Trump is not a normal President. Let’s just be honest. Sure, there have been some… eclectic Presidents in our history. Andrew Jackson once beat up an assassin with his cane at a dinner party. Teddy Roosevelt never let go of his childhood dream of becoming a cowboy-soldier (a dream he undoubtedly fulfilled). And even Presidential elections have often been less than savory. In the 1800 election Thomas Jefferson called John Adams, “a blind, bald, crippled, toothless man who is a hideous hermaphroditic character with neither the force and fitness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” And Adams responded calling Jefferson, “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”
Still, regardless of what these next 4 (or 8) years have in store, Trump will forever hold an important place in our history, and a notable departure from the past. Barring the founders and Grant, the vast majority of Presidents have been relatively unaccomplished men, people who would have been quickly forgotten by history were it not for the fact they became President (and some still forgotten, anyway). But Trump is different. History would have remembered him (fondly or otherwise) even if he never sought the highest office in the land. Even the way Trump won is a departure from the norm. He joins the list of only a handful of Presidents who have won the Electoral College and lost the popular vote, and blows the others out of the water in terms of amount of popular votes he lost by. And certainly no President has ever endured as much controversy as Trump.
However, the reaction to Trump’s abnormality has not been that of a detached historian or a curious political scientist. No, the reaction to Trump has been filled with far greater emotion than that. People are afraid. Anxious. Angry. One need only take a stroll down 5th Avenue in the days following the election to see that–the plethora of protestors which filled the streets, many carrying signs expressing the sentiment that Trump is “not my President.” So let’s take a deeper dive into why Trump is so controversial, and the role we all have played in creating him.
Enter me in video format:
- Trump leverages the media’s addiction to sensationalism
- Trump’s policies are not a significant departure from the norm
- It’s true: Trump has the best words
- Controversy creates coverage–and chaos
- Our minds are plagued by unavoidable cognitive biases
- Trump’s “Muslim Ban” is not a Muslim ban
- Perception matters more than reality
There is one more cognitive bias not mentioned in the video I feel will play an important role in Trump’s Presidency: the peak-end rule. This is our tendency to judge experiences on their peak, and how they end, rather than the total sum or average of every moment. Pertaining to Trump, the greatest accomplishments of his Presidency, and how it ends will matter more in our minds than the current chaos and media hysteria. I hesitate to guess what these next four years have in store, but suffice it to say this is a unique moment in our history, and one that will be studied for decades to come.
Your most humble and obedient servant,