As the presidential election is fast approaching, many of the more conscientious Republicans are jumping on the Lincoln Project bandwagon. The project aims to convince voters that Donald Trump does not represent the Republican vision for the country. However, as Bill Stierle and Tom point out how their messaging may not be very effective in swaying the most loyal of Trump’s followers. In fact, some of it may just feed into Trump’s campaign narrative and strengthen the confirmation bias of the loyalists. Bill and Tom see the need for the Lincoln Project to utilize a strategy of empathy and contrast to get past the barriers in the loyalist mind, unleash the truth, and let the political mind do its work of making a difference.
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Truth And The Political Mind
Bill, it’s interesting to see the truth in the context of politics. There’s some interesting messaging that’s coming out into the world that we could learn a lot from and talk about. How do you feel about that?
I like the idea, Tom. One of the nice parts of doing this show is to anchor truth in a way that provides the reader with a framework for understanding how our perception is influenced and the things that create more influence, the messages that create more impact, versus messages that don’t create as much impact. The truth and the political mind can make a difference for our audience. There are a lot of different things that people are trying to catch eyeballs with, whether it’s a Congress seat or a Senate seat that somebody is running for or the president coming up for re-election. It looks like Joe Biden is the guy that is going to be up against him. Let’s see how this is going to work because it’s going to be interesting to see how the truth gets purchased along the way.
What spurred this is a new commercial video put out by an organization we’ve mentioned before briefly on the show called The Lincoln Project. They’ve made two commercials. This is the organization started by some longtime Republicans that have put country over party. Loyalty maybe is the better word. They’ve raised money and they are creating commercials and airing them to try to deter people from voting for President Donald Trump because these Republicans believe that he’s not in alignment with their vision for America.
As well as the need for respect for America. the thing that you and I have mentioned before in the past is this scorched Earth mindset that Donald Trump gets himself into is, “I’m burning everything down. I’m burning my enemies down. I’m going to damage their name. I’m going to impact their future careers because they were not loyal to me. They didn’t support me optimistically and they didn’t get behind my project, my program.” He finds all kinds of ways to justify that mindset. If he sees something wrong on their bill, he won’t pay an architect or the whole thing because something was wrong on the bill. Instead of fixing the thing that was wrong on the bill or he somehow has devalued their services. Meanwhile, the contract clearly says, “Pay the guy.”
The Lincoln Project with the video, Mourning in America, which I particularly enjoy the title and enjoy the message from the pursuit of truth from time to time. Some of the messaging might get lost or don’t stick in the listener’s brain as much. Those are some things that you and I talk about, how word choice and images and things bounce off the person’s brain where we want them to stick on the person’s brain. Those videos are great for the already converted former Republicans that are already on the bandwagon of The Lincoln Project. It’s able to be in alignment with that. The political mind does some tricky things here that probably we need to talk about a little bit.
I think so because to me, what’s encouraging about what The Lincoln Project is putting out these commercials and putting money into messaging is that not everybody is drinking Donald Trump’s Kool-Aid and completely convinced that he is acting in the best interest of America. I respect these people at The Lincoln Project for being vocal and putting out their message. What is regrettable it seems is that they too have fallen into the trap that facts are going to matter and help sway people. It ends up being more confirmation bias for maybe you and me or for people that are not long-term conservative.
The confirmation bias is the thing that people get stuck at. The brain does something junky here and it does it to try to be efficient, to not spend too much time. It confirms what it already knows and believes. It says, “Does this message match what my belief is because I had such a great optimism and belief that Donald Trump was going to drain the swamp?” It makes it very difficult for the brain to say, “He’s swampier than the people that his administration got rid of.” In fact, it’s mob boss swampy. Their brain doesn’t want to go there because their self-worth doesn’t want to be associated with, “I voted to put this guy in there and look what he is doing to my nation.” It’s not until a critical flaw shows up. He says, “I am going to choose to do this because it’s best for America not to check in to see what the greater public servant would do, which is ‘How many lives am I going to lose over this? It’s not going to be that bad.’”
If people are watching Donald Trump’s career, he already says that it’s not going to be that bad because it’s never that bad for him. It’s never that bad for the people close to him. It’s never that bad for them because he’s got this wave of money that keeps showing up at his door and it’s never that bad for him. That’s the thing that The Lincoln Project isn’t fully tapping into when they go after facts is the person that’s voting for him is not looking at the videos that they would like him to look at, which is, “Here’s the fact and here’s the impact of that fact.” You’ve had many insights about this, about all we’ve got to do is pick one fact.
