Thursday, September 14, 2017

Understanding the appeal of Donald Trump

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I have just got back from London and a lecture by Professor Steve Reicher. It was a joint event put on by the British Academy and the British Psychological Society.

Professor Reicher's argument was that if we are to understand the appeal of Donald Trump (and of other authoritarian populists) we have to get away from the idea that the people who voted for him are merely wicked or stupid.

An audio recording of the event should appear on the British Academy site soon. I will post the link when it does.

In the mean time, I recommend an article Steve Reicher wrote for the Scientific American with Alex Haslam, which covers much of the same ground.

They conclude:
When we put it all together, these figures tell us something important about leadership in general and about the 2016 leadership contest. They underline the point that leadership is never about the character of individuals as individuals. 
This is the "old psychology of leadership" that our own theoretical and empirical analysis has called into question. Instead leadership is about individuals as group members -whose success hinges on their capacity to create, represent, advance and embed a shared sense of "us." 
Reflecting on the implications of this analysis for the specifics of this election, we can see that many Trump voters knew full well that their man was a reprobate, that they deplored his crudities and that they saw him as a risky choice. 
And yet in a world where the system is seen to be against "us" and where things appear to be driven in the wrong direction by "them," the really irrational thing to do is to vote for the conventional candidate who represents sticking with that system.

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