By Wayne Adkins
Donald Trump, much to the chagrin of numerous pundits and the GOP establishment, is leading in the GOP primary polls. None of them take the Donald as seriously as the Donald takes himself. Ask him about his qualifications. He will tell you he is very, very rich and very, very smart. He almost invariably conflates the two. He sees his monetary success as an indicator of his intelligence. After all, everyone wants money and if they were smart enough to figure out how to get as much money as he has they would do it, right? Well, no. Trump has made his money primarily in real estate and casinos. He inherited a fortune from his father who was himself a real estate mogul who taught Trump the trade. Most people with millions to invest and daddy’s connections could make money, perhaps without piling up four bankruptcies along the way. Then there are the casinos, a place where the odds are always slightly in the house’s favor. It doesn’t take a genius to make a lot of money when you have a unlevel playing field. If money were really an indicator of intelligence and leadership ability those people should be clamoring for Warren Buffett to run. He could buy Trump ten times over and he’s not a pompous clown.
So why does Trump think so much of himself? It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect. Basically, it’s a cognitive bias wherein people who are relatively less intelligent are really bad at evaluating intelligence because the skill set required to do that is part of the cognitive ability they lack. The end result among the less intelligent is a belief that they are more intelligent than is accurate. Sound like someone we know?
How then, does Trump end up leading in the GOP primary polls? I think it says something about the GOP base as well. They are really bad at identifying intelligence too. They clearly don’t care about the lack of experience among the GOP frontrunners with the top three having never held political office and yet seeking the highest office in the land. They don’t care that the frontrunners routinely display a lack of scientific knowledge. They don’t care that candidates contradict themselves. Just like the 2012 election cycle they will jump from one candidate’s bandwagon to another creating rotating leads in the polls until they have to go with whatever candidate hasn’t imploded his own campaign, a la Mitt Romney. These are people who still believe that Sarah Palin would have made a good president. Instead of being able to tell that she was clearly in over her head they blamed the media for asking hard questions of her.
Trump may well be the Republican nominee. He may seem like he is teflon coated. Each time he says something incredibly stupid or offensive the pundits think he may have ruined his chances and still he leads in the polls. It’s because people who pundits so graciously call “low information voters” are, like Trump, unable to see the problems with what Trump says.