Using reason and logic to counter Trump’s rhetoric — his tweets, off-the-cuff remarks, speeches — doesn’t work.
You can fact check his statements, and cite glaring errors. You can point to his tweets or video clips in which he made contradictory statements. You can punch gaping holes in the logic of his arguments.
All to no avail.
It’s as if reason and logic — the mainstays of traditional rhetoric — don’t apply to Trump. Nor do they sway his supporters.
The knee-jerk response is to write off Trump and his supporters as illogical and irrational. Defective in some way.
But I don’t think that’s the case. And it doesn’t give us any insight into their behavior or how we might influence it.
For most of us — not just Trump and his supporters — reason and logic aren’t the main drivers that inform our thinking or guide our behavior.
At some primal level we function in a pre-rational — not an irrational — manner. We act not illogically, but without logic.
Logic is a mental discipline with its own rules and processes. Many of which are counter-intuitive.
Logic isn’t something we naturally pick up: it has to be learned. Usually later in life.
In our earliest, most formative years, our brains simply are not wired for logic.
There’s a reason why we use logic infrequently. It’s hard work. It takes time. It requires a detached, somewhat cool and calculating mind.
After all, it takes time and energy to think things through. To examine the evidence and weigh its validity. To make conscious our personal biases and account for how they influence our thinking. To formulate an argument and test its logic. To engage others in an open dialogue, with the willingness to change our thinking as a result.
Most of us don’t take the time, make the effort, or know how to think things through rationally and logically.
It is easier and faster to react to new people, events, or ideas reflexively, relying on a largely unconscious set of gut instincts, inherited beliefs, and deeply ingrained habits.
We can’t reason people out of beliefs, prejudices, erroneous assumptions that they didn’t reason themselves into.
If we want to influence people (like Trump supporters), if we want to change how they think and act, we have to take a different approach.
We can — and should — use reason and logic to develop our own positions, proposals, solutions. But in advocating for them, we need to present a message that speaks to people’s more basic, instinctual, gut-level fears, hopes, and attachments.
It’s fire in the belly that moves people, not the cold light of logic and reason.