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Without Care There Is No Democracy: A Cognitive Approach to Beating Trumpism

 Cognitive Dissonance

Photo by iStock/Balefire9

In a recent episode of Tavis Smiley, cognitive scientist and linguist George Lakoff explains how President Trump has managed to spread his worldview despite the dissonance many find is inherent in his viewpoints. Lakoff describes how Trump uses repetition to slowly eat away at peoples’ previously held beliefs. For instance, Trump’s repeated use of the phrase “fake news” has had an enormous negative impact on the reputation of all news media. Lakoff explains how most people are unable to consciously resist the bombardment of such repeated claims from politicians.

Lakoff goes on to speak of the broad distinctions between progressive and conservative worldviews. He says that progressives tend to empathize with people throughout the world whereas conservatives have more of what is called the strict father morality. This belief system posits that a hierarchy of importance exists naturally in the world and that people are directly responsible for their place in the hierarchy. “The people who have won out are the best people. Religions have won out, so you have God above man. Rich above the poor. Employers above employees. Adults above children. This moral hierarchy defines virtually all radical Republican positions on every issue.”

To combat people with this worldview Lakoff encourages activating care and nurturance in others. “Students will come to me and say, ‘Thanksgiving is coming up and I’m going to encounter my grandfather. We are going to fight about politics and I hate it.” Lakoff responds by saying, “Don’t fight with your grandfather. Ask him ‘What are you most proud of that you’ve done for other people without consideration for yourself?’ 100% of the time students come back and say, ‘I don’t agree with him on a lot of issues, but my grandfather has done some really good things for people.’” Lakoff encourages his students to only talk with their grandfather about what it means for him to behave selflessly. This method is one of the best ways for people to activate care and nurturance in others.

Smiley and Lakkoff also discuss how words affect political action, what the definition of truth is, and how the heart connects to the mind. Watch the full interview below.