And Then There Was Trump

Jul 28, 2016 · 414 comments
smokepainter (Berkeley)
This article assumes that Trump has some sort of magic pull over the unconscious "voter." This overly psychological "take" on voters enhances the idea that people do not vote with their intellects but with their id or complexes. This kind of pop psychology is what Trump counts on and is an insult to the intelligence, and indeed, the souls of voters.

Americans are not lemmings enthralled by a sort of Lakoff language game that rules them from the bowels of their minds and consciousness. NO we all, conservatives and liberals alike, THINK. By appealing to our awareness, to our intelligence and "conscious" mind the Democrats will sidestep the strategy that emotional appeal is what wins elections.

Obama is a case in point, he is far from an emotional touchstone by nature. Pundits call him dry, or an elitist. But as in his speech last night, he thinks in a manner that touches the minds and souls of voters and Americans. He THEN becomes a repository of positive emotion. Hillary must do the same: present her intelligence and cognitive skills. Trump has little of either and his only hope is as aburlesque comedian.

We are a country of thinkers, especially now with access to the internet knowledge base. Try reading Facebook feeds and you will see people DEBATING positions. America is no longer a country of lemmings, no "Morning in America" ad is going to tip the scale. Wait for the debates, we will see Trump go down in flames as a fool and charlatan.
sj (eugene)

Mr. Edsall:
very well summarized in the limited spaces that an Opinion Page allows.
thank you.

i would respectfully and humbly add a couple of points:
it appears that DJT's core supporters,
which may well number more than 50-million actual November voters for starters,
(( and perhaps many more in the weeks that follow )),
are inclined to make their decisions based more principally upon emotions,
and not acting "rational" in any way.

with fear as fuel,
uncertainty filling the sails,
hatred and bigotry at the helm,
recharged by the constant drum-beating of negative news-media reporting about conditions all around the world,
and the fundamental - - -
(( base-h.sapiens-need in a large group of this species )),
- - - desire to be "led",
no amount of facts, evidence, science or reasoning can
dissuade-away all of the preconditions upon which they act.

the practical "counter" is to systematically empower the remaining members of the electorate to actually participate in the process and get out and vote in November.

now well into the 21st-Century,
the choice between Reason and Fear could not be clearer.
how many of each tribe there is remains the question to be resolved.

VOTE everyone:
and let your voice be heard and be counted.
Susan Murray (Glenmoore, PA)
If I were to run an ad about Trump, it would be called "The Bad Contractor." I would have homeowners wanting to renovate their home, by adding a new addition. They would hire a contractor who would promise many wonderful changes to the home. He would promise that the changes would make their home fantastic, the best in the neighborhood. At the close of the commercial, I would have the homeowners standing outside, looking at the lovely addition. When they walk up and open the door, they would discover that it is all a facade, just a false front, and the whole facade would collapse backwards. The voice over would be "Change is not always for the better." (or something to that effect.)
mrmeat (florida)
I can't justify Clinton. Clinton's plans to import thousands of Arabs into the US will bring us terrorist attacks like in Europe.
The rest of her plans for outright more handouts like free college, paid maternity leave, etc will be impossible to pay for and are wide open to fraud as Medicare is, especially in Florida, in the billions of dollars.
Clinton is no Golda Meir. She'll fold like a paper bag when she has to deal with stressful foreign and military affairs.
Tim Connor (Portland OR)
If Hillary can't find a way to acknowledge and validate the very real and legitimate anxiety and anger of middle and working class voters, she's going to lose. When people are scared and angry, you don't reach them by showing them statistics that prove that people, on average, are doing okay so they shouldn't be upset. You empathize with their distress and offer them hope for making things better. Bernie did that--I'm not sure Hillary knows how.
J (Philadelphia)
I have a colleague (if that is the right word) like Trump in my life. My colleague has behaved the way Trump behaves, targeting various people, for the last 30 years at least, though on the scale of international academia, not the scale of world powers. I have been the main target for at least the last 20 years. Such a person is quite tricky to deal with, the article is correct and makes a lot of useful points. I pride myself on my survival, but the Turmp-like colleague does not show any signs of stopping (or dieing, though he is over 75) any time soon. So I have to live with it and deal. When it became clear that Trump and Hillary would be the match up, I was interested to see how she would deal with such a man. She does not have the luxury of time to periodically withdraw from the fight and simply ignore the baits. But super wise not to go tit for tat. That is a trap Trump types would love their adversaries to fall into. Oh how they enjoy a great game of bait and switch as you run around trying to address with reason the latest astonishing claim.
Trump types do have an uncanny knack to spot and exploit with spin and twisted logic any flaws, and they will make up flaws too. They are great and persuasive liars. I think Hilary is doing a great job overall so far in dealing with him, and only someone with grit could ever hope to have a chance come out on top in the end. Good luck Hillary!
Marian (New York, NY)
"So far this campaign season, anti-Donald Trump forces have spent close to $70 million on ads attacking the G.O.P. front-runner — more than triple what Trump has spent on his entire campaign. Even more shocking than the whopping amount of cash deployed against the mogul, though, is that the ads haven’t been working. In fact, they might even be helping Trump."


Jeb! dropped one hundred thirty million
Down Washington's black hole
"Lose the primary to win the general"
Jeb! is halfway to his goal.

Hillary's $50M down the toilet confirms that Jeb's experience wasn't a one-off.
Scott Sommers (Houston)
Great analysis and piece!
GK (Pennsylvania)
He has to pay for imploring Russia to hack DNC e-mails. That's treason pure and simple. If it was sarcasm that's even worse. Irresponsible, dangerous, reckless--and disqualifying for any office higher than reality show CEO.
Marian (New York, NY)
On fitness:

Some would dispute the nature of the historical marker attached to Hillary's nomination, seeing it as involving G-men & jail, not gender.

Many women—I am one of them—find this nomination a sad, retrogressive, immoral event that harms women.

It is perversely fitting that this corrupt woman achieved her life's obsession by corrupt means—from the DNC-Clinton-media collusion, confirmed by the WikiLeaks leaks, to the Clinton jackboot on the neck of Lady Liberty, confirmed by the Comey non-indictment indictment non sequitur & Lynch kissing the Godfather's ring on the tarmac. "I want reliable people, people who aren’t going to be carried away. I mean, we’re not murderers, in spite of what this undertaker thinks"

As for Trump's tweak of the Clinton machine at the presser:

Putin has the email. (Re-read Comey's answers to Gowdy.)

Hillary, a lifelong obstructor of justice & spoliator of evidence scrubbed the server to DoD specs to vaporize email about yoga, a wedding & a funeral. (That should have been enough to raise red flags for Comey. Why didn't it?)

We know "D" stands for "demagoguery," but enough already. Nothing to hack—Hillary destroyed the evidence. Trump's request was simply for Putin to check his cache & produce Hillary's 30k emails, which, btw, impact national security only if she is guilty. (Oops.)

