The Grand Illusion

2016-02-3--11-07-03By QMC, USN (Ret)

You’re fooling yourself if you don’t believe it You’re killing yourself if you don’t believe it Styx

OK, so what to make of the Donald Trump phenomenon? Opinions about him seem to cover the entire spectrum of thought, with one notable exception: neutrality. Love him or hate him, it seems that everyone has an opinion about his candidacy. Usually a very strong opinion. Everyone except, of course, your humble commentator, me.

People who have known me for a while might suggest that my lack of passion is due to my generally laid-back attitude about nearly everything. While that may certainly have something to do with it, I think that the main reason is the simple fact that I’m just not smart enough to have figured this guy out. I look at him one day, and I see one thing. I look at him the next day, and I see something else entirely. On Monday, I see someone who wants to wall off the border. On Tuesday, a guy that’s employed countless immigrants. On Wednesday, a man who can contribute to candidates from both parties, because he’s a winner, and that’s how the political game is played. Come Thursday, I witness the spectacle of poor Donald, who just got his butt kicked at a state convention, complaining that the system is rigged. Friday, he’s running his mouth about his worldwide businesses and connections. Saturday, his babbling about foreign policy show a depth of knowledge that would make me look like Henry Kissinger. And on the Sunday morning news show, he says something that’s 180° out from what he said an hour earlier on the last show. So of course I can’t figure him out. That would take a Sigmund Freud, and I don’t have a mommy fixation.

In spite of these contradictions, Trump’s candidacy enjoys massive support, some of it from what would seem to be unlikely quarters. For example, he has many fans among the religious right, although his faith appears to be something that he feebly trots out when convenient, and then shoves back into that storeroom where he keeps the Bibles that he claims that people send him. And he gets away with this stuff. How? In my so-called mind, there’s only one plausible explanation:

Donald Trump is a magician.

Think about it. If you watch the other hand, you will probably see that Trump employs some of the same skills used by illusionists and conjurers. For starters:

Simple Fact of Life: People tend to see what they expect to see.

One of the main tasks of a successful magician is to manage what the audience expects to see. Then, when they see something else, “What was that? It’s frickin’ magic!” There are various things that a magician can do to achieve this effect. Illusionists, such as David Copperfield, who perform large tricks on a large stage, will often move about the stage, using exaggerated motions to direct (or misdirect) the attention of the audience toward what he wants them to expect to see. And the next time that you watch someone doing close-up magic, notice that he is probably talking constantly. The magicians’ term for this talk is patter. If properly done, patter should sound like random conversation, but in actuality, it is carefully rehearsed and meticulously timed. Sometimes, the performer will simply tell you what you are about to see, which has little relation to what you will actually witness. More commonly, he will describe exactly what he is doing, while doing something else altogether. It’s all designed to make you expect to see what the magician wants you to expect to see.

So, while Trump’s history might make one expect to see a strict authoritarian, his patter has caused many to see the populist that he wants them to expect. One of the things that he does, which is at the root of many of the contradictions that we see, is a tactic that he shares with Hillary Clinton (he does it much better than she does). They will say exactly what the audience that’s in front of them at the time wants to hear. Next week, different audience, different message. Let the people expect what you want them to expect.

And did you ever notice how often, when pressed on these things during interviews, Trump simply ignores the question and changes the subject? Cardinal rule of the magician’s craft. Never accede to requests to repeat a trick. After they’ve seen the effect, people will know what to really expect, and will be watching for something that the magician doesn’t want them to see.

So, if Donald Trump should become the President, what will come out of the hat? I have no idea. As I said, I’m not that smart. But, all that being said, if it comes down to it, would I vote for him?

I would. Surprised?

The way that I see it, electing Trump would be sort of like playing a national game of Russian roulette. If things go wrong, something really bad could happen.2016-31-3--01-34-13

But, should the Democrats nominate, although I don’t think that they will, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, it would be like playing Russian roulette with five rounds in the cylinder. Something really bad is almost certain to happen. Go with the odds.

So who is Donald Trump really? I have no clue, so I’ll leave you with some words from Tommy James & the Shondells:

Just a mirage, that’s all you are to me

Just a mirage, something that I only see

But maybe that’s what somebody wanted me to expect to see.

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