"Big Victory"

Whatever your views on politics may be, I think we should all be able to get a good chuckle out of this. Now that we know Democrats have won the House, Donald Trump is going around boasting about the "Big Victory" Republicans just had.

What a world we have where it's a "Big Victory" when you lose because you didn't lose by as much as you could have.

20 comments

  1. Gary, accepting words can have multiple meanings does not explain how "We lost!" translates into, "We had a big victory!" Nor does it explain why Trump actually said it might be a good thing Republicans lost hte House.

    Which isn't to say there is no explanation. I'd just really like to hear what that explanation is.

  2. Well, he did offer a rationale. They picked up Senate seats and he said something about how it should have been worse in the House because of all the retirements (hence its a victory because they outperformed expectations), plus he said something about how (what he called) a small advantage in the House for demz would put the Demz at a strategic disadvantage because they will waste time in investigations that won't hurt him and that will enhance his position with his base (that think he's the victim of a witch hunt) and appear to be responsible for gridlock.

    We could also deduce that he thinks the House losses were a victory for him personally, because those who lost were the ones who didn't accept his "embrace" (remarkable how much he sounds like a mafia Don), of course, ignoring people like Kobach and Rorabacher. There are fewer Pubz in the House who would ever be critical of him and those Pubz who remain in the House will be increasingly unlikely to be critical of him. So that's winning also.

    And, of course, he always claims that everything he does is victorious. It isn't clear whether he really believes that or merely uses that as a strategy, but he clearly thinks that is a" winning" strategy because declaring victory will make it so, and so in a sense, just using that strategy is winning in his view.

    It's not entirely unlike when he says that ridiculing Ford or talking about an "invasion" are "winning" strategies because they motivate his base - even if those strategies might have lost him support from suburban women to the extent that republican candidates lost some seats as a result.

    It depends on how you define winning. For Trump, winning rather simply boils down to strengthening his support from his base (even if it shrinks his base, the support in those who remain is intensified) .

    It's like when he said that the election shows that his administration had support from "most people" even though the demz won the overall vote totals by something like 7% in both the House and the Senate. He won support from "most people" if you start with a premise that "most people" = his base.

    He also "won" because impeachment or any accountability on his part, for corruption in his administration, is more remote because of more seats in the house, with more Pub Senators who will steadfastly refuse to be critical of him, and fewer who would be willing to be critical.

    If you read Breitbart, or watch Fox, you will see substantiation of all of these aspects of his winning. If he sees that substantiation in Fox and Breitbart, it is, by definition, winning.

  3. Brandon, on the internet nobody hears the level of sarcasm. I should have added /sarc to my comment.

    Trump is masterful at manipulating word meanings. Much like camouflage it distracts his opponents. Not saying he's correct in his usage; just that it works for him. He's not an engineer; he's a poet and takes poetic license in great big pieces. He's loathsome in several ways, but sometimes you just have to marvel at his skill, even though you despise it.

  4. Gary -

    Of course, the attribute of being poetic is highly subjective, but I really don't know what you find poetic about Trump. It seems you think his manipulation of words is poetic.... I'm hoping you could give an example or a more in-depth explanation.

    I'm also curious if you could describe a bit more (given an example?) of his skill that you find admirable?

  5. Gary -

    Is the following poetic? (not exact quotes)

    I didn't know Matt Whitaker. He's highly thought of. His appoint was met with raves when I made it.

    Reflective of admirable skills?

  6. Joshua, Trump has also claimed the Republicans did much better than historical precedent for midterms. That isn't true at all. Things like that make me doubt your attempt at parsing his meaning is accurate.

    Also, while I get being impressed by Trump's ability to be successful/manipulate people, I can't begin to see how one could call what he does poetry. He's less articulate than George Bush Jr.

  7. Brandon -

    This is what I've seen:

    https://goo.gl/images/9RM8TJ

    With just a quick look, and not digging into the numbers, I guess it's reasonable to argue that Pubz did (moderately) better than average for the president's party in his first midterms?