This is what struck me even. Being a student of Bill Stierle, maybe it’s a little easier for me to see, but when I saw this video from The Lincoln Project, first of all, I said, “They put in another video. I want to see this.” I was excited. I go and watch it. This is the one called This Week, which is the newest one that came out. It’s a very dramatic-looking video. It definitely commands your attention initially, then it starts to put out facts of how many people have died from Coronavirus and how many people are on unemployment now and putting out all these facts.
A great example, on their video it says 88,000 Americans have died. Say that to me and I’ll show you what the political Donald Trump voter does with it.
“Doesn’t it mean something to you that 88,000 people have died from Coronavirus already?”
“That number is overinflated. The doctors are making money by putting Corona down and that number isn’t true.”
I know and that’s why I agree the facts don’t matter. I still think this video is worth watching and checking out because it shows you the perspective of this organization, which is trying again to put country over loyalty to the party leader. The co-founder of the Lincoln Project, Jennifer Horn, was quoted with the release of this video and it’s interesting because this is well-stated. She says, “Donald Trump put his political ambitions before health, safety and economic security of the American people. Due to his utter failure in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, Americans are now sicker, poorer, and worse off than they were four years ago. If there’s one thing we can count on in the coming weeks, it’s that Donald Trump will continue to fail and embarrass the people he’s elected to serve.” That statement, while the first part was more factual and truthful, that last sentence was a little more critical and maybe in the labeling world. The thing is you can say that all you want but when I read that, I’m like, “Any of Donald Trump’s people are going to say, “She’s never a Trumper.”
We look for clues of belief bias. I look for clues. We look to validate our belief bias. There’s a picture that ran around, I think it was posted on Facebook or I saw somewhere through a social media post. It was a picture of Donald Trump with Melania Trump standing next to him and he was holding up a handkerchief and looked like he was drying a tear off his eye. There was a picture of him. It could have been doctored. It could have been an actual picture, but there were 15, 20 posts saying things like, “Can you imagine the pressure he was under? He is such a caring person.” All of those kinds of quotes that were all in support of imagining the pressure that Donald Trump is under is a belief bias that the person is looking to validate because they’re stuck on some piece of data or alternate messaging, alternative facts. It is some alternative message that the person is stuck on, which is something like I mentioned that the doctors were over-reporting the deaths.
Republican voters believe in the upper 40 percentile that the numbers are overinflated. Only 7% of the Democrats believe that the numbers are overinflated. That’s a huge partisan belief bias. That means that all you’ve got to do is run a story like that on Fox News or the Russians or anybody else needs to put a couple of messages that get hijacked on social media. The bias is triggered and then the voter still stays loyal. Keeping a person loyal isn’t out of respect and integrity. It’s about validation that I’m okay with the way I think. A video that tries to do a push narrative, which is both of The Lincoln Projects videos are more of a push narrative, and it works towards creating a moment of truth but not necessarily radiate and blow up the person’s bias. We’ve talked about this with our flat-Earth mindset, the person’s bias is only things I can see and only things I want to believe to be true. It’s weird that Donald Trump is a living and breathing example of somebody that does his own confirmation bias out loud which is, “We have one case that’s going to go away, seventeen cases are going to be going away soon.”
He’s looking to confirm what his brain wants other people’s brains to believe and then scapegoats and shifts. Even one of the Fox broadcasters, he exaggerates and spins, “It’s only one of them.” There’s your bias right there. He took the bait baby, I’ll throw it in front of you just like a fish to lure. Our body wants to validate these things and the belief of a smart person or a video director, or an editor has is that if people would understand the facts, they’ll believe. That’s not the way it works at all. The way it works at all is, “Is this new belief close enough in alignment with my old belief to get me to listen to you and start trusting you?”
That’s a powerful statement there. That’s the key. It’s regrettably the missed opportunity of The Lincoln Project, don’t you think?
They’re at the beginning of their game. They could pivot right now. They’re two videos in and all you need is one to shift the bias. It’s like, “This is the mayor of the small town that voted for Donald Trump, and here’s how they’ve got decimated because Donald Trump was not a public servant.” The mayor of a small town is saying, “It’s not my job to protect the nation from a virus from China. It’s the President’s job to do that and he didn’t protect us. Because of it, 1,000 of his voters have died in my small town. Why? Because this is my flat-earth reality. There’s no under-reporting here. There were 3,000 people in this small town and 80% of them voted for Donald Trump. They know those numbers. That means this is how many of his voters died because of the virus because he didn’t protect us.”
