When a person makes promises, it’s fair to assume that person will do everything in their power to honor their commitments. Or else they know they risk looking like an untrustworthy liar. Or a person with no moral center.
When people in positions of power, such as politicians, make a promise, we particularly expect them to honor it. Otherwise, what separates them from the average con-man? Why trust them with our vote if we can’t trust their word? A typical politician will go out of their way to make promises they believe they can keep — that they know they can keep. And if such a promise cannot be kept, they will squarely blame their opposition. They’ll call it “obstruction”!
President Trump throws out promises during rallies and press conferences, in private and in public, or on the golf course, or anywhere he thinks it will get him applause or adulation. The difference with his promises, of course, is that he has no plan to keep them. Trump’s promises are purely transactional — and the odd thing is that his supporters agree with this approach. They really don’t care that he breaks promise after promise after promise.
The Wall is not going to be paid for by Mexico and probably will never be built. Yet Trump continues the call-and-response at every rally. “Who’s paying pay for the wall?” he asks his frenzied supporters. “Mexico!” they scream back, as if the volume of their voices will reach Mexico City and somehow convince President Enrique Peña Nieto to cut a check.
Another famous promise that Trump staked his candidacy on is to repeal and replace Obamacare. Remember his campaign speech in St. Augustine, FL, where he promised to repeal it on “day one”? His ignorance of the complexity of this task, his sheer obliviousness as to how government works, means anything he says about repeal and replace is solely to win votes — promises be damned. What did he say?
My first day in office, I am going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous law and replacing it with reforms that expand choice, freedom, affordability.
And he said:
You’re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost. And it’s going to be so easy.
You know what else is so easy? Making promises to get elected, then breaking them without a sweat.
One of Trump’s most recent broken promises is to send all undocumented immigrants back to their countries of origin regardless of when, how or through whom they came to America — putting, as we know, the DREAMers and DACA, in his cross-hairs.
Let’s watch Trump on his campaign plane:
But wait: Trump did say he’d end DACA! Promise kept! Well, until the backlash backlashed across his TV, which he watches 24/7. Indeed, on Sept. 13, at a dinner with two Democrats — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, both despised enemies of the Trumpers — Trump caved, agreeing to work with them to make DACA into law and agreeing to give DREAMers a pathway to citizenship, and without funding for The Wall. What a Master Negotiator!
That’s two promises broken over one dinner: no funding for the wall and letting those dirty immigrant rapists stay in the US. One of his most popular and mean-spirited campaign promises simply tossed out like so many other promises Trump has made and broken to his ardent supporters.
“I would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done,” said Trump during the campaign. “I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off.” Trump has played golf more than 50 times since taking office.
Drain the Swamp
During the campaign, Trump regularly promised that he’d “drain the swamp,” arguably that lobbyists have too much control over our government. How did that promise turn out? Well, when it came to Goldman Sachs and Wall Street, Trump spent his campaign lambasting their influence in Washington, DC, and then he hired them all.
When it comes to tax breaks for middle class — his favorite Middle America campaign promise — it’s a mixed bag. Because corporations are people, he wants them to get a tax break down to 15%. If they pay corporate taxes, that is.
When it comes to repeal and replace, we all know he did nothing on “day one” or on any day.
Here is an ongoing list of broken promises that is updated regularly for those playing along.
What is astonishing to me and to so many others is the lack of concern his diehard supporters feel for Trump’s boulevard of broken promises. Is it cognitive dissonance that they remain loyal to their hero even as he looks them in their faces and lies to them?
Apparently so. In a recent New York Times article, the clarity of this statement stood out as to the inside of a Trump voter’s mind:
Citizens’ perceptions of parties’ policy stands and their own policy views are significantly colored by their party preferences. Even on purely factual questions with clear right answers, citizens are sometimes willing to believe the opposite if it makes them feel better about their partisanship and vote choices.
Could it also be that if their candidate fails, it shows the voter also failed, as they picked the wrong candidate? You are hiring an employee that looks good on paper. Then they start to work and you realize they are completely unsuited for the job. Do you fire them to right the ship or do you keep them to save face? Trump voters would keep the failing employee.
Or maybe they see themselves in Trump: vulgar, brash, misogynistic, racist, unapologetic bullies with no clear moral center? These are personality traits most civilized people formerly keep hidden, but Trump has made it acceptable to be out and proud (and not in the gay way) as the worst you can be. When women voters go for a guy who brags about grabbing ladies genitals and forcibly kissing them, that’s another clue into the “Forever Trumper” mindset. So it stands to reason there’s also a forgiveness quotient here that they apply to Trump. Many of these people didn’t care about the promises, anyway — they just emotionally felt connected to the reality TV star.
Just so we never forget:
Newsweek recently had an interesting article that tried to explain all of this thinking:
“We shouldn’t be surprised to learn that people don’t like to face facts when those facts contravene their opinions. It’s right there in the most hallowed papers produced by the Founding Fathers, the Federalist Papers. In “Federalist No. 10,” the most celebrated of all the essays, James Madison observes:”
As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, [man’s] opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves.
In other words, we love our own opinions because we love ourselves. And if those opinions conflict with the facts? We’ll choose our own opinions.
This sums up why Trump’s broken promises and flip-flopping on almost every subject doesn’t matter to his most loyal supporters. His voters see themselves in him and, if they love themselves, they will love him through all his broken promises.