Good for Trump. Our democracy hangs by one frayed thread, that we are all equal before the law. Wouldn't it be ironic if Putin saves our democracy for us?
Kevin (North Texas)
Where are all the feckless republican leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in all of this. Why have they not condemned Donald Trump about his stances. One can only determined that their silence is because they are either afraid of Trump or think they can manipulate him if he gets elected.
Carol (SF bay area, California)
I think the Clinton campaign should emphasize Donald Trump's scary, unclear ideas about "O.K." behavior associated with brutal dictators ("strong leaders, who control their people and kill terrorists") - versus the rights and values of innocent people.

Tyrants consider ANYONE who disagrees with them to be an insurgent who should be imprisoned or killed.

- Article - "Donald Trump's Four Favorite Tyrants - And What He Admires In Dictators" -
- Excerpt - (Trump said) "Saddam Hussein throws a little gas (killing Kurds), everyone goes crazy. 'Oh, he's using gas.' "

- YouTube - "Did You Know More than 5000 Civilians Died In A Chemical Attack In HalabjaIn !988?" - 2:14 min.

How long would Trump survive if he lived in North Korea and gave a speech opposing ANY aspect of Kin Jong-un's government?

Trump admires how, in 1989, the Chinese government "controlled" (indiscriminately killed) students who were calling for democracy, greater accountability, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech.

- YouTube - "Archive: Chinese Troops Fire On Protesters In Tiananmen Square - BBC News - 3:34 min.

Also, under a dictatorship, Trump's businesses could be seized at any time and given to the dictator's cronies. (This has happened in Russia and Ukraine). And the dictator and his buddies can freely use government funds like their own personal piggy bank.
BigGuy (Forest Hills)
I listened through the whole of Trump's Monday 7/25/16 speech.

He reminds me of the disturbed, rabid anti-semites who would insist on joining me for dinner in graduate school. Since I "looked Jewish", they were sure they'd learn a lot talking with me. BUT they didn't want to talk with me, they wanted to TALK AT ME. Their jaws were clenched, their necks stiff, and their temples bulging as they quoted from the "Protocols of Zion". And they would tell me I was going to Hell, since Jews killed Christ, according to the Book of Matthew. They begged for my sympathy, tho, since my "fellow Jews were keeping them from getting ahead in life". They were sure it was "the Jews who were keeping them from being able to buy a gun." They asked me to put in a good word to ALL the Jews I knew that they weren't that bad.

They were worse. They proudly said they did NOT take any of the drugs prescribed by doctors to calm them down.

Trump sounds even MORE disturbed. All he says is I, I, I, me, me, me. I feel his free floating anger and hostility and hatred. I feel HE DEMANDS MY ATTENTION. There's no coherent thought. There's no love. There's nothing good.

Trump needs to be kept out of office. Vote a stragiht Democratic ticket sending Hillary to the White House with a Democratic majority in the Senate -- AND in the House.
Rohit (New York)
The big advantage that Trump has is that he is real. We can see him clearly, warts and all. The trouble with Hillary is that she hides her warts very well, and the media help her hide them. But the rest of the American people find this habit of hers troubling.

Perhaps tonight we will see a real person who admits that she is not perfect.

But I do not bet on it.

The Democrats are relying on painting Trump as something left behind by a dog out of control. But it i not going to sell.

Democrats can bash Bush for invading Iraq and can excuse Hillary even though voting for that same war. But how many independents will buy this story? How many independents are going to look away from her words about Gaddafi, "We came, we saw, he died"?

Bush did not tell her to have Gaddafi lynched. It was her own idea.
wfisher1 (fairfield, ia)
How disgusting. To have to say the "truth" is not enough for the American people. That "truth" will not sway those who support Trump. That they do not care that he lies. They do not care that he is vicious and mean spirited. They respond to his calls for hate against, well, everyone. Compare his speech to the Presidents and it is all there for all to see. If Trump does win, it will be a disaster for four years but it will be satisfying to see these people get what they deserve.
Donna (California)
I agree with the assessments in Edsell's piece: Boring facts, graphs and charts countering Trump will not work: This is psychological warfare. Donald Trump must be equated with all of the "Mr Burns" of our lives and those inclined to vote for Trump must become the "Homer Simpsons" of life; Donald, is the ultimate thin-skinned braggart/bully whose allegiance is to no one but himself. As quoted:

"To counter Trump, Democrats have to get into the electorate’s automatic, intuitive and unconscious level of responding... To do this,... the goal should be to portray Trump in ways that conflict with “deep moral intuitions about fairness versus cheating and exploitation".
In other words, Democrats must get inside the *heads* of likely Trump voters to convey they are nothing but *losers*- even to Donald Trump.

A taskmaster on the level of Sigmund Freud combined with Alfred Hitchcock -like tale-weaving should produce the ultimate "narrative" of life under Trump-America: This is not the time to policy-wonk to November
brupic (nara/greensville)
the point about repeating many of trump's many lies or nonsense only reinforcing them while trying to refute them was brought home pretty clearly by bush2. if I recollect correctly, all he did was repeat saddam 9/11 repeatedly. pretty soon 70% of the country with the self proclaimed most rugged individualists and common sense 'folks' in the history of the world were blank eyed zombies positive he was responsible.
ah. perhaps I should repeat for the 'folks' who didn't get the message....he wasn't
Marc Kagan (NYC)
Fight fire with (in this case, truthful) fire. Trump is a lunatic. That has to be the theme day in day out until November.
Raghunathan (Rochester)
We have always had even tempered and competent Presidents in their public face in the WH, at least since WW2.
We do not want that to change at all. The only change we want now is the inclusion of a woman as commander-in-chief, starting with Hillary Clinton.
I picked up our local Syracuse newspaper this morning and found this article on the bottom of the front page: "KKK fliers distributed in Syracuse, Liverpool." According to the article, people in certain sections of the Syracuse area are finding KKK fliers on the windshields of their cars.

We have lived outside Syracuse for 44 years, and a visibly active KKK is a first for me. Syracusans have always been proud of being a historic city that had a very active abolitionist movement, including Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad.

Trump has a following in our rustbelt city, and I can't help but think that one of many of Trump's negative impacts on our politics and culture is that he is giving Americans permission to openly express their racism, sexism, and bigotry.

Michelle Obama talked in her speech about the importance of politicians as role models for us and our children. Trump is a terrible role model, especially
with all his insults heaped on Mexicans, nonwhites, women, and Muslims and his bashing of "political correctness," which is really just civility and basic human decency.

Trump is the kind of political leader who does not bring out the best in people but the worst. And the Republican Party owns him, so what does that say about the GOP?

