindalbrainy, ambitious ones with Ivy League résumésare pursuing the opposite course of action. This is the age of smart politicians pretending to be stupid.
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The story of Babel is the best metaphor I have found for what happened to America in the 2010s, and for the fractured country we now inhabit. Something went terribly wrong, very suddenly. We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past.
Its been clear for quite a while now that red America and blue America are becoming like two different countries claiming the same territory, with two different versions of the Constitution, economics, and American history. But Babel is not a story about tribalism its a story about the fragmentation of everything. Its about the shattering of all that had seemed solid, the scattering of people who had been a community. Its a metaphor for what is happening not only between red and blue, but within the left and within the right, as well as within universities, companies, professional associations, museums, and even families.
Babel is a metaphor for what some forms of social media have done to nearly all of the groups and institutions most important to the countrys futureand to us as a people. How did this happen? And what does it portend for American life?
The Rise of the Modern Tower
Things Fall Apart
Politics After Babel
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Michael Cohen On Why Republicans Support Trump: ‘we’re Stupid’
Michael Cohen has offered a blunt explanation for why Republicans, including himself, have supported President Donald Trump despite his numerous wrongdoings and attempts to dismantle Americas democracy.
During an appearance on MSNBC, Trumps former longtime fixer and personal attorney told host Joy Reid that he predicts Trump, if he loses, will claim the Nov. 3 election was rigged and use Attorney General William Barr to invalidate ballots that he will say are fake in order to stay in office.
He doesnt care about the Constitution of the United States, he said. He believes that hes above everything.
Reid noted that Trump cant do these things alone and that Cohen and many others went along with Trump for a long time. She asked, Why do they do it?
Because were stupid. You know, were a bunch of sycophants, Cohen said without hesitation. Hes very much like a cult leader. When youre in his good grace, you believe that you have this enormous amount of power, which you do, and he somehow manages to convince you to use that power for bad.
“He’s very much like a cult leader,” Michael Cohen says of President Trump. “When you’re in his good grace, you believe that you have this enormous amount of power, which you do and he somehow manages to convince you to use that power for bad.”
Trump Says He’d Rather Be ‘a Dictator’ Than ‘a Dumb Person’ After Bragging About The Cognitive Test He Took In 2018
Former President Donald Trump mused about embracing being portrayed as a dictator.
Trump made the remarks at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, Fla. on Thursday night.
“Which would you rather be, a dumb person or a dictator? Perhaps a dictator would be better,” he said.
Former President Donald Trump on Thursday joked about being depicted as “a dictator” by the press, which he assumed was the result of the cognitive test he has repeatedly bragged about passing in 2018.
“Which would you rather be, a dumb person or a dictator?” Trump said Thursday night at the Heritage Foundation’s annual leadership conference in Florida at the Ritz-Carlton resort on Amelia Island.
“Perhaps a dictator would be better,” he continued. “I don’t want to be a dumb person.”
In the same speech, Trump said he was surprised nobody ever found out that he told the president of a NATO country in a closed door meeting that the US would not come to their protection if they didn’t increase their defense spending.
Experts on authoritarianism have warned that Trump not only frequently praises strongmen dictators on the world stage, but also exhibits authoritarian tendencies of his own, culminating in the January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill.
In the former president’s assessment, the dictator chatter only began because he did so well on a cognitive test he took in 2018.
The test Trump took is called the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, designed to detect signs of dementia.
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Presidents Have An Obligation To Be Intelligent And Informed Trump Is Neither At Least That’s A Distraction From His Scandals And Failures
The best interviews are those with extremely smart people or extremely stupid people. Self-proclaimed smart person President Trump gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal in which he proved himself to be the latter. The only problem with reading the transcript is that you dont get to hear all the words he mispronounces.
Heres an excerpt:
Ill call, like, major major countries, and Ill be dealing with the prime minister or the president. And Ill say, how are you doing? And then you call places like Malaysia, Indonesia, and you say, you know, how many people do you have?
