Trump’s best shot at reelection is false-consensus effect

Thinking back to Obama’s campaign for reelection, I recall much talk about how incompetent, evil, and terrible a president he was from his opposition. Not Romney directly but the his likely voters on social media. To the point of Romney feeling moral obligation to defend Obama as not that bad of a person to his own voters. There were daily negative stories about Obama culminating in Benghazi.

Depending on where you sat, most people agreed with either his incompetence or shrewdness. This agreement blinds us to reality.

false-consensus effect

the tendency to assume that one’s own opinions, beliefs, attributes, or behaviors are more widely shared than is actually the case. A robustly demonstrated phenomenon, the false-consensus effect is often attributed to a desire to view one’s thoughts and actions as appropriate, normal, and correct

APA Dictionary

During this time of pandemic, I am seeing a spinning up of negative social media posts about Trump from his opposition. (Even worse than when I wrote Gotcha jerks part I & part II) And an equally defensive amount from his party members. My guess is he will get about the same turnout if this continues just from voters being upset at his unfair* treatment by the opposition.

* Unfair: they will think no one deserves that harsh treatment. Nevermind Obama and Hillary got the same level.

Sharing links that mock a caricature of the Other Side isn’t signaling that we’re somehow more informed. It signals that we’d rather be smug assholes than consider alternative views. It signals that we’d much rather show our friends that we’re like them, than try to understand those who are not.

The ‘Other Side’ Is Not Dumb

I suspect these attacks make Trump’s opposition think good people in no way can justify voting for him. Even as his supporters think only deplorable people would vote against him given these attacks. Both a walking blind. Because we have defined ourselves by our political beliefs.

Perhaps the two most important things to know about the false consensus effect have to do with its potency.  First, false consensus effects still exist for important or self-defining beliefs.  Second, neither education about the false consensus itself nor large rewards for accuracy seem to eliminate the false consensus effect.  This bias is hard to eliminate.   

Your opinions are not as popular as you think they are

Then there are the bots agitating both sides making this effect worse by polluting the newsfeeds with more people agreeing. It is just a mess. And few seem aware of just how they are being manipulated by their biases.

Tea Party = Demosthenes?

Ender Wiggin’s sister, Valentine plays the role of fictional Demosthenes online in several of the books by Orson Scott Card. She would play the role of an extremist to whip up the gullible Americans, while her power hungry psychopath brother Peter played the role of Locke would be the moderate.

In reading Ender in Exile, a speculative train of thoughts hit me. Successful politicians at the highest levels in this country are those who can take the center. Gingrich’s playing chicken with the government budget felt too extremist and solidified Clinton’s re-election. Gore and Kerry played too closely to the liberal base on Social Security, environment, and foreign relations ceding the center to Bush. McCain left the center to whip up the conservative base to give Obama the moderate position.

What would happen if a political party created a pseudo party to attack it and the real opponents from an extreme position, like the fictional Demosthenes? If the real party were distracted by the pseudo party, then the real party members appear more moderate and could take the center.

The fragments from page 31 in EiE which sparked this:

Demothenes was eloquent, but he always pushed a little too hard. Enough to energize the opposition, both inside and outside America. Discrediting his own side with every argument…. True believers in a cause often behaved in self-defeating ways because they expected others to see the rightness of their cause if they just sated it clearly enough.

Again, this was a speculative train of thought not based on any reality what-so-ever. I doubt any real political party has the acumen to pull this off in reality.