If decency is still a value in this country--and you have to wonder--Trump should be soundly defeated in Nov. It is a test
Laura (CT)
After months of watching The Ascent of The Donald, I'm filled with anxiety and fear for our future. One way to comfort myself is to read comments from New York Times readers whose overwhelmingly intelligent and nuanced remarks assure me that the whole country has not gone mad. But I worry about this bubble. Remember four years ago when the Romney campaign drank so much kool aid that they were convinced he would win, even when the exit polls suggested otherwise. So I just want to borrow from President's words last night. Don't boo, don't just write comments -- while it is cathartic to vent, and it feels good to know there is a community of likeminded people out there, we need to act. We need to vote, make calls, register new voters and do everything In our power to ensure that Hillary and the democrats at every level of government are successful in November. The stakes have never been higher.
cph (Denver)
I can appreciate where the "Grace" folks were coming from, but I have to say that I don't think this guy even exactly, shall we say, "qualifies" as having either heart or soul. He's pretty much an eight year old guy kid (full disclosure, I was myself once) and most eight year old guy kids haven't, well, developed either yet, by and large. I can't begin to imagine what it's like to "live" around this guy; I reckon all they can think at the end of the day is, "well, there's where all the money is, so if I can just stay focused here,..."
Ed (Old Field, NY)
He might have been ridiculing the reporter, but he wasn’t mocking a disability. The swaying back and forth and turning of hands is New York sign language for a person who wavers irresolutely or tries to disclaim responsibility for something he has done: Um, well, you know, I don’t know, I’m not really sure, it’s just kind of, I mean, look, I wasn’t, it’s hard to say . . .
DSR (New York)
It's not just about how Trump gets away with it. It's also how Hillary DOESN'T get away with anything. While he's teflon to a chunk of Americans, she's velcro, where anything she does or says or wears is cast in a negative light, no matter how small or completely absurd.
I partly blame the media for this. While she clearly has made her mistakes, she's judged exponentially more harshly than others. Email is one example: The Bush white house used a private server and erased 20 million emails; Jeb Bush used a private server when Gov of Florida (300k emails); Mitt Romney destroyed the Massachusetts servers he and his administration used; plus plenty more. These are verifiable events, not smears.
The media response to these = quick mention, then move on. Response to Hillary = horrible judgment (perhaps true), untrustworthy, shifty, possibly criminal. Republican response = liar, lock her up.
You get the picture!
Tokyo Tea (NH, USA)
I suggest contrasting (a) his bragging about how much money he made for himself out of his casinos with (b) the stories of the ordinary working guys he stiffed.

We need a response on an emotional level, and we need for people to understand that if he stiffed these guys, he'll stiff them too.
Kevin Hill (Miami)
So basically, what you are saying, Tom, is that the Democrats need to trick people into doing the right thing. Because most of us are irrational.

I wish every analyst were this honest. This makes 100% sense to me.

Thank you, Tom.
David Martin (Vero Beach, Fla.)
Thanks to social psychologist Jonathan Haidt for his pithy comments on the "conscious, verbal, reasoning" part of the mind vs. "the other 98 percent of mental processes", the small rider on a big elephant.

As of 8 pm Thursday evening, the Democrats seem to be doing pretty well at undermining Trump's elephant talk.
Walkman (LA County)
All of the garbage that Trump spews is just a smoke screen to distract his opponents, rile up his supporters and attract more media attention. I suggest ignoring this spew and instead focus on his record of cheating people and pose the question: is this who you trust with your Social Security and Medicare?
Bill Levine (Evanston, IL)
I would make the perhaps counterintuitive suggestion that Democrats should go easy on the moral disapproval. Remember, Trump is playing the villain character, and his supporters very much enjoy the idea that he is offending people. Better to emphasize the notion that he is basically just an incompetent rich guy who has gotten in out of his depth.

FDR had it right - "the only thing we have to fear is, fear itself".
professorai (boston)
trump's psychological warfare against America is that he is a manly man, filled with testosterone, able to conquest beautiful women he is always surrounded by, and thus a strong leader appealing to our primate brain. I fear the only way to block this is by virally spreading memes to unman him. Bald trump, homoerotic photos of him and Putin, the video of him feeling up Ivanka, leaked medical records of vasectomy or prostate surgery, testimony from miss universe contestants that he's not such a big man, etc. only by weakening his manly man subconscious pitch can hillary win.
Bill Levine (Evanston, IL)
One thing which is very clear is that trying to refute anything Trump says is a fool's errand. Since he just responds to contradiction by creating even more nonsense to refute, you simply spend all your time letting him dictate the discussion.

So what's the alternative? Essentially, take an attitude that nothing he says is even worth engaging with. Instead, respond to pretty much any smear or bizarre statement with the observation that he is making it all up as he goes anyway, followed by pivoting over to a few basic ideas:

1. It never hurts to give him credit for his skills as an entertainer.
2. Keep bringing up his tax returns. It would be a good idea to start a running count of the days since the Republican convention that he has gone without releasing them. Can't repeat this too often.
2. Emphasize what a severe case of ADD he has. This would tend to undercut the benefits he gets from being so closely associated with Twitter by making his use of it a sign of weakness, not strength.
3. Point out that his primary business skill is pressure sales, and how his campaign style is so much like his sales approach with, for instance, Trump University. Keep working away at the concept that he is, once again, trying to unload some questionable merchandise, this time himself.
4. Occasionally do some demolition work on the plethora of truly bad ideas he has come up with.

A dismissive attitude might seem risky, but it is guaranteed to make him angry, which has its own benefits.
J (Philadelphia)
The more he can be subtlety stimulated to be angry (ignoring him as much as possible is one tactic) the more likely he will say outrageous things that will reinforce his mad man persona and at least some of his potential supporters will be sufficiently turned off he will lose their support.
Girish Kotwal (Louisville, KY)
The intrigue and his unpredictability is what makes Trumps stand out. He is tested against the most powerful and experienced politicians who made a presidential run against him for the nomination of the Republican party. As I see it from my old Kentucky home where the sun shines bright for most of the year, I see a unique presidential election year. I see a turmoil in the democratic party with unhappy Sander's supporters breaking away from Sanders in his endorsement of Hillary and I see on the Republican side a purification taking place with the powerful Bush dynasty reduced to ashes by Trump for now and the war mongers whining but no one is listening and then there is Romney whose support is restricted to his large family and his few friends in Utah. I have to conclude that the Republican party has actually gained by loosing the excess baggage and the democratic party has lost by deceiving the loyal Sanders supporters. I would have said a few weeks ago that Trump has a 50:50 chance of winning the white house but with all the recent polls showing Trump leading, I think he has a slight edge. To my fellow Americans and fellow human beings of our planet, I would say don't be afraid of a Trump presidency but be prepared for surprises. The great wall on the border may not get built and Melania Trump will write her own speeches in her own words without referring to any previous speeches.
Sharon Salzberg (Charlottesville, Va.)
Trump has appealed, according to Deepak Chopra, to the "shadow" side of the human psyche, a term coined by Carl Jung. This dark, angry, violent side of human nature is like the id, unhampered by the ego, by logic, reason or facts. The primal rage in all people that is suppressed in a civilized society and allows us to go about our business, without verbally or physically harming others. Trump's followers have been given permission by him to reveal their shadows to the rest of us, as Trump, himself, unleashes his diatribe of insults and rants in every speech that he delivers. The hope is that the majority of the electorate have buried their ids in a safe place and operate their lives with reason and dignity.
epmeehan (Aldie. VA)
I agree I don't get Trump. What is troubling that many people think all things that politicians say are pretty much lies, so Donald's just doing what they do. I suspect frustrated voters figure at least is not a real politician.

