Psychological projection is a potent force, and smart people are at least as susceptible to its wiles as anyone else — maybe more so. Even continually and accurately pointing out examples of projection in other people won’t immunize you; only cold, uncomfortable reality can break its spell.
If you’ve been telling yourself, in spite of what mounds of polling data and other metrics of public opinion reveal every day, that “no one” or “hardly anyone” really thinks that a wall along the Mexican border is not only worth the expense but sure to be effective, you are wrong. If you tell yourself that “no one who’s paying any attention” really thinks that Trump plans to repeal the ACA and immediately replace it with a better plan, you are wrong. And it’s not just complete backwoods tunnel-vision ninnies who believe such things, although it’s safe to say virtually all such people believe them. I have spent some time in less urbanized, less economically flourishing parts of the state recently, and it has been an eye-opening, even jarring experience in terms of the dearth of cognition that occurs in an abundance of people between hearing something on the news and ejecting it from the primary hole in their faces.Trump is the last person on Earth who should be criticizing the MSM for what it tells the world, because regardless of the intentions of CNN, MSNBC and other left-friendly outlets, these are the sources from which people are hearing the POTUS ramble on in mighty, lip-flapping ignorance about countless issues, and they are embracing these messages merely because Trump repeats them and repeats them forcefully. A significant number of voters, idealistic to the point of a quaint and remarkably infantile perspective on reality, simply do not believe that a U.S. president would stand up and systematically lie to the American people, or even commit any intentional acts of deceit of chicanery at all. I mean, he’s a patriot! He loves this country and has the red hats to prove it.
Another big one: “Give him a chance, he hasn’t even started yet.” OK, and maybe we need some microbiologists and neurologists with real integrity to finally look for a link between autism and vaccines, because, ya know, there’s still a debate out there.
In conversing with such people, I’ve discovered that the only strategy that can move the conversation to anything resembling a middle ground is a sort of bait-and-switch. You have to pretend to make concessions you don’t actually make in order to gain their trust. Like, when they say that a wall is a good idea because “We have to do something to keep them fuckers out” (a direct quote), grant them the “fact” that Mexicans are inferior, criminal scum and instead cite the simple economics. When these people go on to grumble, “Yeah but think of all the jobs it’ll make,” say “Sure, but the problem is, almost none of those pieces of shit are coming right over the border. They get here by plane and by vehicle and they would just dig tunnels under the wall like they’ve done in Tijuana and elsewhere.” This really does often get people to think about things they haven’t considered before, as long as they are merely ignorant and not motivated by ideology or real hate. In the latter instances you are better off just punching or shooting people in the side of the head and offering a polite curtsy before sashaying gracefully back toward civilization.
You still may not gain any allies in the end, but it’s an interesting rhetorical and dialectic exercise.