The president of the United States calls world leaders and asks them, How many people do you have? Not only does he not know the populations of Malaysia and Indonesia, but he doesnt know how to Google the populations of Malaysia and Indonesia.
He also claimed to have received a congratulatory call from the Boy Scouts that, according to the Boy Scouts, never happened.
To be sure, Trump made some accurate statements. Speaking of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump said, He was the senator from Alabama. Also: A lot of times Ill turn on television.
These were exceptions, however. When Trump is right about something, it is usually by accident.
POLICING THE USA: A look at race, justice, media
Trump doesnt read. I never have, he confessed last year. Im always busy doing a lot. Now Im more busy, I guess, than ever before.
Was I Stupid Was I Blind
When a popular leader continually employs division and misinformation to promote his goals, loyalists can drift from democratic standards and from fact-based reality.
Chatman, the Berkeley Haas leadership expert, trained as a social psychologist. Research, she said, has shown that people can be persuaded by the stories that leaders tell. If a leader makes an appealing promise, people will remain loyal, even if the leader doesnt deliver.
Trump, Chatman explained, has framed a narrative that says, Im the turnaround guy. Im going to drain the swamp. Im going to blow Washington up. And so anyone who was disaffected about government, which turns out to have been a lot of people, likes that narrative.
How far does that influence extend?
Exhibit A: QAnon is a bizarre conspiracy cult united in the belief that Trump is defending the world against a vast network of Satanic pedophiles including Democrats, Hollywood stars and others in the deep state who are attempting to traffic in children and generally to threaten freedom. Trump has welcomed QAnon support and sometimes retweets their communications.
One recent poll found that 56% of Republicans now believe that the improbable QAnon conspiracies are somewhat or entirely true. Only 4% of Democrats agree.
Its much easier and more cognitively consistent to stay in and say, Oh, the media, the Democrats, theyre not giving him a fair shot. . Thats why we dont see any movement in the Trump base.
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Trumps 10 Most Hilariously Stupid Things He Said In 2019
President Donald Trump has a long history of saying some of the most bizarre things in politics. This year was one for the books as the president flailed, searching for excuses for his July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Here are some of the most hilariously stupid things the president has said this year:
1. Windmills cause ear cancer
If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75 percent in value, Trump told Republicans in April. And they say the noise causes cancer. You tell me that one. He then made a whirring noise mimicking a turbine.
2. He wants to buy Greenland
In meetings, at dinners and in passing conversations, Mr. Trump has asked advisers whether the U.S. can acquire Greenland, listened with interest when they discuss its abundant resources and geopolitical importance and, according to two of the people, has asked his White House counsel to look into the idea, the Wall Street Journal reported in August.
Denmark essentially owns it, Trump told reporters in the days that followed. Were very good allies with Denmark. We protect Denmark like we protect large portions of the world. Strategically its interesting.
Trump then got into a fight with Danish leaders and had to cancel a trip hed planned to the country.
3. Trump is the chosen one.
4. Why dont they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.
American Idiots: Poll Proves Trump Supporters Are The Stupidest People In The Us
-65% think President Obama is a Muslim, only 13% think hes a Christian.
-59% think President Obama was not born in the United States, only 23% think that he was.
-24% think Antonin Scalia was murdered, just 42% think he died naturally, another 34% are unsure.
The rest of America knows that President Obama is not a Muslim and was born in the United States. Donald Trump has courted the faction within the Republican who after nearly eight years in office and a long form birth certificate still refuses to believe that Barack Obama is a Christian, who was born in the United States.
Trump is leading a revolution of stupid within the Republican Party. The presumptive 2016 nominee represents all of the fear, bigotry, and bias that has been pumped into the Republican Party by conservative media. The Trump supporters are out of touch reality on every level, and they have taken over the Republican Party.
Donald Trump is just a symptom of the conservative movements rejection of facts and knowledge. All of the facts say that President Obama is a US born Christian. The facts say that Antonin Scalia was an obese, diabetic, smoker who did not take good care of his health. The majority of Trump supporters want to believe that Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim. They are open to the possibility that Scalia was murdered by Obama.