Unfortunately both parties have brought the american public to this point. They are (in general) a self serving bunch of people who put their interests ahead of the public and it will take a long time to convince many people otherwise.

In the sad event that Donald wins, all politicians should be embarrassed by how they created such a mess.
Lee Harrison (Albany)
Trust me, they will be a lot more than just "embarrassed." So will I. So will you.
Michael S (Wappingers Falls, NY)
The argumernt would be better is you stuck tot he truth. TRump says it would force NATO members to pay their fair share. NATO documents show that a majority of NATO members fail to meet NATO’s guideline, established in 2006, that defense expenditures should amount to 2 percent of each country’s gross domestic product. The median spending in 2015 is just 1.18 percent of GDP, compared to 3.7 percent for the United States, NATO says. Just four other countries currently exceed the 2 percent guideline. “The volume of the US defense expenditure effectively represents 73 per cent of the defense spending of the Alliance as a whole,” NATO says in a discussion of indirect funding. It is particularly difficult to blast Trump on foreign policy and defence when the Obama/Clinton foreign policy is so widely viewed as a failure.

The majority of Americans view undocumented immigrants as breaking the law and unfair to people who follow the rules. The majority of Americans think the USA, like every nation, has a right and duty to protect its borders. Whatever Trump's hyperbole on these topics they work because they reflect the views of most people.

The problem for the Democratic Party is that their old game of breaking down people into small interest groups and pandering to them is not working against the country's social and economic anxieties.
Dennis (New York)
Trump is the ugliest demagogue to come down the pike since Tail Gunner Joe McCarthy. I'd say worse because in this day of high-speed telecommunications Trump's vitriol can encircle the globe before one can respond to his completely asinine and treasonous statements. How dare he shame this great nation of ours. How dare the Republicans for nominating this complete incompetent. We will not forget what the Republicans have wrought on our beloved United States. We shall not forget.

Diogenes (Belmont MA)
Donald Trump seems more interested in protecting and enhancing his business interests at the cost of hurting his political chances. As everyone knows, some months ago, he attacked the judge who is presiding over the Trump University lawsuit, because of his Mexican heritage. He demanded that the judge recuse himself, presumably because he thought another judge would be more sympathetic and might even dismiss the complaint. He should have known he would take a hit over this. Yet his fear of losing that case overcame what any political advice he received.

Now he seems to be going out of his way to ingratiate himself with President Putin and other high Russian officials and businessmen. Again, is this because of potentially valuable deals that are in work? It surely does not make any political sense.
Despite intense media propaganda designed to marginalize non-status quo candidates such as Sanders and Trump, Trump has broken through, and in November voters will likely demonstrate their disgust with incompetent status quo politicians who are damaging the country.
Ecce Homo (Jackson Heights, NY)
"Non-status quo" candidates are not all the same, and "non-status quo" is not by itself a good thing. Hitler, after all, was a "non-status quo" candidate. For "non-status quo" to be a good thing, the "non-status quo" candidate has to have a platform of policy proposals, and a plan to implement them, that would actually have a net constructive effect.

Sanders had a well thought out platform of policy proposals that would have a net constructive effect - reducing income inequality and economic injustice. Trump has nothing of the kind - Trump has a sequence of impulses, some of which would endanger American democracy from within, enhance the threats to our country from without, and do endless gratuitous damage to individual Americans.
How can you say Trump has been marginalized? The media has given him months of free press so that he did not have to spend money on it. If anything, Trump has benefited from the media more than any other candidate.
If he wins, the media will will be at much fault as anyone. They can't stop writing or talking about him, and this includes the NY Times.
Dorota (Holmdel)
It is shameful, incomprehensible and alarming that the leaders of the Republican Party are giving Trump their tacit approval. If he gets elected, they will bear a responsibility for putting this country and the world on a dangerous course.

Perhaps they need to be reminded of the following quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:

"True patriotism springs from a belief in the dignity of the individual, freedom and equality not only for Americans but for all people on earth, universal brotherhood and good will, and a constant and earnest striving toward the principles and ideals on which this country was founded.”
Walkman (LA County)
An effective tack against Trump is to continually point out all of the people he's cheated, including workers, contractors, investors and lenders, and how, particularly in the case of investors, he lulled them with the same false promises and assurances that he's given to voters in this election. Then ask the voters: Is this the man, with his record of cheating people, that you want to trust with your Social Security and Medicare? If he cheated all of these people who could sue him, then what is he going to do to all of you who can't sue him? How much can you trust his promises to not cut Social Security and Medicare? And point out that if he follows through on his promise to give massive tax cuts to the rich, the massive deficits resulting will be used as an excuse to gut Social Security and Medicare.
ann (Seattle)
Instead of electing "personalities", maybe we have reached the point in communications where we could discuss and vote on major issues. Newspapers could investigate all of the facts and perspectives on these issues, such as illegal immigration, and the public could discuss them. Then we could vote on each issue to tell our leaders what we want them to do about it.

This newspaper continually denigrates Trump's personality and background without giving us the facts on illegal immigration. I would like to read how the number of illegal immigrants is determined, especially since the Census Bureau has a paper on its web site concluding that foreign born Hispanic males are likely to have been undercounted. (See the paper by Jensen, Bhaskar, and Scopilliti of the Population Division.)

Rather than sneering at Trump or other political candidates' personas, we should vote on referendums, on each major issue, to tell our leaders what we want them to do.

I agree with Clinton on some issues and with Trump on others. Rather than vote for either candidate, I would rather vote on each major issue.
brupic (nara/greensville)
why bother having elections at all? just schedule referenda continually throughout the year. unfortunately, critical thinking is not something most 'folks' excel in doing. pretty soon the usa would be raining nuclear bombs down on Beijing, Moscow, caracas, London.....whomever they'd be gulled into thinking was an imminent threat to mom, apple pie and mcdonald's....
Bogara (East Central Florida)
I would bet apples to oranges that if Trump was a Democrat with Obama-like political views, all Hillary Democrats would heartily explain his behavior with excusals. This is not an endorsement of Trump. It is a thought that may not sit well with you.
Joe From Boston (Massachusetts)
Bog area

If Trump was a Democrat, he would have been shunted off to the side very early in the primaries.

Democrats believe in facts. All the facts make Trump look like a slimeball who cares about just one thing .... Donald J. Trump.

That would not sell in the Democratic Party at all. So if he was a Democrat nobody would worry about what he says about Putin.

Sorry. You lose on that one.
DR (New England)
OK, I'll bite. Name the Democratic equivalent of Trump.
CityBumpkin (Earth)
What point are you trying to make? You understand the criticisms against Trump ARE directed at his politics. Sure, Democrats make fun of Trump's flamboyance, manner of speech, and his apparent sexual attraction to his daughter. But do you understand, that's NOT why Democrats have a problem with him being President? It's his politics.

Trump's political views are incoherent, self-contradictory, denigrate people based on their race and ancestry, alienate US foreign partners, promise false prosperity based on bunk ideas no economist believes in, and are generally not based on facts.

