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“Why Do Some People Respond To Trump? It’s Biology 101”: Conservatives Respond To Fear-Inducing Stimuli

As humans, we are first and foremost programmed to survive. Millions of years of evolution through natural selection have sculpted instincts and intellect aimed at staying alive. Fast, sudden movements instantly capture our attention, and unexpected noises cause us to jump back reflexively. It only takes common sense to see that survival requires a certain degree of sensitivity to threat. A desire to feel safe is part of our hardwiring, and as such, we tend to want people and rules in our lives that are going to help protect us from harm.

For some people, Donald Trump and his policies are seen as that protection. Afraid of the radical Islamic terrorists who are out there plotting attacks? Don’t worry—Donald Trump is going to ban every single Muslim from entering the country. Do you fear the Mexican immigrants coming across the border that you heard were “drug dealers, murderers, and rapists”? Fear not, President Trump is going to build a wall to keep out all the bad guys.

It is clear that those politicians who are best able to exploit our most basic biological traits, like our instinct to survive, are going to occupy a timeless niche in the political environment. The effectiveness of fear mongering in politics is no real secret to anyone anymore. But there were many GOP candidates who were great fear mongers, like Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, whose success flailed in comparison to Trump’s. That is because fear mongering alone isn’t enough.

After you succeed in making them afraid, you must also convince them that everything will be A-OK if they have you on their side. First you create the need for a hero, and then you pretend you are that hero. Donald Trump is the candidate who is offering the most extreme measures for protection. He’s strong and the other candidates are weak or “low energy.” It is only he who can save the day.

So an obvious question is, why does Trump’s tactic work on some people but not others? Don’t we all want to feel safe? Why is it that liberals and progressives feel like Trump is the actual danger and not the protector? Neuroscience and psychology research supports one clear explanation: Conservatives are hypersensitive to threat compared to liberals, and thus respond more fearfully.

For example, a 2008 study published in the journal Science found that conservatives have a heightened physiological response to threatening stimuli. Researchers tested this by showing participants threatening images—like spiders on faces or car crashes—while they measured skin electrical conductance, and presented loud bursts of white noise while they measured the strength of their eye blinks. The data showed that those who held conservative values startled more easily and had increased electrical skin conductance, which indicates a heightened state of arousal. Those with liberal views did not seem to be affected by the stimuli.

Additionally, an MRI study published in Current Biology in 2011 found that self-described conservatives had larger amygdalas than those who identified as liberals. The amygdala is the region of the brain that is involved in threat processing. Generally speaking, as the strength of the electrical response of the amygdala increases, so does the sense of fear we feel in response to a stimulus. As a result, stimuli that might seem neutral to most people, like Muslims or Mexicans, might appear threatening to conservatives.

Trump is popular amongst the right because he can tap into irrational fears and amplify them. Then, when threat seems imminent, he offers the most drastic solutions. And when danger is on the doorstep, there’s not much time for rational thinking.

One might be inclined to point out that not all Trump supporters appear to be fearful. In fact, at Trump rallies many of the attendees are angry and aggressive toward anti-Trump protesters. But hostility is a natural response when one feels threatened, and the anger that fuels their behavior stems from deep-rooted anxieties.

It is also important to remember that we aren’t just programmed to survive. We are also hardwired to flourish. It is in our nature to vigorously compete for success. In essence, we are constantly trying to win. It’s part of the mentality that drove so many civilizations to conquer others.

As such, we shouldn’t expect all Trump supporters to be fearful or irrational people. Some are just Americans who acknowledge that all of the countries in the world are contenders in one big game of power, and that most of them are not going to play by the book. Are nations like North Korea, Iran, and Russia always going to follow the rules and act according to what is fair? Absolutely not, and to some it would seem unwise and even flat out foolish for us to do so when everything is at stake.

Trump told a journalist what he’s constantly telling the world: “I always win. Knock on wood. I win. It’s what I do. I beat people. I win.” For many, Trump is a president who is going to do everything in his power to ensure that we get ahead as a nation. He will be tough. He will wheel and deal. And he will definitely play dirty when the situation calls for it. Whatever shady dealings Trump does, he is doing it for us, and we should be thankful to be on the winning team.

The rise of Trump has defied almost all logic. But he isn’t appealing to logic. He is appealing to our most basic survival instincts. Those include fear and the natural tendency to thrive and conquer. This presidential election will be an important test for our nation. We will see if we are evolved enough for our logic to overcome our instincts.