    But the point, IMO, is that this viewpoint only works if you completely isolate a statement from any relevant context, such as the state of the economy, or the degree to which votes by party moved away from the president's party as compare to the previous presidential election. Or he can say that the outcome was better than average considering the number of retirements (and thus, the advantage of incumbency being negated) without considering WHY the retirements took place.

    His broad characterization of the results is largely unsupported because typically, his characterization ignores much context - specifically ANY factors that don't point positively to his popularity or capacity to always "win." If you narrow down context to the point of absurdity, then you can make broad comments that can, in some sense, appear reasonabke even though, in actuality, they are just absurd. It's all part of the "plausible deniability" strategy that can be used to exploit people's tribal orientation.


    Also, while I get being impressed by Trump's ability to be successful/manipulate people,...

    I don't get his. To me, it seems to dismiss people's agency. I don't buy the view thst people vote for Trump because he manipulates them. I think that many people vote for Trump because he recognizes, and appeals to, and weaponizes, their tribalisitic orientation. I don't quite get how that's manipulation. It seems to me to be rather run of the mill strategy for a politician to craft their image and messaging for the purpose of political expediency.

    That's why I find it amusing when his apologists speak about how he isn't a "politician," he's just a regular bloke who speaks his truth without knuckling under to political correctness.

    But let me ask you a bit more about how being impressed by someone's ability to manipulate the public works? Is there a limit? Not to go all Godwin, but were Hitler or Stalin or Mao impressive because of their ability to manipulate people? Is there something about the context of modern-day US that differentiates Trump in as a more impressive manipulator (i.e., he is somehow more impressive in that regard because he rose to power in a more democratic state)?

  8. Joshua, the average shift in midterm elections has been dropping for quite some time. If you include data back to 1800, the average swing is much higher than if you only look at data since 1900 or 1950. Compared to the midterms of the last 100 years, the losses this midterm are well above average. And that's without even knowing the final tally. There are a number of races which haven't been determined yet. It's possible Democrats will pick up 40 seats. I doubt that'll happen, but that's the potential gain last I heard. I'm betting it'll be 35-39. That's a huge loss. When you account for all the things Trump had going for him (like the economy), it's a somewhat amazing result.

    As for your question, I'm not sure what you mean when you say "manipulate." You say:

    It seems to me to be rather run of the mill strategy for a politician to craft their image and messaging for the purpose of political expediency.

    But politicians tricking people to view them in a certain way so the public will support them seems like a pretty basic form of manipulation. Rallying one's base with fear mongering seems like manipulation just like inciting a crowd to violence with inflammatory rhetoric would be. That doesn't dismiss the agency of the individuals. Members of a crowd may be incited to act by a speaker/leader, but they let themselves be incited. They let themselves be manipulated.

    As for your question about Hitler/Stalin/Mao, I'd say they were definitely impressive in their ability to manipulate people. As terrible as their actions were, I think people should be impressed they managed to carry those actions out. That doesn't mean we should admire the people. A highly skilled sniper who uses his abilities to kill people with difficult shots is not someone I would respect or admire. But I would be impressed by his abilities.

    In the case of Trump, I am impressed such an imbecile has managed to become President of the United States. I suspect much of his success has come from his "handlers" managing to keep him under control to some extent, but the fact is he is the president despite any apparent lack of qualification or ability to lead. This is a man who has failed at basically every business venture and project he's ever attempted. Normally that'd be a recipe for disaster. But for Trump, it'd somehow led to him becoming president.

    I'd call that impressive.

  9. Brandon -

    . But politicians tricking people to view them in a certain way so the public will support them seems like a pretty basic form of manipulation. Rallying one's base with fear mongering seems like manipulation just like inciting a crowd to violence with inflammatory rhetoric would be. That doesn't dismiss the agency of the individuals. Members of a crowd may be incited to act by a speaker/leader, but they let themselves be incited. They let themselves be manipulated.

    I guess I'm just not clear how some line of distinction gets drawn.