So no, if Trump's political views were Obama-like - non-racist, non-sexist, not starting conflicts with foreign allies, informed, forward-looking, and generally not based on hogwash - I wouldn't nearly have as much a problem with the guy. He would still be a massive buffoon, and I don't think I would want him for President, but at least I know the country wouldn't be lead by somebody who thinks "making" Mexico pay for our version of Great Wall of China is the basis for 21st century foreign relations.
Maria (<br/>)
Trump says he was just joking re: Russia being invited to hack his opponents emails. Reminds me of an uncle who uttered the most unkind and cruel things excusing himself claiming he was just joking and couldn't we just take a joke. Some jokes are not funny. Case in point: Donald Trump.
Jon (NYC)
Russians or not, Hillary Clinton would be way ahead and on an easy road to the presidency if she and the DNC didn't use such poor judgment in their actions.

Without the email issues, there would have been little or nothing Trump or anyone could have used against them and it would be a landslide victory.

Unfortunately for Hillary and the DNC, they have a huge challenge ahead of them to win back the trust of far too many people and they only have themselves to blame.
Walkman (LA County)
Trust? And what has Donald Trump done to earn the trust of the voters, other than cheat workers, contractors, shareholders, lenders and even customers?

Emails? What about Trump University, for which Trump is now being sued?
Jon (NYC)
Walkman, you are preaching to the choir. I think Trump is crazy and I can't understand how so many people support him.

My point is that regardless of Russia and any ties to Trump, it is Hillary and the DNC that made the mistakes and bad choices that have been exploited. Given the fact that nothing seems to hurt Trump, no matter how outrageous, Hillary and the DNC need to work really hard at getting out of the hole they have dug for themselves to win back the trust of the electorate and win.
Tax returns! Show them already!
NI (Westchester, NY)
Amidst the brouhaha of the Democratic Convention and ravings and rantings of the insane Republican Nominee, Donald Trump where are the Republicans? Not a word from them, not a sighting of them. Maybe, their love of Country is finally coming to the fore and they are silently rooting for Hillary Clinton. They are terrified of the monster they have created and are hoping he will be vanquished in November.
HapinOregon (Southwest corner of Oregon)
Today's conservatives and reactionaries are beyond reasoning and rational thought.

This is the appeal of Trump. He is them.
Ed (Old Field, NY)
This week, Democrats have been channeling George W. Bush to suggest that it’s borderline unpatriotic not to agree with the President and not to be 100 percent content with everything that goes on in the country.
sf (Portland, Oregon)
This quote is the problem with both politics and society as a whole: "These facts are unlikely to dissuade voters convinced that immigrants are taking jobs, committing crimes and undermining American values. From their point of view, any crime by an illegal immigrant is one crime too many." If this is truly the case then we are doomed eventually. How do we educate voters (those that don't ready the NY Times) to see that the facts DO matter? Education is key, and guess what party has been gutting education and likely doing so because they believe an uneducated population is easier to control? This is the real crime.
Matthew L. (Chicago)
This is a welcome essay. I'm relieved to know that some folks in the media and the Democratic party are concerned with what tactics specifically will stop the nightmare of a Trump presidency.

I believe the most important lesson of Trump's comments yesterday was not that he's so chummy with Putin, or so reckless as to encourage a foreign power to engage in espionage, but rather that media manipulation is perhaps his main motivation. The payoff, as he said, if Russia did reveal Hillary's emails, is that they "will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."

Yes, Donald Trump is a con man, and it's clear to me that he has conned no one more than the media. He knows precisely how to get and keep himself in the spotlight. The sheer amount of coverage he gets matters far more than the content of his comments. Therefore, any attempt to counter the ridiculousness of his actions with reasonable argument misses the point.

It is past time for the press to drop false equivalency between the Democrats and Republicans, and also the similarly false idea that the supposed anger of Trump's supporters somehow justifies the tone of his campaign. Let's take the gloves off and call Trump the fascist threat to our Democracy that he is.
Elliot (NYC)
People who really care about issues and facts already know whom they will vote for. The battleground is for the votes of people who are swayed by a sense of the candidates' personalities, by emotions.

Some of these voters seem to see Trump, at least initially, as strong and self-confident. But look at his body language, his facial expressions and gestures, his demeanor. Didn't we all grow up recognizing these indicators as the markers of childishness, of immaturity, of irresponsible petulance, of a lack of self-control?

One look at Trump's face as he said in Cleveland that he was the only one who could "fix it" should have been enough to turn off many voters.

Trump's handlers can try to control his words, but his tell-tale mannerisms will be on display as long as he seeks attention. One can only hope that over the coming weeks, the vast majority of Americans will recognize in Trump an older version of the bratty boy they and their children should avoid in the playground.
Tokyo Tea (NH, USA)
Too many people in our country see bullying, rudeness, bragging, authoritarianism, etc. as "strength". They read the body language, but they're reading the bullying and petulance as as something they wish they could get away with.

Americans seem to be poor at getting along with others and at solving problems by win-win or live-and-let-live methods. Just look at our gun culture. That's what we think of as strength: being able to threaten to kill the other guy.
CityBumpkin (Earth)
The Clinton campaign and some of the experts quoted in this article miss a very important aspect of human nature: people will believe what they want to believe. There is nothing inherently rational about belief. As long as we want to believe something, we can rationalize everything else to fit that belief. That's why everything Trump says, even if it is self-contradictory, his supporters will rationalize.

"He didn't really mean it. He is just standing up against political correctness."

"He is just making a point with some showmanship and humor."

"Experts are shills of the establishment, why should I believe them over Trump?

Trump's outrageous reality TV persona makes this easier. When you can dismiss even the most outrageous statements as mere showmanship, how can you hold Trump accountable for anything?

Furthermore, the more these voters believe Trump, the more they identify with Trump. They become invested in Trump. Attacks against Trump become attacks against them, especially if they come from people with fancy degrees and big salaries.

Trump has a shrewd understanding of human nature, or at least how to exploit it. Months ago he said, "I could shoot someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue, and I wouldn't lose any votes." That's what he was talking about.
Joe From Boston (Massachusetts)
Republicans today seem to subscribe to the premise that "I believe it, therefore it MUST be true."

Democrats today seem to subscribe to the premise that "If it is SHOWN to be true, then I will believe it."
Follanger (Pennsylvania)
"It remains unclear whether Trump can be brought to his knees the way Mitt Romney was by ads like “Coffin” and “Firms,”"

It won't matter if Trump fails to build beyond the core 30 or so percent of supporters that have carried him to the Republican nomination. To do so he will have to assemble a coalition made of this core plus any number of single issue voters who somehow buy either his foamy rhetoric or his aberrant personality or want change at any cost however high.

For instance, say the failings of the Veterans Administration are front and center in your set of concerns and you believe that, on the basis of pure charisma given how thin he is on actual policy, Trump is the one who will break and remake the institution, then you may vote for him. As will the Republican or bust types.