 

By: Bobby Azarian, The Daily Beast, May 6, 2016

May 9, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Fearmongering | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Election-Industrial Complex”: Campaign Consultants And Media Companies Are Cashing In On Our Corrupt Elections

Four days before Ben Carson finally wrapped up his failed candidacy, his campaign paid $348,141 to a direct mail company. The same amount was paid at the start of the month to Pennsylvania-based Action Mailers, bringing the company’s February total close to $1 million.

That same day, a web service provider for Carson’s campaign (run by the candidate’s chief marketing officer) was paid $59,000. In February, as the campaign limped to an end, checks totaling $651,000 were sent to Eleventy for web services.

Carson, in an interview with CNN after he announced that he would be dropping out of the race, said “We had people who didn’t really seem to understand finances, or maybe they did—maybe they were doing it on purpose.”

In total, through the end of February, Carson’s campaign raised $63 million and spent $58 million, according to FEC filings.

Much of that money came from small individual donations, and much of it was spent on a handful of companies tasked with raising money from those individual donors. There are many links between companies paid money by his campaign and the individuals who surrounded Carson.

Eleventy, whose president, Ken Dawson, was the campaign’s marketing chief, received close to $6 million over the course of the campaign. Action Mailers received over $5 million. Carson spent just over $5 million on television buys, less even than Donald Trump, whose “free media” campaign has kept his ad expenses incredibly low. Just as important, Carson spent little on developing a ground game.

“There’s a lot of people who love me, they just won’t vote for me,” Carson said as he bowed out. Hundreds of thousands loved him enough to give money to what they thought was an actual campaign.

The rise of super PACs in the aftermath of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision has often dominated the discussion over money in politics in recent election cycles. There is much more to the tale. It’s not just about who is spending the cash, but where it’s going.

Harpers Magazine, in its April cover story, delves into the world of “strategists, pollsters, TV-ad makers, media buyers, direct-mail specialists, broadcasters, and other subcategories of what we should properly call the election-industrial complex.” Its conclusion leaves the reader feeling, if only for a moment, somewhat sorry for the billionaires and multi-millionaires pumping money into elections. It’s all wasted extremely efficiently, mostly on advertising buys.

Exhibit A: Jeb Bush, whose campaign and supportive PACs spent close to $150 million on his failed candidacy, with nothing to show for it but… well, actually, there’s just nothing to show for it.

The big winners are consultants and television companies.

Les Moonves, chairman of CBS, made it clear, twice, that what may be bad for America is very good for his company. “Super PACs may be bad for America,” Moonves said following the 2012 election, “but they’re very good for CBS.” That year, CBS made $180 million out of the election.

This election cycle, not only are broadcasters pulling in cash from advertising, they also have Donald Trump to thank for an unprecedented ratings spike.

“It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” Moonves told a media conference in San Francisco in December. “Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? … The money’s rolling in and this is fun,” Moonves said.

“I’ve never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”

 

By:  John Breslin, The National Memo, March 23, 2016

March 24, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Advertising, Campaign Consultants, Election Industrial Complex | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Donald Trump’s Thuggery Is Inexcusable”: One In The Same, The Bullying Thug And The Self-Pitying Victim

As he edges closer to winning the Republican nomination, it is possible to discern, at intermittent intervals and in trace amounts, an instinct in Donald Trump to act presidential. There was Trump in Thursday’s debate with a paean to the relative civility of the encounter. There was Trump in his Super Tuesday victory lap pronouncing himself a “unifier.”

But Trump being Trump, the presidential urge can never proceed very far before being overtaken by his real self: Trump the bullying thug and Trump the self-pitying victim.

Both aspects of Trump’s personality have been on rampant display over the past several days, as the protests at Trump’s rallies have spun dangerously, predictably out of control.

Trump, reaping a whirlwind of his own creation, could have risen to the occasion. He could have dialed back the taunts. He could have, unlikely as it sounds, expressed just a tinge of un-Trumplike regret.

Instead, in a development as disappointing as it was unsurprising, Trump ramped up. “Go home to mommy,” he told one protester in Missouri on Friday. “Get a job,” he told another. “These people are bringing us down, remember that,” he told the crowd. These people. How presidential.

Trump took no responsibility — zero — for the anger his divisive rhetoric has generated among the demonstrators, nor for the violence it has incited among his supporters. He was only sorry the protesters had to be treated so delicately. “They’re being politically correct the way they take them out,” he said. “There used to be consequences.”

To be clear, protesters have a right to be heard — but in an appropriate place and manner. Hecklers are a fact of political life, yet no candidate should have to contend with a campaign event so constantly disrupted the candidate cannot share his own message. The scene of Secret Service agents swarming around Trump after a protester broke through the security barrier at a rally in Ohio on Saturday was an unsettling reminder of the lurking potential for tragedy.

