What does it take to believe Donald Trump?

By Kim Michaels

After the events at the U.S. Capitol building on January 6th, I was considering how the situation could ever come to this point. It also became clear to me that some ascended master students consider themselves supporters or followers of Donald Trump and believe what he says about voter fraud and a stolen election. So I will clarify how I look at this situation and what psychological lessons I see in it.

First of all, let me explain where I am coming from. I did live in the U.S. for 22 years (in four different states), so I know American society and mindset fairly well. I moved away in 2009 and now live in my native Denmark, so today it makes no personal difference to me who is president and I don’t consider myself a Republican or Democrat (I never became a citizen so couldn’t vote anyway). While living in the U.S., I did observe that many Americans are far more passionate about politics than what I am used to from Denmark. Many Americans seem to think it makes an almost epic difference whether this or that person or this or that party is running the country (and it was that way when I arrived in 1987). Personally, I don’t feel that way, but I am passionate about democracy and preserving it in the nations that have it.

Given that the election has given rise to such intense emotions, I will try to be as neutral as possible, while realizing that some people will inevitably accuse me of not being neutral at all.

Voter fraud

Let me make what I consider to be merely some observations of facts. Before the election in 2016, most polls showed Hilary was ahead of Trump. Some time before the election, Trump started talking about fraud and that this could swing the election against him. After he won, I don’t remember him talking about fraud again.

Trump has been president for four years. If he thought voter fraud was a large problem, he has had the power to do something about it so that the 2020 election would not be affected by fraud.

Before the 2020 election, polls showed that Biden was ahead of Trump. Trump again started talking about fraud before the election. After the election, he has claimed that the fraud was massive and that the election was stolen. He didn’t lose and he is not a loser.

Now, I go beyond the observations to some questions I have: Why didn’t Trump reform the election system in the preceding four years? If Trump had won the election, would he have been talking about fraud afterwards?

Why did Trump talk about fraud before the election? Was he genuinely concerned about it, or was there a psychological reason? I will leave that hanging for later.

The counting of votes

I fully understand that with all of the claims and counter-claims out there, it is difficult for us to know what to believe about many events. So here is how I approach this. In my view, it is not important at all what my personal opinion and beliefs are. The all-important point is how the system actually works.

As an example, let me take the state of Georgia. The Secretary of State is Brad Raffensperger who is a lifelong republican and voted for Trump. The republicans run the state legislature and could have made reforms to the election system if they thought there was a need for them.

Georgia counted their votes three times. The second time, they recounted all 5 million votes by hand, which I assume means that there was no possibility that voting machines could influence the result? Georgia officials also looked at the election process and performed the audits they thought were necessary. After the second recount, they certified the results with Biden as the winner.

After the election, Trump and his legal team have continued to claim there was massive fraud in Georgia, and they have referred to data that they claim is evidence of this. On January 2nd, Trump personally calls Raffensperger, who by now has been exposed to a pressure that I think no public official should ever be exposed to (but which I think explains why he recorded the call and released the recording). Trump asks him to find him enough votes so he can win, which even some republicans have said is a misuse of presidential power. Trump also talks about his data, and Raffensperger answers: “Well, Mr. President, the problem that you have is that your data is wrong.”

My conclusion is that the – republican, mind you – election officials in Georgia had looked at the president’s data and concluded it was not credible. This makes me say: “Okay, I accept that as the American system is right now, the state officials oversee the election, and if they (who are there throughout the entire process) certify the results, that’s good enough for me. I seems presumptuous to say that I can know something from a distance that they don’t know.

I accept that this is how the democratic process works. I have no problem with people who point to the need to improve the voting system, but that’s something we can do before the next election (or could have done over the last four years). I accept that the system is the way it is right now and that this is the result that it produced.

To me, Raffensperger and other election officials are real American heroes. They are republicans so presumably wanted Trump to win, yet they knew they had a job to do, and it was to run the election in a neutral manner. The same goes for the officials in the other five states where the election was close, and for that matter in all 50 states. 

Going to the courts

In America, you don’t have to accept what the election officials say. You have the added layer of security that you can go to the courts. Trump and his legal team filed over 50 lawsuits contesting election results. 

What I know about the American legal system is that there is a difference between the court of public opinion and a Court of Law. In the court of public opinion you can claim anything and your evidence doesn’t have to live up to any standard other than what some people will believe. In a Court of Law, you can also accuse people of doing many things, but you have to have evidence and it has to live up to the standards created over 200 years of legal processes. Furthermore, if you do present evidence that lives up to the standard, then the court will indeed consider your claim. But if you don’t have such evidence, the court will dismiss your suit. Which is exactly what 50 judges did to Trump’s lawsuits.

To me, there is only one conclusion to this, and it is that despite the talk about evidence of fraud, Trump doesn’t have any evidence that can meet the standards of a Court of Law. Some of these judges were republicans, but they had also sworn to execute their jobs in a neutral manner.

Then, the Attorney General of Texas filed a suit with the Supreme Court to overturn the election results in six other states. Trump had talked about the potential that the election could be decided by the Supreme Court and he had personally appointed three judges so there are six conservative judges. Yet none of the nine judges thought the suit had merit so they rejected it. 

Federal instituions

As I understand it, the states are in charge of creating election laws and overseeing their own elections. But this doesn’t mean the Federal Government isn’t part of the process.

There is a cybersecurity unit which oversees (surprise) the security of all election-related computer systems. The head of that unit was Christopher Krebs (Trump appointee) who after the selection said it was the most secure election in American history. (And then, he was fired.)