Of all these various, overlapping constituencies driven by a single issue, there is only one that worries me: the anyone but Hillary voters, not least because they range left and right. Their loathing is deep-seated and irrational, steeped in overt or unconscious sexism if not senseless idealism; it will not be an easy task to rewire their prejudice but even a few converts to pragmatism would be sufficient to put Clinton over the top.
Jonathan (NYC)
The problem is, he is temperamentally qualified to be a leader. He sets the direction, and doesn't sweat the details. After 8 years of a pedantic college professor as president, the voters are looking for an alpha male.

They will say that even if his plans are not successful, his instincts and direction are just what they want. Better this than a highly skilled and successful president who implements programs and policies that no one wants.
LM Myers (<br/>)
While I am an Obama supporter, your comment rings true to how Trump's supporters see their candidate.
DR (New England)
Really? No one in the U.S. wants health care? No one wants clean air or water?
Abelle (Portland, OR)
The majority of the population will not want a narcissist, racist, sexist making policies that benefit the 1% but because of all the right wing propaganda machine of fox news and Limbaugh they will just blame Obama or Clinton for all of his policies.
ZAW (Houston, TX)
Donald Trump is a dangerous, dangerous man who could do real damage to the United States if elected President. He has no real agenda. He is unpredictable. His lack of experience might be OK, were it not for his profound arrogance, which prevents him from surrounding himself with a dream team of advisors who could teach him and help him along. And that's to say nothing of the xenophobia, fear, and hatred that he and his supporters have embraced.
That said, the way to beat him is to get inside his supporters heads; to understand them; to level with them. There are valid concerns and lying under the layers of scummy racism.
Globalization is one: working class men without college degrees have suffered terribly over the last several decades. They've borne the brunt of Globalization's downside: as their jobs are shipped overseas and their communities dessimatd. it should come as no surprise that many of those workers are madder than h--- and following Trump.
Obamacare is another. A lot of working class men (Trump supporters) are relatively healthy, even if they are underemployed. For them, Obamacare has meant increased health insurance premiums and new barriers to seeing the doctor. It hasn't been peaches and cream.
We saw again last night that Barak Obama has a unique skill in understanding the other side, leveling with them, and 'getting it'. it's what propelled him to the White House in 2008. Hillary needs to find that skill. It's the only way she can win.
Joe From Boston (Massachusetts)
The Cult of Trump includes people who will follow him under any circumstances based on their attitudes - bigotry, xenophobia, white supremacy, and so forth. It is a waste of time to talk to them.

The people who we need to speak with are the ones who are (incredibly) undecided. They are possibly open to be convinced and to see reason. They need to be approached with respect, and need to understand that staying home on Election Day is counterproductive. On the one day of the year when their opinion actually counts (and would be counted), they fail to state that opinion.

Those people need to understand that failing to vote is accepting "whatever will be." If you do not vote, please do not complain about the outcome. After all, what can the rest of us "ordinary citizens" do for you once the ballots are counted?
Madeline Conant (Midwest)
Trump supporters are immune to criticism of their candidate because all they want is for Trump to stick it to The Man. The more upset everyone gets, the better Trump supporters like it. Before we all think this is too reprehensible, and start vilifying these people, let us remember that Republicans brought Trump on themselves by starving and paralyzing government instead of addressing the economic problems of their own working class base. These people are just now realizing they've been getting punked since Reagan. We should be trying to lure Trump voters to the Democratic party, not calling them racists, even if some of them are.
Nancy (Vancouver)
Thank you again Mr. Edsall for another thoughtful and well researched piece. Given the frightening stats of the support for DT, I have been thinking of how to demonstrate to his followers that little he says is true or workable, and how in fact almost everything he proposes would hurt them.

Since his appeal is emotional, ads like the one that highlight the reaction of the father of the disabled daughter to DT's mockery would would work at the required level. If I had been leaning toward DT, had someone I love who was disabled, I think that father's reaction would be quite powerful, even if I had ignored the original thoughtless attack.

DT is an overbearing white man, who appeals to white men who are feeling anger and resentment of the 'other', but has somehow escaped being cast as one of those 'others'. I think hearing tales from ordinary people who have been hurt during his long career as a con man could be quite powerful. Hearing from disabled veterans about how they feel about his attack on J. McCain, hearing from all the people for whom DT's life has been damaging to them personally might counteract their immediate positive emotional response to him. Facts won't work, tales will.

I think it might work to show in graphic, emotional detail how his trade policies (such as they are), his withdrawal from international forums would damage their, and their children's future.

The Dems need to hire some darn good psychologists, because that is the level of DT's appeal.
Babel (new Jersey)
By far the best commercial I have seen showed various children in a darkened room with eyes opened wide watching Donald Trump and absorbing his crude comments and language. The idea was for the audience to stop for a moment and contemplate what this disgraceful human being was doing to the minds, hearts, and souls of our young children. The strong underlying message was to shame us for even considering such a crass human being for the highest office in the land. It was a true "Catcher in the Rye" moment.
Sam I Am (Windsor, CT)
I seriously question whether Donald Trump even wants the presidency. I feel like he's growing increasingly unhinged so that he can plausibly walk away from the nomination, leaving the Republicans to scramble and select the one guy they turn to when scrambling: Paul Ryan.

Trump will endorse Ryan, and sane Republicans and independents will be so relieved to have a candidate that in comparison seems moderate, qualified and sane, that they will enthusiastically support the guy.

Meanwhile, the Democrats have their nominee. The incredibly qualified, unfairly and misogynistically besmirched HRC, who fails to inspire marginal voters to organize and vote. Leave it to Democrats to nominate the person most qualified for the job, rather than the one who can actually get elected.
Lucy Horton (Allentown PA)
Interesting scenario, and I agree with the premise, but I do not think Ryan would win. Trump has fans, real fans, and they would be so angry at having him snatched away that I don't think they would even vote. Trump's whole concept is to get people to vote who normally don't.
But then, I tend to be an optimist.
DJ McConnell ((Fabulous) Las Vegas)
The "Trump Or Bust" contingent would make the "Bernie Or Bust" bunch look like the Elves, Leprechauns, Gnomes and Little Men's Chowder and Marching Society. Cushlamochree!
Judging from most of the comments from the Choir, Doctor Sigmund Edsall need not worry about the Democrats being able to channel their inner id. The caustic comments are not the work of a kind mindset.

I suspect the Democrats' real challenge is dealing with their delusion that they are the sole possessors of ego and super-ego. You, know, the possessors of rationality and high moral principles.

