The unmovable wall

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The biggest barrier to changing anyone’s mind about anything isn’t a sufficiency of evidence, it’s humility. The longer someone has been wrong about something the harder it will be for them to summon sufficient humility to change their mind and admit they were wrong.

That is the true hidden strength of a jury in a criminal trial in a court of law. You don’t have to convince a jury their religion is wrong or their long held political ideology is cruel and offensive. You only have to convince them beyond a reasonable doubt that a man or woman they only just met and have never, until recently, had an opinion about is guilty or not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The jury in the court of public opinion is another matter entirely. Donald Trump’s followers, even the ones on the periphery, have now been following (and in some cases, worshipping) him for years, sometimes decades. That’s a big barrier to overcome. And with certain kinds of personalities, particularly the narcissistic kind, the barrier can be insurmountable.

So you can expect that the net effect of Stormy Daniels’ testimony, no matter how tawdry or humiliating for Trump, who sat in the witness chair and muttered furious epithets at her under his breath, will have little effect on Jack or Jill MAGA. Her account only confirmed what we already knew about Trump anyway. The details were new, but the message was the same. Besides, did anyone really imagine sex with Trump to be anything other than impersonal, greedy, selfish and brief? (I’m sure its brevity was the only good part for Daniels.)

Trump continues to deny the encounter but opinion polls reveal that most Republicans believe he’s lying. But they also don’t care. After all, few people have more practice being lied to than Trump followers. Trump told more than 30,000 lies in his four years as president. And those are just the lies we know about.

Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said that many Trump voters may be following Daniels’ lurid testimony, but he doubts it will make a difference in the outcome in the election. “When the details about Stormy Daniels finally came out during Trump’s presidency,” he said, “people just instinctively knew it was true. Just like people instinctively knew that Bill Clinton had fooled around because he’d done it so many times before. People are not stupid. But in this era, it doesn’t matter much. Twenty years ago, Trump wouldn’t even be the Republican nominee. Now it doesn’t move the needle at all.”

This phenomenon doesn’t just apply to Trump supporters. I’ve noticed it’s true of any glassy-eyed true believers who hold to any nonsense. Most people who believe that the earth is flat haven’t done so for very long. That recently resurrected and breathtakingly stupid belief has only had common support for less than a decade. But the cult is becoming ossified year on year. Soon most of them will be untouchable by logic. A ride in low earth orbit in a SpaceX rocket won’t convince them that the earth is in fact spherical. The Dirt Pancake Cult is here to stay. Just like the MAGA cult.

MAGA Trump supporters won’t disappear because of logic. If there is any chance at all of getting rid of them we will have to wait for them to disappear by attrition. Notice that most of the people who voted for Trump last time and say they won’t again are not MAGA. They are ordinary Republicans who voted for Trump largely because they normally vote party line and had no idea how bad he was going to be. Or they believed his lies, voted for him and realised he was completely useless as president.

But few MAGAs have the necessary humility to allow their minds to be changed. The unmovable wall of belief gets stronger with each passing year. If we win in November it will be because there are more of us than there are of them. Most fence sitters will come over to our side, because our messaging is better and we have the truth.

So if the election was to be decided by a simple majority vote we would win by a significant margin. But the election will be decided in battleground states by an electoral college, and therein is the problem. The message is clear: if you are voting in a battleground state (as am I) you cannot hope to make any progress convincing MAGA to join you. You must represent the majority, and to do that you must talk to every undecided voter you can between now and November and convince them to vote for Joe Biden. Drag them with you to the polls if you have to. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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