But candidates bear responsibility, as well — for the tone of their rhetoric and for the way they respond, and encourage their supporters to respond, to dissent. Not Trump, though, at least according to Trump.

He says things that are hurtful and divisive, then is surprised when his language provokes a counter-reaction. At that point, he sees freedom of speech as a one-way street — Trump’s freedom to speak — and lashes out at those who would dare to interrupt.

“The organized group of people, many of them thugs, who shut down our First Amendment rights in Chicago, have totally energized America!” tweeted the man who recently vowed to “open up” libel laws so he could sue critics in the media.

And when Trump’s supporters turn, inevitably, violent, his response is more empathetic than condemnatory.

“People come with tremendous passion and love for their country, and when they see protest — you know, you’re mentioning one case, which I haven’t seen, I heard about it which I don’t like,” Trump told CNN’s Jake Tapper at Thursday’s debate, responding to videotape of a Trump supporter punching a protester in the face.

“But when they see what’s going on in this country, they have anger that’s unbelievable. They have anger. They love this country. They don’t like seeing bad trade deals, they don’t like seeing higher taxes, they don’t like seeing a loss of their jobs where our jobs have just been devastated. . . . There is some anger. There’s also great love for the country. It’s a beautiful thing in many respects. But I certainly do not condone that at all, Jake.”

No, nor egg it on. This is a candidate who says of protesters things like, “I’d like to punch him in the face.” Or, “In the good ol’ days, they’d rip him out of that seat so fast.” Or, “Knock the crap out of him, would you? Seriously, Okay just knock the hell. I promise you I will pay for the legal fees, I promise, I promise.”

Trump, characteristically, regrets nothing. On Friday, accepting the endorsement of Ben Carson, a man he once described as “pathological” and likened to a “child molester,” Trump reaffirmed his inclination to meet violence with violence, citing the example of a protester who was “swinging” at the audience.

And the audience hit back,” Trump said, approvingly. “And that’s what we need a little bit more of.”

Not actually. But it is, I fear, what we will be getting much more of, with Trump at the top of the GOP ticket. He is not a unifier, he is an igniter. The fuse is short and the electorate flammable. The match in Trump’s hands is a dangerous weapon.

 

By: Ruth Marcus, Columnist, The Washington Post, March 11, 2016

March 14, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Trump Supporters | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Cruz: I’m Not Shady, But The People I Hire Are”: Thou Shalt Not Criticize Another Republican, Unless You Can

It’s hard to run a campaign on the slogan, ‘TrusTED’—as Sen. Ted Cruz is doing—when everyone thinks you’re a dirty trickster.

As allegations of shady behavior continues to erode his image, just one day before the Nevada caucuses, Cruz dismissed a senior staffer who circulated a false news story that questioned fellow GOP candidate Marco Rubio’s faith.

“I had made clear in this campaign that we will conduct this campaign with the very highest standards of integrity,” Cruz said, in making the announcement to a group of reporters in a small meeting room at a YMCA in northern Las Vegas. “That has been how we’ve conducted it from day one.”

This is the latest indication that the Texas senator is concerned about the narrative that has gained strength with each passing state, that far from being trusTED, he is a con artist; a cheater, a liar.

The Cruz campaign has found itself in the middle of a number of controversies, starting from the very first presidential contest in Iowa. The Texas senator’s campaign circulated information that suggested Carson might be leaving the presidential race, drawing the lasting ire of the neurosurgeon.

Even some Cruz’s supporters, who are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, worry about how nasty that campaign has become. Andrew Russell said he thought that circulating information about Ben Carson’s potential dropout on the night of the Iowa caucuses was “a dirty trick.”

“I don’t know if I would point it to Cruz directly, as opposed to his campaign. I saw on Fox News that he fired his communications director today. So I think maybe people on his team have probably gone too far… they’re definitely dirty tricks. I definitely don’t like it, but I’m willing to overlook it,” Russell told The Daily Beast. “This election process in general has become way too negative, way too harsh.”

And other die-hard supporters blamed Cruz’s opponents for dragging the entire presidential campaign into the mud.

“His campaign is positive, because he’s not attacking anybody… Rubio, Carson and Trump all [are] basically lying about him, so I think they’re the ones running a negative campaign,” said Sheila Rhinehart, a Cruz supporter, who called the Iowa caucus incident “unfortunate.”

It’s true that Trump’s opponents have been hammering him for lies and tricks.

Cruz tried to make nice with Ben Carson, who has argued that Cruz’s campaign spread false information about him on the night of the Iowa caucuses. Despite a face-to-face meeting in a large closet in South Carolina, Carson and Cruz did not make amends.