    Has Gary been manipulated if he thinks that Trump's use of language is "poetic?". Have jdohio and other folks over at Lucia's been manipulated if they think that ridiculously edited video clips are evidence of Clinton's Parkinson's disease? Has Ron been manipulated if he believes Gohmert is a credible government representative?

    These are smart, knowledgeable people who have experience and expertise in analyzing evidence so as to draw conclusions.


    This is a man who has failed at basically every business venture and project he's ever attempted.

    People who know of his many failures choose to believe that he's an impressively successful businessman. In part, I suppose, that's because he's fabulously rich and remarkably ostentatious in his display of his wealth...and perhaps people don't stop to think how rich he'd be if he had just invested his inheritance from his daddy in something like an index fund.

    But polling shows that many people put their trust in what he says even though they know he's an habitual liar. They think he's out there fighting for the working man even though they know he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and spent much of his career stiffing working people and promoting rip off schemes.

    I guess I'm just inclined to draw a line of distinction in direction of causality somewhat differently than you. Perhaps the example in this thread isn't really applicable, but I don't think that Gary thinks that Trump is poetic because Trump has manipulated him. I think that Gary thinks that Trump is poetic because that's what Gary wants to think (for some reason as yet unexplained).

    When I think of someone being manipulated, I tend to think of a circumstance of an asymmetry of information, or people lacking contradictory information, where the manipulator has some kind of monopoly or control or power on the available evidence, or is effectively deceiving other people - as opposed to taking advantage of their willing suspension of disbelief.

  10. One other point.

    I might be more inclined to think of someone as a skillful manipulator if they are subtle and sophisticated in their approach.Trump is neither. He lies and contradicts himself with total impunity because he knows that he won't be held accountable for his lying and self-contradictions. He doesn't even really try to deceive people with some skillful form of deception. I'm not really sure what kind of skill is on display.

    Balls maybe. Maybe it's impressive that he has the audacity to blatantly lie, knowing that he won't be held accountable. His has said, and made it abundantly clear, for decades that he employs lying as a strategy. So is it impressive that he's such a blatant liar?

    But at some level, I have to wonder if that isn't more reflective of a kind of pathology, as opposed to an impressive skill. I again, not to go all Godwin, but is Charles Manson impressive because he was so pathological and able to get people to follow him, or Jim Jones impressive because he could pathologically convince hundreds of people to commit suicide?

    Are there some lines to be drawn between pathological and impressive?

  11. Joshua:

    Has Gary been manipulated if he thinks that Trump's use of language is "poetic?".

    I'd say "no." Manipulation is the act of influencing or controlling a person, typically in a skillful manner. I don't think Trump has done anything to try to convince people his language is poetic. I don't think Gary's reason for believing that is because Trump did anything to influence that view.

    On the other hand, if people think Trump is super rich, that is due at least in part to Trump manipulating them. Trump routinely lied about his financial status. Those lies influenced people's views of how rich he was. That's Trump manipulating them. That they could have perhaps avoided being manipulated like that (though research shows people can be influenced by lies even if they know the statements are lies) doesn't mean Trump didn't manipulate them. The fact one can resist influence/control doesn't mean a person is not exercising it.

    When I think of someone being manipulated, I tend to think of a circumstance of an asymmetry of information, or people lacking contradictory information, where the manipulator has some kind of monopoly or control or power on the available evidence, or is effectively deceiving other people - as opposed to taking advantage of their willing suspension of disbelief.

    Many cons depend on people's willing suspension of disbelief. Con artists routinely get people to do things against their better judgment by getting those people to choose to disregard their better sense. I'd call that manipulating their victims. That's true even if they could have seen through the con.

    I might be more inclined to think of someone as a skillful manipulator if they are subtle and sophisticated in their approach.

    I don't think there's any need for one to be subtle or sophisticated to be labeled a manipulator or even a skillful manipulator. It's easy to say, "Anyone could do that," but the reality is very few people manage to. Trump is hardly the first egotistical, xenophobic bully to get into politics in the United States. He is the first to become president (at least, in quite some time).