Of course, Democrats can always say that the Devil (Trump) made them say nasty things about their fellow Americans, most of whom they have never met.
JS (Chicago, IL)
There is something about the Conservative electorate I've picked up on from talking to them which Democrats still don't understand. Conservatives have now completely internalized the notion that anyone in politics (whether Democrat or Republican) is completely dirty/corrupt. Therefore, to them it is better to pick the candidate who will be dirty/corrupt in your favor. This means any attacks on Trump as corrupt will not work - conservatives don't care. They already think Hilary will just be dirty/corrupt in China/Mexico's favor What the Democratic Party needs to do is show how Trump cannot possibly "Win" for us, since he has lost on virtually everything else in his life. Give a play-by-play of his failure to stick up for his "team" throughout his life. Talk about how he sued his own family members, has too many connections with China/Russia, etc. The tax returns thing is also good.
sherry (Virginia)
Maybe switch from looking at Trump to looking at his supporters. Here's an avid supporter in Shenandoah County in Virginia, probably the most Republican county in Virginia and north of two counties that went for Sanders and Rubio in the primaries.
seth borg (rochester)
When does the Republican Party repudiate this man? When do they realize that by abetting his narcissism and sociopathic traits, that they too are tarnished and reduced in stature.

Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and remaining toadies of the GOP, when will you pull the plug on this incoherent, unprepared, unhinged cartoon character. Are there scruples to be found your party? You must realize by now that Trump will be crushed in November and that your Grand Old Party will come to an end. Personally, I won't shed a tear primarily because you have brought this on your house, first with Palin, then the Tea Party, and now with this demagogue. It shows your leadership to be toothless, acquiescent, and feeble.

Pull the plug and save what's left of your brand or shuffle off into the sunset of lost causes.
Todd (San Fran)
Wonderful article, though it's really not "our brains" that the Democrats need to tap into. It's the brains of non-college educated angry white people, the sort of folks who almost assuredly do no read this newspaper (or any newspaper).

Funny, but the true cause of Trump's rise is out failure to address the Country's education system. If we had more college educated people, we wouldn't have Trump, full stop.
Retired Teacher (Midwest)
It is wrong to imply that a person is stupid because he or she does not have a college degree. My brothers are highly skilled, INTELLIGENT, hard-working men who chose jobs that required working with their hands as well as their minds. They are not Trump supporters. When they returned from the Vietnam War they were interested in getting on with life instead going back to a classroom. They have been active in our church and community and know more about getting things done than most of my college-educated friends.
andrea (ohio)
I am very scared.
John Oliver did a piece this past Sunday on the Republican mindset.
Newt was arguing with a reporter on CNN about crime statistics. First he said she was wrong, then when she stated the stats were from the FBI, he said Obama fudged them since he runs the FBI. The reporter countered with the fact that Obama really doesn't. Then Newt said something to the tune of "Well I feel and Americans feel there is more crime"
He feels, Americans feel... John Oliver said it best, "they bring feelings to a fact fight."
Let me say it again, I am very scared.
David Markun (Arlington, MA)
I saw John Oliver's piece. His saying of Trump's supporters that "they bring feelings to a fact fight" gets it exactly wrong. Getting elected is NOT a fact fight; it is about stirring feelings that will get people to the polls. The sixteen vanquished Republican candidates who lost to Trump in the primaries did not learn this. Edsall's article does explore this, and I'm hoping the Hillary campaign will not get stuck in Oliver's way of thinking about this. PS: I think Oliver is brilliant and very entertaining.
Scott Sommers (Houston)
This is what Colbert describes as "truthiness". That the Trumperati don't even seem to care if what he says is true or not is what Colbert describes as "Trumpiness".
A.G. Alias (St Louis, MO)
"How do you deal with an opponent immune to the truth, whose appeal is ATAVISTIC rather than rational?" That's how he sent the other 16 packed.

There are 2 things with Donald Trump: his impressive intellect for all to see, and his amazing charm/charisma. It's easy for people to be fooled by that. He is unusually vigorous, which also impresses people. He's NOT one of "us," and commands our respect & adoration. People look at him quite differently, like in the olden days how they viewed their leaders who became kings! Whereas, people look at Bill Clinton or GHW Bush as their equals hired to SERVE them. They played that role INSTINCTIVELY. People reacted to them as equals, deserved nothing they didn't have. Ronald Reagan, FDR, JFK & GW Bush came across as BIGGER than them & willing to condone their faults. (Even Mr Obama was looked upon as bigger)

Hillary Clinton is no better than Mr Clinton. She is not entitled to anymore than they have. Every fault is viewed through a magnifying glass. Voters tend to ignore Trump's faults.

One encouraging asset HRC has is that she's a woman. If she is unjustifiably attacked women of all colors would come to her defense. Obama didn't have that advantage. His novelty melted away once he, BEING BLACK, took over the presidency, which was a lot more than the white majority could allow - Tea Party was created & became a formidable force, engulfing the GOP.

If HRC plays her hand not badly, she will have a chance to rule like Bill Clinton did.
Abelle (Portland, OR)
Maybe I am just different from most but I have never ever found Donald at all intelligent or the least bit charming.

How do you define intelligent? How do you define charming.
He can't get the facts even close to being accurate and he went bankrupt how many times? When Donald came out and said he would have sex with his daughter if she wasn't related to him I didn't find that the least bit charming. He is a mean bully; I think that other mean bullies flock to him and that is his appeal.
Sophia (chicago)
What's stunning is that Edsall's column needed to be written at all.

Americans should have, en masse, rejected this nonsense before Trump became the GOP nominee.

Failing that, the GOP leadership should have rejected Trump's nomination as their standard bearer to a person, inviting him to run if he wished as a independent but not forever tarnishing their brand.

Long before now, of course, journalists should have been doing their jobs. But "fair and balanced" has created false equivalence, and the relentless attacks, created to damage Clinton, have been aided and abetted by the press - I saw a graph recently showing that she received the most coverage overall but it was about 85% negative.

Bill Clinton's poetic speech led up to the obvious fact: that Hillary Haters are bashing a cartoon character, an image created primarily by the right but also by some on the left, with the sole intention of ruining her reputation. And it has worked. We don't see the real person or her accomplishments at all. I read nonsense in these very comment threads claiming HRC is Eva Peron. That's insane.

Just as insane, though, is the treatment of Trump as any kind of serious or qualified presidential candidate. As an Onion parody his schtick works brilliantly. But this is the real world.

Looking at old films of Hitler, complete with brilliant stagecraft and graphics, one is shocked into disbelief until we realize - this wasn't lifted from Mel Brooks or Orwell.

It happened.
aek (New England)
Trump appeals solely to the id of disaffected people. So his idiots - followers, enablers and supporters - will only pay attention to messages aimed directly at the id. Those messages would be feelings of being used, of being marks, and of being set up to take a fall so that Trump wins at their direct expense. You can't fight unreasonable people with reason.

Blue collar workers have legitimate pressing needs, and they find themselves trapped by lack of jobs, lack of transferable skills, lack of education and lack of opportunities. They don't see a way out or forward with the means and resources they currently have.

People who feel trapped are in crisis, and their field of vision is very constricted and narrow. The only way to them mobilized to act in their own interests is by giving them something very delineated and simple to do with a tangible and timely result.