I assume FBI also has a role, if nothing else they can step in to investigate claims of criminal activity related to elections. And certainly, the massive fraud claimed by Trump would be a criminal activity. Yet I haven’t heard of the FBI saying they have found evidence of fraud.

Overseeing all legal activity in the United States is the Justice Department, which was led by Trump’s own appointee and long-time supporter, Attorney General Bill Barr. He stated publicly that his agency had not found any evidence of significant fraud. (Shortly afterwards, he resigned.) 

Other institutions

After states certify the votes, the Electoral College has to appoint electors and they actually choose the president. On December 14th the Electoral College appointed electors and they did so according to the vote tallies submitted by the states. Biden got more electors than Trump so was certified as the President Elect.

The final step in the election process is that Congress must accept the electors. Although this is a formality, this year it turned into a drama. Trump claimed that Vice President Mike Pence could reject the electors or send the votes back to the states. The Vice President, along with Constitutional lawyers, decided he did not have that authority in the Constitution so he refused to do what Trump wanted him to do. A majority in both chambers accepted the electors.

What this means is that the entire election process mandated by the Constitution and federal and state laws has now run its course and that (regardless what I or anyone else thinks about it) Biden will be sworn in as the next President on January 20th. 

The media

Finally there is the media. I know that most Trump supporters have a deep distrust of what they call mainstream media. I have all of my life had a deep distrust of any media, but this doesn’t mean I reject everything reported by the media. I do realize that all major media outlets have at least some standard for what they consider credible news and that many journalists and editors have personal integrity. If nothing else, they are afraid of being proven wrong so they will not misrepresent facts that can easily be disproven.

To me, it is obvious that Fox News is not biased against Trump. If there had been evidence of voter fraud that lived up to the standard that Fox News has, I am confident they would have reported it. And if Fox had done so, then other media outlets simply could not have ignored it for fear of being out-scooped by Fox or seeming like they are trying to hide something from the people. My conclusion is that there was no evidence of fraud that Fox News found credible.

What it takes to believe Trump

Trump continues to claim there was massive fraud and that he didn’t lose because the election was stolen from him. I understand that many people believe Trump’s claim. But let us just take a look at what it takes to believe Trump: 

      • You have to believe that even though Trump talked about fraud in 2016, he and the Republican Party either ignored it during the last four years or they were not able to fix the problem.
      • You have to explain how Trump actually won in 2016 even though he claims there was fraud. And then, why did he overcome the fraud in 2016 but couldn’t do it this time?
      • You have to believe that in at least six states, election officials (some republicans) were either not smart enough to see the fraud or they were part of the conspiracy to commit or hide the fraud.
      • You have to believe that 50 judges (some republicans) were either not smart enough to see the validity of Trump’s evidence or they are part of the plot to cover up the fraud.
      • You have to believe that six conservative supreme court justices, three appointed by Trump, either couldn’t see the evidence of were part of the conspiracy.
      • You have to believe that the Federal cyber security unit either couldn’t see the fraud or is deliberately covering it up.
      • You have to believe that the FBI is either incompetent or complicit in the cover-up.
      • You have to believe that the Justice Department, including Attorney General Bill Barr, is either too stupid or too corrupt to validate Trump’s claim.
      • You have to believe that the people who run the Electoral College are also incompetent or corrupt.
      • You have to believe that Vice President Mike Pence is in on it, even though no one could have been more loyal than Pence during the last four years.
      • You have to believe that the major media outlets, including Fox News, is either incapable of doing investigative journalism or not willing to do so.

Now, I realize that there are some people who apparently believe all of this, but I am simply not able to do so. In my mind, when the choice is between believing Trump or believing all of these other people and institutions, I choose NOT to believe in Trump. 

Why is Trump claiming fraud?

Okay, so I’ve tried to be as neutral as possible and only look at things that I think (perhaps naively) that are difficult to dispute. This now leads to the question of why Trump is claiming that he didn’t lose the election? This, of course, can be disputed endlessly.

In my mind there is more than one reason, but here is the simplest one. I have watched a couple of documentaries about Trump. Trump himself has said he was deeply influenced by his father, who had the opinion that the worst thing that could happen to a person was to be a loser. Trump’s older brother couldn’t live up to his father’s expectations and was declared by the father to be a loser. Trump decided that this was never going to happen to him.

If you look at Trump’s career as a businessman in New York, he several times made business decisions that led to loss, but in his mind, he was never a loser. When he invested in casinos in Atlantic City (against the advice of his advisors) and went bankrupt, he never saw it as a loss and claimed it was part of his strategy. 

Trump was deeply affected by Norman Vincent Peale, one of the pioneers of the Positive Thinking movement. Some of the people who have known Trump have said that this has caused him to adopt a mindset in which he can always find a way to avoid seeing himself as the loser. The main problem with positive thinking is that it can cause people to go into denial about reality because they think that acknowledging reality is a negative mental attitude. Thus, their mindset becomes based on denial.

Trump then decided to run for president, which is a contest where there are two candidates and only one of them becomes president. I think that in Trump’s mind this means that whoever doesn’t win the election is the loser. Yet since Trump cannot accept that he could be the loser, he has to find a psychological way out in case he doesn’t become president. The obvious choice is to hedge his bets by talking about potential fraud. If he doesn’t become president, or isn’t re-elected, he is still not the loser because he did actually win, but because of the corrupt system, his victory was stolen from him.

I do have more to say about this, but since this article is so long, I will save that for another time.

 

Copyright © 2021 Kim Michaels