“It was inviting violence, political instability, and worse”
President Trump is our collective Rorschach test. And our shifting perception of his presidency may be the most underreported story right now.
When the Republican health care bill was pulled from a vote, just about everyone acknowledged it was a major setback for Trump and Republicans in Congress. But Scott Adams says the real underlying story isn’t the failure of the bill, but how its failure changed our perception of Trump the man, something he says will have a profound impact on the entire world.
In Adams’ words, Trump suddenly went from President Hitler to President Incompetent. And whether you’re Trump’s biggest supporter or his most ardent critic, viewing him through the far more traditional prism of incompetent politician could be a stabilizing force for the global good. In fact, Adams says the "illusion" of Trump, as unhinged aspiring dictator was, “until yesterday, perceived as the biggest problem in the United States, if not the entire world.”
Last year, Adams drew all kinds of ridicule when he infamously predicted that Trump would win the Republican presidential nomination and eventually, the White House itself. The acclaimed “Dilbert” cartoonist is also a longtime student of hypnosis and persuasion techniques. He claimed that Trump’s speaking style was actually the most powerful form of mass hypnosis that he’d ever seen from a public figure. In his view, the same rambling, incoherent word diarrhea that was anathema to millions was covertly transmitting some of the most basic and effective persuasion methods, as outlined in classics like Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
The argument was so offensive to some, that Adams was attacked as being a Trump stooge, something he regularly denies. For example, he was recently the subject of a Bloomberg profile, which described him as being “hypnotized by Trump.”
But back to the whole Trump/Hitler comparison. Adams writes this on his blog about the power of that perception:
“In all seriousness, the Trump-is-Hitler illusion was the biggest problem in the country, and maybe the world. It was scaring people to the point of bad health. It made any kind of political conversation impossible. It turned neighbors and friends against each other in a way we have never before seen. It was inviting violence, political instability, and worse.”
Comparing any politician to Hitler is, of course, ridiculous. There can only be one Hitler, that’s what makes his legacy so horrifically unique. Creating a false equivalency both dilutes the historical impact and distorts our ability to accurately criticize a modern leader. But that hasn’t stopped partisans on both sides from freely applying the label to past presidents including President Obama and President George W. Bush. But what’s most interesting is the impact of viewing your political opponents as either an existential threat or as simply not being good at their jobs. In the case of Trump, Adams seems to say we’re far better off thinking the latter.
Still, don’t get your hopes up too much. Always the contrarian, Adams says Trump’s pivot to a “bumbler” in “ordinary politics” doesn’t necessarily spell his doom.
In fact, he predicts yet another shift in the coming months, where Trump morphs yet again in our collective conscience to: “Competent, but we don’t like it.”