Derision of Trump supporters as ignorant or irrational played into Donald Trump’s hands and made him a ‘champion’ of the people, according to a Scots professor in psychology.
Commentators who questioned the intelligence of those who backed the President elect simply bolstered his argument that an unaccountable establishment sneered and ignored ordinary people, according to Professor Stephen Reicher of the school of Psychology and Neuroscience at St Andrews University.
In a new book, written months ago and due to be published in January, Prof Reicher and his co-author Prof S, Alexander Haslam, said Trump had also succeeded in helping his voters make sense of their lives and understand their problems.
He did this by breaking down issues into a “categorical grid” that defined a number groups and how they relate to each other.
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As a result, Trump’s view of the world makes sense to his supporters and he spoke directly to them.
Prof Reicher said: “He establishes himself as a champion and as a voice for people who otherwise feel unchampioned and voiceless.”
Even Trump’s so-called ‘gaffes’, the things that would typically undermine him within usual political norms, actually increased his appeal, Prof Reicher added.
He said: “So Trump’s crudity, his incivility, even his mistreatment of women, establish him as an ordinary guy, warts and all, unlike smooth, polished and dishonest political operators. With Trump ‘what you see is what you get’.”
The book argues that Trump had a “relatively free run” during the campaign given that his opponents failed to elaborate an alternative politics and an alternative set of solutions.
“Trump’s successes must be seen in the light of the failure of others,” Prof Reicher added,
He said the challenge was now for politicians to present a more inclusive narrative of “us” that deals with the real problems people face and to develop a politics that provides solutions to these issues.
The Politics of Hope: Donald Trump as an Entrepreneur of Identity by Stephen Reicher and S. Alexander Haslam will be published in January as part of The myth of Rational Politics: Understanding the Allure of Trumpism” edited by M. Fitzduff.