    Now, one could believe that's just happenstance, that Trump got incredibly lucky. I don't think that's plausible though. The idea Trump just stumbled his way so far he became the leader of the most powerful country in the world seems unbelievable. Much more believable to me is Trump knows how to manipulate people, even if only instinctively, better than most.

    But at some level, I have to wonder if that isn't more reflective of a kind of pathology, as opposed to an impressive skill. I again, not to go all Godwin, but is Charles Manson impressive because he was so pathological and able to get people to follow him, or Jim Jones impressive because he could pathologically convince hundreds of people to commit suicide?

    Are there some lines to be drawn between pathological and impressive?

    I think a certain pathology is required for these sort of people, but I think many people have such pathologies while not achieving the same levels of "success." I think there are reasons for that. One of those reasons is, I think some people with such pathologies are better at manipulating people than the others.

    Something to remember about Trump is his success doesn't come just from being willing to tell blatant lies. He has to figure out which lies to tell and how to tell them. And whe

  12. Brandon -

    I may agree with most of your points there (have to think about it some more)...

    a few responses, however.

    Much more believable to me is Trump knows how to manipulate people, even if only instinctively, better than most.

    I guess my point is that an instinct that allows him to exploit a preexisting pool of white resentment doesn't strike me as manipulation, so much as a match of his approach to the time. That doesn't strike me exactly as luck, either - as it is related to an intrinsic characteristic of Trump.

    Something to remember about Trump is his success doesn't come just from being willing to tell blatant lies. He has to figure out which lies to tell and how to tell them. And whe[n]

    I'm not sure how much of it is a matter of him figuring things out. Usually, when people lie, they try to make sure that their lies don't have obvious, direct contradictions that expose the lie. But Trump doesn't bother with that. Of course, the best example is probably his lies about having evidence to prove that Obama wasn't an American citizen (his lack of ever producing that evidence should be sufficient to determine that he was lying).

    But take the recent example. Would someone who is thinking strategically about how to lie to manipulate people go on TV and say "I know Whitaker" only to repeat many times 1 month later that "I don't know Matt Whitaker." I think that many of his lies are merely instinctive reactions in the moment - not him figuring something out. He just knows what image he wants to present, and will focus on presenting that image regardless of whether it is a lie or even plausible.

  13. Joshua,

    Re: Trump as poet. You take me too literally. His "verbal artistry" is like street graffiti - crude but it gets his message across. I don't endorse or like it. I just marvel at its effectiveness in rallying supporters and enraging opponents.

  14. Joshua:

    But take the recent example. Would someone who is thinking strategically about how to lie to manipulate people go on TV and say "I know Whitaker" only to repeat many times 1 month later that "I don't know Matt Whitaker." I think that many of his lies are merely instinctive reactions in the moment - not him figuring something out. He just knows what image he wants to present, and will focus on presenting that image regardless of whether it is a lie or even plausible.

    While some lies are clearly instinctual and involved no planning, that doesn't mean it is true for all of his lies. For instance, take all of his rhetoric about the "invasion" that's happening due to the migrant caravan. Lies like the ones he told about that were not just some off the cuff sort of thing. They were a concerted message designed to capitalize on certain fears within his target base. And they're lies which Trump will largely stop repeating now that the midterms are over and they had their desired result.

    I find it difficult to believe that is by chance. Now, maybe that's just an example of his "handlers" finding a talking point Trump would like that was good for the Republican chances in the midterms, but there are lots of examples of lies like this which are successful. Then there's plenty of things which suggest Trump knows how crucial certain lies are to his success. Look at the Jim Acosta situation. Qas it just chance Trump did that then? I doubt it. Acosta was challenging Trump on his claims about the migrant caravan, possibly the most important lie to Trump for the midterms.

    I don't think you could take just anyone with this pathology, throw them in Trump's position and have them succeed. I think most would fail. I think Trump succeeds because he's better at manipulating people than most people with a similar pathology. That's true even if there are lots of willing victims for the type of manipulation he engages in. After all, there are plenty of people who for one reason or another might be willing to join a cult. But most cults don't reach such levels of "success" they can convince nearly a thousand people to commit suicide.

