Donald Trump's Insistence He's Winning Isn't Funny. It's Dangerous
Things aren’t looking great for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — but to ask him, you wouldn’t know it. In a tweet sent Monday morning, Trump said, “We are winning and the press is refusing to report it.” Trump’s willful ignorance of the latest polls and trends away from him are, on one level (to borrow a phrase), sad. But on another level, his disregard for the numbers underscores one of the key ways he is wholly unfit for president: He doesn’t believe in evidence if it contradicts a belief he already holds.
Within the scope of a presidential campaign, this comes across as more annoying and infuriating than anything else. Among the accounts offered by the recent string of women coming forward to accuse Trump of sexual assault or inappropriate touching, several described their anger at seeing Trump deny that he had ever done anything untoward to women during the second debate.
Even during the final debate, his opponent Hillary Clinton, who had been encouraging voters to go to her campaign website for Trump fact-checking, just started sending them to Google instead. “I just want everybody to go Google it,” Clinton said at last Wednesday’s debate in Las Vegas. “Google ‘Donald Trump Iraq,’ and you will see the dozens of sources that verify that he was for the invasion of Iraq.”
But if we continue this pattern forward into an (increasingly) hypothetical future in which Trump accedes to the presidency, this habit will not be merely obnoxious — it could be fatal. President Barack Obama underscored this idea last week at a press conference, where he told Trump to “stop whining.”
“If whenever things are going badly for you and you start blaming somebody else, then you don't have what it takes to be in this job,” Obama said, adding, “because there are times when things don’t go our way — or my way."
Imagine, if you will, a theoretical President Trump receiving a bad jobs report, or news that the stock market has crashed, or bad polling numbers, or a walloping defeat during the midterm elections in 2018. Or even worse: a snub by the Chinese involving protocol, such as a lack of airplane stairs for the U.S. president. President Obama brushed it off. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to think that a President Trump might have bombed Shanghai.
What’s most disturbing about Trump’s willful ignorance is that it goes against human nature. Our very psychology is built on a foundation of trial and error, reinforcement and punishment, and adapting our behaviors to increasing rewards and decreasing penalties. When we try something and it doesn’t work, we don’t try it again, even if we think it should have worked. Trump, even as his poll numbers drop, refuses to alter his strategy, even when it might benefit him.
That’s one thing when it’s own ship he’s sinking, but when we’re all on board too? Trump’s narcissism could spell our doom.