That would be powerful if The Lincoln Project could find a mayor or wherever something like this has happened and do that. There’s also a way, Bill, and I’d love it if you could share with us how if you were advising The Lincoln Project, how they would message the Coronavirus crisis differently rather than just stating the facts, which is only going to land with certain people. The facts give Donald Trump too much of an easy way to say, “The Lincoln Project is just a bunch of never-Trumpers.” It gives his followers an off-ramp to say, “That’s fake messaging.” What kind of message could The Lincoln Project put out about Coronavirus that would potentially be believed or taken more seriously by the people that want to believe him?
The three things that I would recommend right off the bat is you’ve got to take the voter for where they are in their loyalty towards Donald Trump, which means that in the initial part of a message, you’ve got to empathize with the motive for why they voted for him, empathize with their message and then empathize for Donald Trump and his behaviors. I’m guessing he was looking to feel confident so he said the virus was going away. It’s disappointing that he wasn’t able to protect us. We feel disappointed and sad and now have to deal with the loss. When you’re empathizing with the person that’s causing you pain or it is not behaving in a way that you would like them to, the bias starts to lessen and the listener and the loyalist start to listen. It has a similarity to a deep probing of a cultist but not quite that.
Empathy is an engaged process of demonstrating care for the human being and their limitations of the bias that they have. It’s like, “I’m not sure about that bias.” Tom, your young children have all kinds of biases that they run at you and you go like, “Where did that one come from? How did they put that puzzle piece together?” Step one is we want to empathize with the loyalist and get that person engaged. We’re a person that sees what they’re going through, not through facts but through the pain that they’re going through, and does this look like respect? If you yelled at your neighbor and say, “You’re a Democrat and therefore, you should do things the way I would like you to do it. Otherwise, I’ll never talk to you again.” Does that make for a good community in America? Not really. That’s like stirring sectarian violence in a foreign country that would be between two religious groups as if we haven’t done that in the past.
The second step is to set up a contrast. It’s the enthusiasm, the energy that Donald Trump brings to one of his conferences, to one of his rallies, the amount of energy to get people to believe in one thing. When it’s done and when other groups like the NBA is shutting down, does that make it safe? When he knows about something and then puts his followers in the same room together just to meet his need for respect and recognition. Notice the emptiness that you just felt in your body. Isn’t that weird? You go like, “How the hell did I get empathy?” Because you empathize with Donald Trump’s voter. It’s scary out there, so scary that the NBA closed its season, that the NFL is choosing to drop the preseason games to protect and to make its fan safe. Regrettably, the president didn’t take that same strategy and because of it, some of his followers and some of his voters have died.
All of a sudden, even though you and I are little more on the left-hand side of the fence in our belief structure, we still feel empty because we start to feel sad from the contrast of he put his fellow Americans in danger and the danger of death and people have died over that movement. Not necessarily the people that went to the conferences, but their relatives did and they’re Americans too. The inclusiveness of the American principle is not one designed around isolation or a country identity. It wasn’t originally, but now it’s been hijacked that way.
It’s designed around a principle that you could come here and work, learn and raise your families to have a better financial future where in your country of origin, you can’t do it because the system doesn’t support that level of opportunity. America provides more of a level of opportunity through capitalism and other instruments to get ahead. If you figure him out, if you’re smart enough to do it, that was the original principle and many Americans have been able to do that. The message of empathy and then contrast leads us to a place of, “I am caring for the greater America.” That’s the third piece that I would advise him to do is, what does it take to create the greater America? Donald Trump is not that vote. That’s not the vote. Who’s talking inclusion because America is a country of inclusion, isn’t it? It is, whether you like it or not.
It sounds like these messages would land more with the people that The Lincoln Project is trying to reach and will erode their sense of loyalty to Donald Trump.
It’s got to get the loyalty down around inside that type of voter. The loyalty has got to drop to somewhere around 40%, “I still liked the guy. I still was hopeful for him. I probably would have voted for him again because I was so tired. I don’t want to have Hillary Clinton in there. I didn’t like her. She was very energized and he made me feel better. I’m still 40% with him, but I’m 60% with America and he’s not helping us either.”The Lincoln Project sends a clear message to the nation that not everyone is drinking the Trump Kool-Aid. Click To Tweet
It becomes a message potentially that a vote for Donald Trump is not a vote for an American future that I would like. It’s less about Donald Trump versus Joe Biden. It’s more about America versus Donald Trump.