Sen. Marco Rubio told reporters, “It’s every single day, something comes out of the Cruz campaign that’s deceptive and untrue, and in this case goes after my faith…but this is a pattern now and I think we’re now at a point where we start asking about accountability.”

And Donald Trump can’t seem to utter the name “Cruz” without saying the word “liar” immediately afterward.

Still, the Texas Republican has insisted, from the beginning of the campaign, that he would refrain from criticizing other Republicans, frequently citing Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment: ‘Thou shalt not criticize another Republican.’ But the campaign has turned nasty, and he is losing control of his image.

“When other campaigns attack us personally, impugn my integrity or my character, I don’t respond in kind,” insisted Cruz Monday.

So, at a critical point in the presidential contest, Cruz had to dismiss one of the most senior members of his staff.

The most recent incident involved communications director Rick Tyler, who was forced to apologize after posting a story that alleged Rubio telling Cruz’s father that the bible did “[n]ot have many answers” in it. The story included a video with incorrect subtitles—Rubio was in reality praising the bible.

Cruz announced his decision to ask for Tyler’s resignation in a small, nondescript meeting room at a northern Las Vegas YMCA, before taking the stage and delivering his standard stump speech. To his supporters, he made no mention of his dramatic announcement. It was a shock, perhaps even to Tyler himself, who reportedly stormed off the MSNBC set when the news broke, even though he was scheduled to appear on television.

“Rick Tyler’s a good man,” Cruz told the press. “This was a grave error of judgment. It turned out the news story he sent around was false, but I’ll tell you, even if it was true, we are not a campaign that is going to question the faith of another candidate.”

Cruz faces a seminal moment in his campaign Tuesday: a neck-and-neck race with Rubio for second place in the Nevada caucuses, and then a race to a slew of states that will be contested on March 1st, also known as Super Tuesday. If he can’t build trust, Cruz could be obliteraTED.

 

By: Tim Mak, The Daily Beast, February 22, 2016

February 23, 2016 Posted by | GOP Primaries, Nevada Caucus, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“5 Down-And-Dirty Tricks Ted Cruz Uses To Fool Voters”: Trusted, As Transparent A Ploy As The Rest Of His Campaign

Ted Cruz is nasty. Ted Cruz is mean. Ted Cruz is “a huge asshole.”

Ted Cruz is a pretty horrible human being.

That’s the consensus, at least, from notables like former President George W. Bush and and Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, commander of the coalition against ISIS.

Cruz has had to wheedle his family to get them to acquiesce – on camera! – that he’s a good guy, even though everyone from his former college roommate to his senatorial colleagues have whispered and shouted that the American public should stay far, far away from this loathsome, odious creature. (Even his “friends” in the Senate don’t want him to be president.)

Now, he’s tasked with saving us from The Donald — a role that, though potentially heroic, has managed only to force Cruz into a spotlight under which his seediness seems to have adopted a new shine. If Donald Trump is America’s premier insult comic, Ted Cruz is its greatest scoundrel. He lies, deceives, and swindles some more. To wit:

He lied about Ben Carson exiting the race
Dr. Ben Carson decided to not to campaign in New Hampshire and South Carolina after the Iowa Caucus, preferring to return to Florida to (yes, really) get a change of clothes. The Cruz campaign, as detailed by Politifact, took this nugget – that Carson was taking “a very unusual” travel detour – and spun it so that Carson was “taking some time off” from the campaign.

In a series of tweets, emails and voicemails  (and with some assistance from Iowa Congressman Steve King) the campaign inferred and then explicitly stated that Carson had dropped out of the race, which was not the case, and urged caucus-goers to “not waste a vote” on Carson, but instead to vote for Cruz.

Although Cruz apologized, his campaign did acknowledge that “it made a coordinated effort to spread the story.” He ended up winning Iowa, leaving Donald Trump to accuse him of stealing the election.

He used false data and social pressure to trick Iowa residents into voting for him
In another play for Iowa Caucus voters, the Cruz campaign sent out mailers meant to look like official documents warning voters that their participation – or lack thereof – would be recorded and sent to their neighbors, in addition to assigning a grade that matched up with their alleged voting history. Using well-known political science research, the mailers (as seen below), preyed upon voters’ fears of social pressure to get them to vote.