  15. I dunno. I'm not sure what the answer is, but I'm inclined to think it's more about him exploiting the tribalism that drives people to support him no matter what (even as they put up a facade of plausible deniablity, for example by superficially criticizing him by saying he's not a polished politician - a kind of compliment, actually - but failing to note the truly significant demerits of his presidency and his style of governing), than it is that he's manipulating people. Not sure how to approach making a clear distinction there.

    Today, he decries the NYT story about NK not denuclearizing as fake news, but neglects to mention that Fox News (and many other outlets) are reporting the same thing.

    A while back, he said:

    "I may be wrong, I mean I may stand before you in six months and say, 'Hey I was wrong,'" Trump said at a press conference after his historic meeting with Kim.

    "I don't know that I'll ever admit that, but I'll find some kind of an excuse," Trump added.

    I watched smart, knowledgeable people at Lucia's praising Trump for having success with NK negotiations, attributing that success to his tough guy stance that got Kim to knuckle under and that convinced Kim to come to the negotiation table. Mark Bofill, who I genuinely like and respect, was arguing a while back that Trump's success proves that he's a genius.

    I don't think it's really a matter of planning. I think it's a blanket strategy. Deny any demerits, exaggerate and invent positive metrics, attack anyone who criticizes, usually by turning around those very criticisms. He outlined that strategy decades ago, and he inherited it from mentors like Roy Cohn. He has also had very important and powerful benefactors like the Mercer and Banon. He wouldn't have had the success thst he's had if he wasn't the darling of Breitbart and Hannity and the like.

    I'm not saying thar he doesn't have some relatively unique qualities that at least partially explain his success, but I'm not sure I'd describe it as a unique gift for manipulating people. To me, it just seems more like a uniquely well-developed ability to dismiss any nuance and to avoid any introspection or honesty or acknowledgement of weakness or failure, and a well-developed discipline to constantly remain in attack. In other words, a rather uniquely well-developed pathology.

    I'm not sure that there's a meaningful distinction between having those skills and being uniquely good at manipulating people. But they strike me as somehow different. Don't forget, he is actually rather uniquely unpopular as a president, and a very large segment of the public think that he's a habitual liar and a generally odeous person. I would think that someone gifted at being uniquely manipulative wouldn't have a public opinion profile like his.

  16. Joshua:

    I'm not sure that there's a meaningful distinction between having those skills and being uniquely good at manipulating people. But they strike me as somehow different. Don't forget, he is actually rather uniquely unpopular as a president, and a very large segment of the public think that he's a habitual liar and a generally odeous person. I would think that someone gifted at being uniquely manipulative wouldn't have a public opinion profile like his.

    Why though? Look at people who've relied on lies to manipulate people in the past with great success. Hitler is a perfect example. Hitler did not have a wide base of support when he rose to power. Significant portions of the German population hated him. It was only as he gained power he could abuse to jail and kill his rivals then engage in massive, government-sanctioned propaganda campaigns that he became widely popular (if you can call it that).

    From the examples I know of, the sort of approach this person aims to take isn't to become widely popular. It's to get a radical base then leverage whatever you can to force more people into accepting you despite their disdain for you. Trump has already done that with the Republican party. Plenty of Republicans in government positions who once spoke out against Trump now toe the lie silently lest they be ousted. That's all he needs. If we lived in a different era, Trump could start abusing his power to crush dissent... to greater levels than he already has. As in, doing things like jailing people not just trying to ruin their businesses by using the bully pulpit.

    As far as I can see, Trump's approach has been pretty typical for this sort of "leader." The difference seems to just be one of opportunity. As much as we talk about how people tolerate the things he does, the truth is he hasn't come close to what his predecessors in this regard have done. Heck, just look at what Abraham Lincoln got away with in terms of abusing his power. If Trump could get away with doing the same things Lincoln did, I bet he'd have a decent chance as installing himself as a dictator.

    Which, incidentally, is why the rule of law is so important. History has largely forgiven Lincoln his abuses of power because he was "in the right." That's a shame. If the same things ever happen again in the United States, who knows what will happen?

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