He’s going to keep pounding the propaganda messages and the same kind of hijacking through reward, anticipation, and uncertainty. His whole narrative about Barack Obama’s gate is creating uncertainty about Democrats. It’s not about Barack Obama. It’s about trying to get uncertainty about Democrats in order to create the physiological association with, “Barack Obama gate was a criminal. That means Joe Biden must have known about it all.” The Ukraine stuff didn’t stick as much as they needed it to because once Joe Biden came out super juicy with all the delegates, they went, “That didn’t work.” They needed the party to split and the party didn’t. It all jumped over to Joe Biden and went away from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and the rest of the folks.
That should show Donald Trump’s campaign how their messages are not resonating with the voters they need to sway to them in the same way.
They’re going down and they’re making similar mistakes. They’re not creating the doubt. They did not leave in themselves any room to do it. That’s the problem. Once you start going down identity politics, our side versus their side, all you’ve got is an angry Alabama fan yelling at an angry LSU fan. That’s all you’ve got.
You’ve got the team sports dynamic.
He loves team sports because there’s always a winner and loser, and then you get to be playing the game but not in the game. He’s never been in the game of capitalism. He plays with everybody else’s money in capitalism. He’s not somebody that grows something. Mark Cuban’s quote is one of my favorites, “If he is such a great leader if he is such a great capitalist, how many millionaires has he mentored? I’ve mentored over 100 millionaires. How many has he mentored if he’s such a great capitalist?” That shows that he’s not in the game to help minds and wealth to be created.
He’s always been in it for himself.
Thank you for the bias. I appreciate that.
That’s not the informed way to say it.
He’s always been in it to meet his need for respect. He’s always been in it to be seen. That’s a very nine-year-old thing to do. He’s always been in it to get acknowledgment. He’s always been in it to get his own respect, recognition, acknowledgment. He’s always been in it to prop-up his self-worth. All of those land on the elephant side of the brain. The limbic system goes, “He has been doing that.” As soon as you say he’s been in it for himself, they say, “Not really. He’s appealed to me. He’s made me feel better.”
It’s too easy to poke holes in that type of statement.
That’s the point that you and I are talking together. You get to gently walk into the trap and your bias. This helps the listener. When you say a bias, they go, “Yeah,” and I go, “Yeah, but here’s the better way to say it.” That’s the best part of our conversation, Tom, is you and I are bantering back and forth and going like, “We’ve got to do something about this because people are reinforcing a bias instead of shifting the way they speak about their own bias so they can penetrate the other side.”
The tragedy unfortunately thus far, and I agree with you, it’s not too late. People at the head of The Lincoln Project, get some counsel, get some perspective and some skill and realize that the messages you’re putting out in some ways are just going to bounce off of the people that you are trying to sway and convince. They’re in some ways going to feed right into Donald Trump’s campaign narrative. There are ways to come out and make the statements that you want to make that will land and be much more effective. To me, that’s where you’ve got this, thankfully. We agree many people like senators, especially congressmen worried about getting re-elected, being afraid to voice any criticism of Donald Trump’s administration because he’s going to go all scorched Earth on them.When Donald Trump says it’s not going to be that bad, that’s because it’s never that bad for him and the people close to him. Click To Tweet
These people that are free from any of those kinds of concerns are not in support of the President. They believe he is not the leader we need. His direction for America is not in alignment with peace and prosperity for all or they say many things. I would agree with them and I admire them for coming out and putting America truly first, and not just wearing a hat that says you’re going to put America first. I respect what they’re doing and it pains me to see them put up these messages incredibly professionally done that is going to be received very well by a lot of people, but who weren’t going to vote for Donald Trump anyway.
They’re going to celebrate. It’s going to confirm the bias. It’s going to be in part one that is the makers of the video will feel good and I feel good when I watch them. You feel good when you watch them. You’re going like, “That’s what we’re in. Thank you so much for the truth. It’s about time somebody spoke up and put it on there.” Meanwhile, what happens is the brain inside the person that is already too far on the belief side of the fence, the 10%, 20% that you need to swing in an election are still in a place of doubt because they’re watching the video and go like, “I’ve invested already three years in this guy and it’s going to take a lot to get it over.” The difficult thing is you can take a pounding on this.