.@TedCruz campaign mailed #IowaCaucus voters misleading “violation” https://t.co/PayPAJ84aR https://t.co/StcKy2N0F8 pic.twitter.com/hlzXJV8fIT

— Alex Howard (@digiphile) January 31, 2016

Of course, the “grades” listed on the mailers were all low scores — most of them “F”s:

Man, @TedCruz is such a scumbag (and so is his campaign staffer who thought this was a good idea) #iacaucus pic.twitter.com/5ybjhbZdA5

— super delegator (@LoganJames) January 30, 2016

The mailers used fraudulent “data” – the Cruz campaign made up percentages – and erroneously attributed this “data” to the Iowa Secretary of State and county election clerks, which prompted Iowa’s Secretary of State, Paul D. Pate, to correct the record:

Accusing citizens of Iowa of a “voting violation” based on Iowa Caucus participation, or lack thereof, is false representation of an official act. There is no such thing as an election violation related to frequency of voting. Any insinuation or statement to the contrary is wrong and I believe it is not in keeping in the spirit of the Iowa Caucuses.

Additionally, the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office never “grades” voters. Nor does the Secretary of State maintain records related to Iowa Caucus participation. Caucuses are organized and directed by the state political parties, not the Secretary of State, nor local elections officials. Also, the Iowa Secretary of State does not “distribute” voter records. They are available for purchase for political purposes only, under Iowa Code.” – Paul D. Pate, Iowa Secretary of State

While the tactic has been used before – and an online version of it is being used in China – Cruz takes it to another level. And it’s not something he apologizes for.

He mailed pre-filled “checks” and asked recipients to match them
According to the Huffington Post, the Cruz campaign mailed fake checks across the country to prospective voters meant to entice them to donate money by saying their contribution would be “matched” by “a group of generous supporters.” It was misleading enough for one group to file a complaint with the state attorney general for allegedly violating state law.

The Intercept reports that this tactic “is either impossible, illegal, or a scam,” since individual donations are legally capped at $2,700 for both the primary and general elections ($5,400 total) and the Cruz campaign would need a lot of “generous supporters” willing and able to “match” donations.

That means that the Cruz campaign either disregarded campaign finance law or is funneling all of the money they receive into a super PAC – which would also be illegal. “Super PACs … are allowed to accept unlimited contributions as long as they don’t coordinate directly with campaigns,” reporters Dan Froomkin and Zaid Jilani wrote. The law is explicit in what that means: Candidates running for national office “are not allowed to solicit more than $5,000 in Super PAC contributions from any one person.”

The Cruz campaign, however, is relentless. One mailer with a fake check isn’t enough – there are followups upon followups upon followups – post-its and emails and emails and emails and emails. Cruz tries to come across as casual: The sender’s line is doctored to make it appear that the message was quickly sent from his iPhone. But the barrage of emails instead comes off as desperate, edging on creepy.

His app takes your data and tries to sell your friends onto the “Cruz Crew”
Ted Cruz knows how to work Big Data. On his app, available on both the App Store and Google Play, users have to opt-out of sharing sensitive data, which includes their contact information and their location. This makes it easy for the campaign to amass a trove of sensitive and lucrative information, which it shares with other organizations and analytics companies to better finesse the messages it sends to potential supporters and voters.

The analytics company behind the Cruz operation, Cambridge Analytica, is funded by Robert Mercer, a hedge-fund investor, computer scientist, and the fourth-largest Republican donor in 2014 – and a major backer of Cruz. Mercer has donated at least $11 million to Cruz-related super PACs.

The campaign also uses sophisticated gaming techniques to entice app users to participate, allotting points for specific actions, like sharing messages on social media.

Cambridge Analytica’s formidable system analyzes billions of data points – from voter rolls to Facebook likes, keychain reward programs to Amazon purchases – and then sorts users into one of five personality types, which they use to target messages to the user’s lifestyle, interests, and backgrounds. These discoveries are shared among different departments within the organization, so that a canvasser knocking on doors already knows what the little old lady in the pink house on the corner really purchases at Target.

He photoshopped a beaming Marco Rubio shaking hands with Barack Obama
The Cruz campaign published a website targeting rival Marco Rubio with a doctored photo of him shaking hands with President Obama, captioned with text suggesting it was related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

When challenged, the Cruz campaign merely shrugged their shoulders, saying it was no big deal; they even gave away their process: “We googled ‘two people supporting amnesty,’” said campaign spokesperson Brian Phillips in an email to Politico.

Ted Cruz is sneaky and smart, and he’s using all the techniques and terabytes he can to stomp his way to the presidency. He likes to stand behind banners that say Trusted. But to those paying attention, the phrase is as transparent a ploy as the rest of his campaign.

 

By: Stephanie Schwartz, The National Memo, February 21, 2016

February 22, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Finance Laws, Iowa Caucuses, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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