Trumps supporters are some of the dumbest people in America, and they are one election away from winning the White House.
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If Hes So Dumb Why Cant Democrats Outsmart Him
The crushing idiocy of Donald Trump
The crushing idiocy of Donald Trump
If hes so dumb, why cant Democrats outsmart him?
The Democratic Party isnt righteous, exactly. It isnt particularly good either. It isnt disciplined or organized or brave, but to hear them tell it, none of that matters, because the Democratic Party is smart, and youre smart to be in it. For 30 years, as the Clinton era became the Dean era became the Obama era and any pretense of serious ideological difference with the G.O.P. gave way to a generation of Democrats mumbling half-heartedly about how yes, they love small business owners too, and yes, the War on Terror is deadly serious of course, and no, our energy corporations must be allowed to extract and monetize their corpses from beneath the skin of our dying world , this has been the partys central pitch: Well do everything the G.O.P. can do, but better. Because were open to evidence. Weve got better charts. We are slightly less racist, nevermind the prisons and the poverty and the drones. Now, as the sound of Donald Trump screaming at his television drifts out daily over the Rose Garden, the Democratic pitch has never sounded better.
John Kerry would grind Iraqi bones into irradiated dust as well anyone but hed be strategic about it.
Trump keeps telling us he doesnt know what hes doing, and nobody, it seems, will listen.
The Road To Renewal Is Economic And Spiritual
Steven Hayward speaks at a UC Berkeley event in 2017.
Conservative author Steven Hayward, a Berkeley Law lecturer and visiting scholar at Berkeleys Institute of Governmental Studies, looks to the past for a guide to the future. The late 1960s and early 70s were a time of upheaval in the U.S., he said, and the nation was shaken by assassinations, bombings, riots and campus unrest. Eventually, though, much of the fury burned itself out.
Hayward believes that many working class people embraced Trump because he seemed to understand their sense of being left behind. But like other scholars, he suggested the Biden administration will be more conventional, bringing a calm that could reduce the exhausting polarization and conflict of the Trump presidency.
Several scholars, however, suggested that Democrats hold some responsibility for the repairing the cultural divide because they helped to cause it. They have increasingly lost a sense of alliance with people in rural America and the declining industrial regions, said Berkeley sociologist Neil Fligstein, and as a result, theyre seen as distant, arrogant elites.
Neil Fligstein, UC Berkeley sociologist and director of the Center for Culture, Organization, and Politics.
Jadhav, meanwhile, goes beyond the political and economic to something nearly spiritual.
At the same time, he sees an essential need for engagement between coastal people and heartland people, metropolitan people and rural people.
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Trump Thought Kevin Mccarthy Was ‘dumb’ And Annoyingly Needy: Book
- Trump thought McCarthy was “dumb” and “needy to the point of being annoying,” a new book says.
- There have been tensions between Trump and McCarthy over January 6.
- But McCarthy has sought to appear publicly allied with Trump as he vies to become House Speaker.
Former President Donald Trump apparently has a low opinion of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, according to a new book from Politico White House bureau chief Jonathan Lemire.
“Trump had always privately thought McCarthy was ‘dumb,’ per aides, and needy to the point of being annoying,” Lemire wrote in the book, “The Big Lie,” which hit bookshelves on Tuesday.
Lemire was discussing the tensions between McCarthy and Trump in the wake of the fatal riot at the US Capitol on January 6.
In the immediate aftermath of the insurrection, McCarthy publicly said that Trump “bears responsibility” for what happened.
Audio recordings of calls between McCarthy and Republicans less than a week after the Capitol attack, which were released in April, also showed that the California Republican blamed Trump for the riot. “I’ve had it with this guy. What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that, and nobody should defend it,” McCarthy said on January 10. The audio also showed that McCarthy said he planned to tell Trump to resign.
But it didn’t take long for McCarthy to change his tune. Less than a month after the January 6 riot, McCarthy visited Mar-a-Lago and posed for a photo with the former president.