Some remarks on the Clinton-Trump race before the start of TV debates – remarks based on my professional background and expertise in UX design and theatre.
It’s been repeated a ton of times how the behavior of voters this time, based on the polls, isn’t grounded in facts. Trump has been seen twisting the truth, exaggerating, concealing, insulting, not showing empathy, lying several times during the campaign and even much earlier, actually all through his career as an estate mogul and businessman. Why on Earth do so many sane and educated people still support him instead of Hillary? I don’t start repeating all the reasons that have been stated, most of them surely significant and partly true, but want to look at the situation from another angle.
There is history amongst this nation, the U.S., as we know, of conquer, war, takeovers, wanting the be the first at any cost. And this factor certainly plays a role in the mind of so many to-be voters and potential voters today. The expectancy value theory explains that the behavior is the function of expectancies and the value of the goal and that the chosen behavior, when more than one behaviors is possible, is the one with the largest combination of expected success and value. And success is the key word here, more importantly so than value.
So many people expect Trump to win because that’s what he’s done so many times before in his life. No matter how much he twists the truth and distorts the real value of his successes and his property. It feels good to hop on the bandwagon of somebody who’s a winner. At this point lesser doubts about the facts can be neglected, many seem to think, or at least seem to feel. A certain ruthlessness and the end justifies the means mentality prevails.
The Race for Presidency of the U.S. is a super orchestrated and manipulated campaign. There are so many factors, including manipulated truths and sheer lies, that come together in the cognitive-emotional mental concoction that defines how an individual will vote, that pure rational fact-based consideration isn’t necessarily the dominating one. The 2016 Race is heavily stamped by globalization and the extreme economic, social and ecological challenges it brings along and which many people find hard to manage so they rely on their gut feeling. If Reagan surprised, why wouldn’t Trump, too? Hillary, at least, won’t.
The expectancy value theory was first developed by Psychologist John William Atkinson and later further developed in education and pedagogics. Being a UX Designer and Theatre Director myself, I can confirm that this is also the way UX largely works – and in a way voters actually are the users of the electoral system – because, and this is based especially on my theatre experience, people at the same time love and are excited when they are first presented a statement, a promise, but later: a surprise.
Even a theatrical show has a promise, a leading statement. It can be something that is expressed clearly and explicitly, as in Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and it can be vague, meandering and wiggly, and in that way deeply emotional, based on a gut feeling, as in Donald Trump’s case.
In theatre most of the emotional efficiency of the show actually works on this level: people – the audience - love being presented by a statement that’s first exposed to them, then reinforced, then betrayed, turned upside down, then being reworked, rebuilt, and brought to a conclusion that seems to stand steadily on its feet. On several feet, actually, and this is important: not just one, straightforward pillar but feet that’ve been tested at several moments, with several life-changing challenges. This is called – this what brings the statement, the promise to its surprising conclusion - a story.
The statement seems to be brought to a conclusion through several contradicting experiences, such as through somebody’s life story, that the audience – the voters - can lean on, be it with a catharsis or not. If it doesn’t directly support them in their quest of practical solutions for their life, they don’t necessarily care for even though they think they do. A cathartic experience brings them emotional consolation that they can identify with, no matter how much or how little of a difference the conclusion of the show – in this case Trump’s potential victory – would bring to their lives.
The first TV debate between Clinton and Trump will take place later in the day that I’m writing this, Sep 26, 2016, and I sincerely hope that the debate is going to be based on facts.
The campaigns of the 2016 Race, however, have shown that show mentality, winner takes it all thinking, ruthless performance and leading voters here and there with storytelling gimmicks is a ruling power in American politics, perhaps stronger than ever.