Being Anti-Trump isn’t anti-Trump

Heated political issues hold public attention hostage. In regard to harmful situations that must be improved–human rights violations, public health concerns–this is a huge benefit. But when it’s something we want to eradicate instead of fix–Trump’s popularity, Columbine copycats–public fixation works against the best of intentions. The “Anti-Trump” movement among non-Republicans not only increases public attention and media coverage for Trump, but in its staunch opposition further polarizes and strengthens support for him.
The presidential election is a zero-sum game between parties: one wins, and the others lose. To achieve the goal of the Anti-Trump movement, Trump doesn’t need to lose. Someone else just needs to win. Let’s do a short thought experiment to examine this advantageous approach.
Have you ever been challenged not to think about pink elephants? And suddenly pink elephants are parading through your head nonstop? This illustrates an important psychological concept. The human brain handles affirmatives with ease, but gets stuck on negatives. Reframing “don’t do X” as “do Y” makes not doing X much more achievable. It’s easier for us to distract ourselves with another option than to simply not do something. In this simplistic example, if you want someone to avoid thinking about pink elephants, tell them to think about Times Square. The worst thing you can say is “don’t think about pink elephants”.
You might see where I’m going with this. If we want popularity for Trump to wane, we need to boost the popularity of other candidates. If we reframe the anti-Trump sentiment in terms of what we DO want–more support for Bernie, Hillary, or another candidate–we increase the impact of our attention. The benefit is clear: if a Democrat wins the election, Trump necessarily loses.
Let’s set up another option for success. Let’s focus on on acting instead of reacting. Let’s support what we do want.
side notes:
  1. If there’s a legitimate reason a candidate shouldn’t be president, I fully support raising awareness about that issue. The idea I’m posing is that being anti-X without also being pro-Y opens the field for any non-X solution. If you’re anti-Trump, it’s probably not the case that you’d prefer for anyone else besides him to be President. There are other people out there that would also make very poor presidents. So make a case for pro-Y.
  2. The anti-Trump sentiment among Republican is a little trickier of course, given the whole VP process and Trump’s obvious success so far. I can’t entirely conflate the two, but I would still say that bolstering the other candidates would be beneficial.

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