Another example of these people from The Lincoln Project and other political action committees that are putting ads together or trying to create memes and posters. I received one of them, a picture of Donald Trump standing in front of a crowd. The thing that was written in all bold letters was the following sentence. You’ll see where the fact is and you’re going to see how you feel about it at the end. When I rewrite the first sentence, you’re going to see how you feel differently about it. That’s going to trigger more your elephant brain and move forward. The quote says, “How sad it must be believing that scientist, scholars, historians, economics, and journalists that have devoted their whole entire lives to deceiving you, while a reality TV star with decades of fraud and incessantly documented lying is your only beacon of truth and honesty.” I’m going, “How sad for those people.” It confirms my bias. Now all of a sudden it’s, what can we do to create that same fact believing that scientists, historians are deceiving you and flip it into something that engages that person in that Donald Trump rally to go, “I need to check my bias at the door when I go to the voting booth?”
I’d like that for the reaction to be like, “Maybe I need to think about this some more.” How would you flip it?
I might start with their empathy for them. He’s inspiring. He’s charismatic. He speaks his mind and he speaks for you. It’s disappointing that by not believing scientists and historians, many deaths have taken place in the United States. I wish he would have protected you better. It’s great if he inspires you, but he didn’t protect America better.
You’ve got to get the reader of this meme to be drawn in to be in agreement with at least the first half or part of what is being said so that they, in their own brains say, “He is inspiring, charismatic and speaking his mind. That’s what I love about him.” You then got to turn it and I don’t know if you would say regrettably or something like that, and then move on to what you were saying in the second half.
I felt disheartened. By lumping all of those different groups, scientists, scholars, historians, economists, and journalists, he has pounded journalists. He’s disregarded and then hijacked scientists. Disregarded, that part is easy. Hijacked is like his latest stunt, which was brilliant. We should put this on the next one, “I’ve been taken hydroxychloroquine for two weeks.”
Bill, that’s a great one. This one came out and I saw it in the newsroom. He’s saying, “I’m taking hydroxychloroquine.” Two things went through my mind and my wife’s as we’re watching the news on this. First of all, she was rather cynical like, “I don’t believe he’s taking it. He’s just saying he’s taking it because he wants to prop-up that drug or that drug company or the belief that there is a cure.” I was of the belief that maybe he’s taking it because he tested positive for the virus and no one is talking about it or he’s worried he was in such close contact with someone who did test positive. He is trying to preemptively make it so he would not succumb to this virus so much.
He’s a germaphobe that doesn’t listen to scientists. It’s like the worst thing ever.
I’m thinking, did he drink Clorox or Lysol then if he believes his own stuff?
It’s very unsettling what he processes in his noggin. They’ve got to be very careful about what they tell him. He wants to brainstorm and they’re going like, “Every time we brainstorm, he takes something out of context and runs with it.”
The worst job in America is his communications team and press secretary, the whole thing because they can’t plan the darn thing. He hijacks the message daily.
It’s very disheartening and sad to click down to that, but empathy and getting a needs-based narrative in front of him, and I keep using the word empathy or compassion, “Mr. President, this is what respect would look like for you. This may be your strongest choice.” I just put the bait on the hook for him, respect.Donald Trump is a living, breathing example of somebody who does his own confirmation bias out loud. Click To Tweet
Strength and winning too if you weave them in there.
One way that we can create a win on this is to frame it this way.
You imagined that would resonate with him. He would listen to that.
He’ll still listen to it because a needs-based narrative allows the heart to move and the elephant brain to move, “I want that and I want fairness.” “One way we can frame fairness, Mr. President, is to frame it this way.” Now I’m giving Donald Trump’s team support. Here’s how they could frame it. They can frame this message.
It’s very illuminating, Bill.
I appreciate the acknowledgment because it is how we continue to keep these issues in front of our audience and to provide them with a fresh perspective. That’s why the word, illuminated, shows up in your mind, which is brilliant. It’s illuminating because we are broadening our perspective about how the brain works in references to belief biases so that the voter can be led to a greater truth for America. I’ll have a conservative discussion at any time with any one of my relatives and be completely safe. Even though I got some folks over there that are not necessarily in alignment. They’ve drunk the Kool-Aid a bit, and they’ve bought the belief structure because they feel it’s right. They don’t know that they’ve been hijacked to feel that their truth has been purchased. They don’t know what’s taken place. The next time, let’s talk about the economy and what the new economy is going to look like. Let’s go and see that. Thank you, everybody, for reading. You know where to find us. This has been great, Tom.
Thanks very much, Bill. Until next time.