If Donald Trump loses tomorrow, will he concede? Will he contest? Will he say the whole process was rigged? It all depends on what he said he’d do. That may sound simple enough, but you have to remember that only Mr. Trump can tell you what he said – not his campaign, not the media, and certainly not recordings.
While most politicians have mastered the arts of plausible deniability, false equivalence, and basic damage control, newcomers to the political scene don’t always have that luxury. They must develop their own ways to deal with inconvenient news cycles, opponent attacks, and unforced errors. Such is the case with Mr. Trump, who has established his own method: Donfirmation Bias.
Donfirmation Bias means never having to say you’re wrong. When Mr. Trump says something, even if all evidence appears to the contrary, he has to either stick with what he said or deny having said it in the first place. He has to find sources that agree with him and ignore or attack those that don’t. Neutral or nuanced stories must be interpreted to agree. This is why scandals that sink other politicians don’t sink Mr. Trump: He either didn’t do them, they were misreported, or they were the right thing to do. But, don’t confuse Donfirmation Bias for hardheadedness. A lot of work goes into it. When a claim Mr. Trump has made appears to be false, he has to put in a lot of time and effort to find sources that agree with him. It also requires being a principled chameleon, so when he does change his mind, he does it so completely, he can later deny it.
The closer a presidential election gets to Voting Day, the more supporters of a candidate will close ranks and defend their candidate against anything negative. Voters are also more likely to focus on the negatives of the opposing candidate when challenged on the negatives of their own. Thus, Mr. Trump’s (and Ms. Clinton’s) own supporters feed into the notion that what they are doing must be right. In other words, voter confirmation bias reinforces Donfirmation Bias.
Donfirmation Bias may at first appear to be a bad way to run a campaign. But, what at first appears to be a fatal flaw – that Mr. Trump is always right – is in fact its greatest strength. You see, Mr. Trump has contended that the election is rigged, and he has said that the only way he can lose is if Ms. Clinton, the media, and/or the establishment has rigged it in her favor. Therefore, even if he loses, he wins. It’s as true now as it was when he said it in the primaries. Ms. Clinton may have an arsenal of non sequiturs and the best crisis management team money can buy, but she has conceded that, if Mr. Trump wins the election, he will have won the election.
But, what if Mr. Trump concedes? That’s an easy one – it’s what he will have said he’d do all along…