How Trump Projects Dishonesty onto Clinton
© 2016 Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.
With less than seven weeks to Election Day on November 8, Donald Trump has closed the gap with Hilary Clinton in the polls and has a good chance of becoming the next President of the United States. For those who see Trump as having a high-conflict personality (as explained in my book Trump Bubbles, 2016), this is very disturbing news. Yet many people—especially young voters whose values are much more in line with Clinton than Trump—are considering voting for protest candidates (Libertarian or Green Party) or not voting at all, because they see Clinton as not “honest and trustworthy.” I want to explain why this is a false allegation against her and where it came from; and give you some statistics you can use with those who want to skip the election.
Clinton is an above-average politician when it comes to honesty. The facts show that she is essentially as honest as President Obama, and much more honest than Donald Trump. She’s more honest than the other candidates running in the primaries this past year, and more honest than Mitt Romney and John McCain, the previous two Republican candidates. According to PolitiFact.com, the independent fact-checking agency, Trump statements have been mostly false or worse approximately 76% of the time! Clinton’s have been 28% (Bernie Sanders was also 28%) and Obama’s are 26%. A year earlier in August 2015, a New York Times article reported approximately the same comparisons from PolitiFact.com, with only candidate Ben Carson being higher than Trump at 84% mostly false or worse.
Yet in a national poll released Friday, September 23rd by CNN, Trump has a big lead over Clinton when it comes to the question of who is “honest and trustworthy,” with Trump leading by 44% over 36%. While Clinton has a narrow overall lead, Trump is passing Clinton in battleground states—in Ohio he’s now at 41% over her 39%. If perceptions of “honesty and trustworthiness” are the deciding factors, we will have a President Trump.
Where did these false perceptions of Trump’s honesty and Clinton’s lack of trustworthiness come from? Basically, it’s a few very simple methods frequently employed by con artists. While many people have been saying Trump is a narcissist, he may also be a sociopath, as stated by Tony Schwartz, the true writer of Trump’s famous book The Art of the Deal.
Projection: This is a mental health term that applies when one person can’t recognize or accept their own negative thoughts, feelings or behaviors. So they unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) project them onto another person. “Crooked Hilary can’t be trusted.” “She is the most corrupt politician who ever ran for president.” Trump says these things, while there have been numerous lawsuits against him for fraudulent representations to African-Americans looking at his apartments in the 1970’s, to investors in his many building projects, and to potential buyers of his condominiums. There is even a current lawsuit against him for lying to students of Trump University which won’t be heard until after the election. Plus, he makes “pants-on-fire” false statements almost every week, according to PolitiFact.com.
Repetition: From the first day of his candidacy, Trump has been repeatedly saying that he is “honest” and doesn’t hold back his thoughts and opinions, like most politicians do. “I’m telling you straight up.” “Trust me on this.” “I won’t lie to you.” At the same time, also from the start, he has been saying that you can’t trust the media and points out reporters at his rallies, who then get booed. A year of training his followers has been extremely successful. They repeat his false statements over and over again for him.
If you listen closely, you will notice that Trump repeatedly uses all-or-nothing phrases, and doubles and triples his false statements, to give them the impression of being true. For a recent example, on September 20, 2016 in North Carolina, he said: “Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before. Ever. Ever. Ever.” This is completely untrue, even ignoring 200 years of slavery. While black communities are still generally poorer than white communities, and in bad shape in certain parts of certain cities, they are generally better off now. PolitiFact.com says: “In August 2016, the unemployment rate for African-Americans was 8.1 percent. While that’s almost double the rate for whites—4.4 percent—it’s only been this low for black Americans in 5 percent of months since 1972…”
Trump also successfully used repetition of the phrase “Lyin Ted Cruz” to knock out his most successful opponent in the primaries. However, even Ted Cruz lied less than Trump (mostly false or worse 65% of the time, compared to Trump’s 76%), according to PolitiFact.com. Again, his supporters believed this and enthusiastically repeated this phrase for him throughout the primaries. His surprising success at this simple con-artist technique led him to concoct “Crooked Hilary Clinton” after the primaries.
Swagger: One of the biggest cons by Trump is his image as a successful businessman. Some economists say that if he had simply put the $200 million that his father gave him in the 1980’s into the stock market, he would be worth a billion dollars today. In fact, his reluctance to release his tax returns may be partly because he is actually worth less than a billion now.
As a businessman, he can brag all he wants about his success, his womanizing and his riches. It’s considered part of being a salesman; a showman. We like business people and celebrities with some swagger. Its makes them more exciting and fun to watch. Even Trump admits that politicians are boring and he wants to liven things up. This has also helped him a lot with many evangelicals, who you would expect to be turned off by his selfish and playboy lifestyle. But many say they believe that God must like Trump, because he has rewarded him with wealth.
Media Support: The media have been soft on Trump and hard on Clinton for decades. Since Trump was in high society in New York starting in the 1980’s, he got much free publicity for living a golden lifestyle with the beautiful people, especially his fashion-model wives and his Trump-labeled buildings. Since he wasn’t a politician, the media didn’t give him a politician’s scrutiny and the news media showered him with attention for his arrogance and swagger. They have never pivoted to totally serious coverage.
On the other hand, since the 1990’s, conservative media (Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc.) have gone after Hilary Clinton, accusing her of non-existent scandals (from Whitewater to Benghazi), and of over-reaching her role as First Lady (her healthcare policy efforts); all apparently because she was a strong woman in a man’s domain (politics). Since the 1990’s, main stream media has tried to emulate the style of Fox and Limbaugh, so they repeat many of their news stories—especially about Hilary Clinton.
The statement that Clinton is not “honest and trustworthy” has been repeated by the media almost daily since Trump became the Republican candidate—as if to show how equal everything is. “Polls show that both candidates are more disliked than in all previous elections.” Lump them together. If you can keep saying that, then polls will show that. It’s an echo chamber. And con artists learned long ago that they can steal your wallet while getting you to pay attention to something “over there.” Clinton is always over there to point at.
Mountains Out of Molehills: The email server “scandal” is the latest example of making a mountain out of a Hilary issue. Compare this to the media molehill made about the Iraq War, which George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld promoted based on false information, either knowingly or recklessly. You don’t hear “Lock them up!” as a chant at Trump rallies or the Republican convention. Instead, 20 million people (or more) heard “Lock her up!” at the Republican convention, giving the impression that everyone agrees she is a criminal. Yet she didn’t knowingly send classified material on her private email server (although some was retroactively classified) and no one died. On the other hand, General David Petraeus was found by the FBI to have knowingly given classified information to his mistress, and he settled his case without criminal charges. You never hear anyone chanting “Lock him up!”
In short, anyone who does not share Trump’s extreme values needs to vote for Clinton, or we will have a Trump presidency. As Francesca Barber, a millennial, explained in The New York Times a few days after the Brexit vote, which most young people opposed: “Only 36 percent of eligible voters ages 18 to 24 and 58 percent of those 25 to 34 went to the polls…. If we want our world to reflect our values and beliefs, we are going to have to engage and vote.”
Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, and mediator. He is the co-founder and Training Director of the High Conflict Institute, a training and consultation firm that trains professionals to deal with high-conflict people and situations. He is the author of several books and methods for handling high conflict personalities and high conflict disputes with the most difficult people.