Mostly I just think Donald Trump is a con man and a bully who has money (which make an ugly combo), but he also seems to be a radiant example of the “fixed” mindset.
Carol Dweck’s book Mindset was a major revelation for me. The basic idea: the “growth” mindset holds that “If I study/practice/work hard, I’ll get smarter/better” – while the “fixed” mindset holds that “Everyone is already as smart as they’re ever going to be.”
Kids learn the growth mindset when they’re praised for working hard, which encourages them to work even harder, take social risks & learn, etc.
Kids learn the fixed mindset when they’re praised for being smart, or talented, or pretty, or athletic – or ‘important’, or ‘winning’, or ‘destined for greatness’ – or whatever. Those who hold the “fixed” mindset seek encouragement, but they avoid situations where they’ll be tested – since any failure at all would rob them of all confidence for the future.
When they’re in danger of exposure, they often become extremely defensive and irrational. Acknowledging established facts becomes a low priority.
Most learning involves risk that weaknesses will be exposed, so people with the “fixed” mindset tend to avoid opportunities for learning. (To my great detriment, I absolutely grew up with the fixed mindset.)
Old video now making the rounds shows Donald Trump describing his genetic predisposition for success. I wish I was making that up.
Years ago, Trump faced a fork in the road: he could either be a success, OR he could follow the rules of business, honor his contracts, pay his bills, accept his failures, respect others’ dignity, and act like a grownup with responsibilities instead of an angry child who is owed success at any price.
America now faces precisely that same decision.
Trump makes bizarre, impossible promises and claims without a whiff of evidence. He frequently denies things he said on television moments before. He’s made ludicrous statements about how he “likes soldiers who don’t get captured” (more than POWs), “PTSD means you’re weak”, evading taxes makes him “smart”, etc. When others lose, he wins.
He also claims that only he can solve terrorism and fix the economy, even while every business venture he touches goes bankrupt and his every movement leaves a snail trail of lawsuits and small contractors facing ruin. He built a business strategy out of systematically cheating his vendors and partners, refusing to pay his bills but still claiming to be wealthy and an expert businessman. And in true schoolyard bully fashion, he reliably accuses others of precisely those offenses of which he is clearly, publicly guilty. (He attacks the poor for not paying taxes, but he hasn’t paid taxes in decades…just this week, he accused Clinton of ties to Putin – ?!?)
By now it’s abundantly clear that Trump inherited his money, lost hundreds of millions of dollars, regularly bilked and bullied small businesses, dramatically underperformed the market in profits, and convinced whole industries not to trust him. As a real estate developer, he’s a titanic failure. But as an expert in lying his way into deals and cheating his way out of them, he’s had considerable success.
This all seems like the behavior of someone who has devoted his entire life to rejecting his own mammoth failings, pushing them onto other people (psychologically, socially, and financially) and seeking ever more costly and risky ways of maintaining his façade and his lifestyle at others’ expense.
Perhaps all “narcissistic” behavior is rooted in such determination to hide one’s weaknesses even from oneself, with others footing the bill. Avoiding one’s own failings requires that the furious denial must never stop, even when clear evidence, and human dignity, and literally the future of the country demand otherwise.
Trump is seemingly incapable of accepting criticism or acknowledging fact. When he contradicts himself and ignores established facts, he simply may not realize he’s doing it.
The “fixed mindset” would also explain Trump’s obsessive and embarrassing habit of making petty and public attacks against women who offer him no threat. Of all the problems a president may face, Trump’s own fragile ego will clearly be the dominant force in every decision.
Taking a step back, Trump’s effortless alliance with hate groups suggests that the “fixed” mindset may explain those groups’ behavior as well. Yes, many children learn to hate minorities because their parents did, or because negative experiences and media portrayals taught them an oversimplified way of looking at the world. But the furious drive that turns bitter prejudices into spiteful compulsions and spiteful compulsions into organized, militant hatred – that drive does not come from without. Only those struggling to deny their own weaknesses would build a lifestyle around attacking the weaknesses of others.
We can’t control Donald Trump, other than by keeping him out of office. We mostly can’t control his followers, other than through strong, continuous, compassionate outreach. We mostly can’t control the media, other than by taking personal responsibility for understanding what’s really going on in the world.
But we can control ourselves. The best way to respond to Donald Trump’s maddening denial of his own obvious shortcomings is to embrace our own, even as we work to transcend them.
All wisdom we may gain comes from an understanding of our own weaknesses as well as our own strengths.
If our behavior is not racist, it’s because we acknowledge our own racist impulses.
If our behavior is intelligent, it’s because we acknowledge our own potential for overlooking the obvious.
If we are not fooled, it’s because we acknowledge that we are perfectly capable of being fooled, even by our established allies.
If we are to defeat Trump – AND WE MUST – we will do so by being better than Trump. And we can only be better than Trump by acknowledging that, each in our own ways, we are capable of being just as hateful and defensive, just as disconnected from the effects of our own actions, just as quick to blame others for our own towering mistakes and to push the costs onto others.
In sum, there are exactly three ways to respond to a problem:
1) We can deny the reality of the problem. That’s what Trump and his supporters do.
2) We can deny the reality of the solution. Unfortunately, that’s what third-party voters in our system tend to do.
3) We can accept the reality of the problem AND the reality of the solution. This step makes progress possible, but it requires some acknowledgment that we are not the heroic revolutionaries we wish we could be. Only by accepting that we are both part of the problem and part of the solution can we inch toward progress instead of making the problem worse.
So yes, for all of the reasons listed above, every third-party vote really is a vote for Trump.
Many third-party voters distinguish between votes cast in ‘swing states’ and those cast in states already ‘guaranteed’ to be won by a specific party: they might vote differently when they feel their vote would “count”.
The electoral college math in such cases may be sound – but in my view, the logic is not.
First: Trump’s angry mob might respect Clinton’s resounding victory in the popular vote while a technical victory would be seen as just another conspiracy.
Second: while no candidate is perfect, third-party candidates’ tend to be evaluated as symbols of frustration rather than potential leaders. Their strongest ideas are embraced regardless of practicality, and their weaker ideas and overwhelming lack of experience tend to be overlooked. Support for a third-party candidate usually promotes an idea rather than a choice as to who the leader will actually be. Because the election will decide who the leader will be, most third-party votes represent an refusal to take responsibility rather than a acceptance of it.
And finally, assuming that the election has safely been won is the surest way to lose an election.
Like it or not, we’re all on the same train, we’re all responsible for where it goes, and we’re all obliged to defend vulnerable Americans from the changes Trump and Pence have promised to put in place. Aloof condemnation of both candidates is deeply irresponsible, and is ultimately an attempt to use the candidates’ weaknesses to distract from our own.