Let’s say it’s your life’s passion to study ants. Ever since you were a child, you’ve been fascinated by them, and now that you’re in college you finally get to study them in as close detail as possible. So you get an ant under a microscope and study all you can. You dissect it, look inside with the best tools possible. You get another and bring it to your lab, feed it and watch move and behave. You spend years experimenting and observing individual ants. By the time you graduate, do you understand ants? Of course not. You haven’t even scratched the surface.
My point is that if you focus just on an individual and ignore how that individual effects and is controlled by it’s larger group you won’t really learn anything. You can apply that analogy to quite a lot of our world. You can look an individual humans and think you have an idea of how we work, but unless you see how the group grows and changes, you haven’t really understood anything at all. Looking at an individual and how he or she relates to their family, their job, their town, country, and species and you can get a much better idea of how humans work.
I think Trump understands this. I think that’s a big reason why he won. He wasn’t concerned with persuading any one person at any given time, he was concerned with persuading whatever group he was dealing with. He probably believed every one of his campaign promises. After he announced that he managed to save some Carrier jobs he said, in a speech, that he had totally forgotten he’d made this promise until he was watching the news and he saw an interview with one of his supporters who said he wasn’t worried about his job, because Trump promised to save it. No word on whether that supporter was one of the lucky ones. But that’s beside the point. Trump doesn’t care about any one person, he cares about how the group perceives him. That’s probably his biggest strength and biggest weakness.
It was never clear who Hillary Clinton was trying to persuade. In all of her speeches I could never quite tell whether the speech was to the crowd she was in front of, or the tv cameras, or some other individuals that I never could quite pinpoint. It wasn’t clear who she cared about. It’s always clear with Trump. He cares about the person or persons standing in front of him. Everything else is secondary. What does this mean to those of us who want to persuade him? Simple. We just need to make sure he has the right audience. Put him in front of Greenpeace and he’ll probably say that he’ll dedicate his life to saving the whales. Put him in front of Goldman Sachs and he’ll say that the stock market is his biggest priority. And when he says it, he’ll believe it. The only problem with this idea is that he seems to have the attention span of a goldfish with attention deficit disorder, but that just means we need to keep at it.