Trump has been bellowing "fire" in a crowded room. Clinton must be the first responder in charge to lead the way out. And fast.
KCS (Falls Church, VA, USA)
I would like to see an Archi Bunker -Edith type couple come and tear and ridicule Trump's assertions in a light-hearted manner. Alternatively the couple may look like an overall clad Jesse Ventura and Roseanne Barr. If the skit is interesting and hilarious enough, maybe Cable TV would like to run it daily in 30-60 segment as a commercial or part of their regular program.
JiggsCasey (Seattle, WA)
You can't argue with crazy, and yet that seems what every Trump opponent so far has tried to do.

I would proffer a different tactic: push him. Egg him on. Wind him up.
Let Trump be Trump.

Even his own staff and his political allies know the worst thing that could happen would be for Trump to tell the nation what he REALLY thinks, what he REALLY wants. Given enough rope, it’s inevitable that the fetid, warped soul that lies beneath that disturbing orange skin won’t be able to hold back.

Let the Trump out. Give the people a good scare.
Just make sure it happens before November.
Abelle (Portland, OR)
Really the best strategy, as I have discussions with conservatives and their idea of winning an argument is to belittle and slander instead of listing any facts or evidence. There is no critical thinking involved because frankly I have given up on them ever reaching a conclusion that they didn't get feed from the right's propaganda machine - Fox News.

In an argument on why Hillary would be such a disaster what I got was that she and her daughter are ugly. He went on to say many more thoroughly disgusting things on how she looks and all the lies she tells but just regurgitated lies themselves told about her. He was shocked that I would be offended by his overt sexists comments, if the presidential nominee can be a sexist and racist why can't the rest of the population. I quickly gathered up my daughter and son and left the family gathering ( an in-law's of my sisters) but this is how they argue which is just sad for the fate of our country and why we desperately need to teach critical thinking and why it is useless to change a mind that can't really think for itself.
David Doney (I.O.U.S.A.)
Let me offer an alternative hypothesis: Trump is actually winning on pocketbook and safety issues. He's taken a position to the political Left of the Democrats on labor and to their Right on Safety. Pardon the metaphor, but so far, he's outflanking the Democrats. How did he do this?

1. Polls indicate the #1 solution to improve job creation and quality is to bring the jobs home. He'll level the playing field with our low-wage trading partners via tariffs or taxes on corporations that try to offshore. He'll expect China to let its currency float or pay a fee on its exports to us.
2. He's talking about gigantic income tax cuts, which about 50% of us pay. Hillary has offered no cuts, just tax hikes on the rich. The deficit is a remote thing and nobody is saying it's an imminent concern.
3. He's made it clear he's anti-immigrant. Since 2000, Foreign-born persons accounted for 33% of the age 16+ civilian population increase, but 53% of the labor force increase and 59% of the employment increase. They are crowding out native-born workers, when we aren't sourcing the jobs overseas in the first place.

Mr. Trump knows how to market to a target audience better than anyone. Democrats better make the case for how they'll help the white middle class from a pocketbook perspective.
DR (New England)
How will he bring the jobs home? Are you willing to pay double the cost for the stuff you buy at Walmart?

Trump won't manufacture his own products here, what makes you think he give a rat's posterior about American jobs?
Jon (NM)
Democrat PACs need to hang Vlad Putin around Donald Trump's neck the way Republicans made Willie Horton into Michael Dukakis' de facto running mate.

This should be easy given that Mike Pence is practically a see-through vice presidential candidate consisting of almost nothing but a suit.

And journalists, every chance they get, should, for the good of our country, ask ALL G.O.P. elected officials if they support Trump's proposal to align the U.S. with Russia against NATO.
Dave (Syracuse NY)
I work with a guy who is an enthusiastic Trump supporter. He has a beautiful house that he rents out for a good amount of money.

I asked him "what if your tenants were five or six months in arrears on the rent and then just filed bankruptcy? How would you feel?"
He responded "Better than Hillary the liar!"

I asked him the same question a couple days later. His response; "it's legal,,isn't it?"

I wonder how many closed minds like that there are out there, lurking in the shadows?
Tom (Earth)
The problem is that Trump voters aren't rational beings: they believe in magic. When Trump says something outrageous about something he will accomplish, he doesn't attempt to explain it: he says "believe me." And his loyal followers believe him. It's the Tinker Bell approach: I do believe in Fairies.
Art123 (Germany)
That Trump's actions are viewed as publicly acceptable—in the sense that racial epithets, for example, are not—is due to the many leaders within the Republican Party who seem to have thrown their integrity away with both hands to support their party's elected candidate. They've sanctioned his outrageous behavior through their approval. Unless people like Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and others who claim to be the adults in the GOP room step forward to condemn and disavow Trump, his candidacy and the behavior he has brought into our public discourse will be the new norm.

Where leaders refuse to act morally, the mob will always rule.
Eduardo B (Los Angeles)
The similarity between the low-to-no information Trump acolytes and the worshipful Sanders obsessives who now choose to ignore his sage advice to vote for Hillary is that humans can become delusional all too easily when they are true believers. Political and religious zealots share the same separation from reality, becoming psychologically fixated on that which becomes increasingly harmful to them and thus others.

Sanders is a rational individual whose followers don't always exhibit that same quality. Trump is what someone becomes with severe narcissist personality disorder: no boundaries or borders common to well-balanced individuals and no guilt with lying about anything. His supporters keep making excuses for him, and in doing so they become just like him. It never occurs to them that a psychologically damaged person who is president could cause very bad things to happen to their country and its citizens.

Eclectic Pragmatist —
Eclectic Pragmatist —
Psysword (Ny)
Oh my, I was thinking of all these strategies to defeat this election threat, but I was directing it at Hilary Clinton instead, who first got the Russians interested in her State Department affairs through unsecured communications. As a military writer, who lived through the Cold War, I am beyond words for Hilary. In my day she would've been treated like the Friedmans who gave the Russians top secret information. We need more spine. Hilary is not that spine.
Edmund Dantes (Stratford, CT)
I suspect you meant the Rosenbergs.
The Kenosha Kid (you never did. . .)
Historians have parsed the rise of Hitler over decades: i.e., how could such a cultured, advanced people have voted for a "vile demagogue?"

This may feel contrarian to many the day after the positive, exceptionalist, optimistic tone of last night's DNC speakers, including our president's audacious hope, but --

Americans have always struck me as very like Germans in many cultural respects. Remember, it took an Eisenhower (originally Eisenhauer) to finally defeat them in Europe. The militaristic quality of much of our heartland, with its AR-15 cultism and hardened militarist patriotism, represents much of our own American culture, many of them Trump voters.

As the son of a WWII US Army officer, I can say without hesitation that the Wehrmacht was respected in the postwar years above all others. Theirs was also a "citizen army."

Don't forget that Germany invaded France three times in little more than a few decades, in the Franco-Prussian War and WW's I & II. Are we really so different, with our misguided Vietnam, Iraq, Iraq 2 wars?

We are a first-rate military power with a weak and foundering vestigial democracy attached, as W proved when he waged war without a formal declaration as required by our constitution, and put it on credit.

I kept thinking these thoughts as I watched the DNC last night -- we are not quite the global beacon of decency we think. That would be Sweden, or Netherlands!
libdemtex (colorado/texas)
It seems to me that what the Democrats are doing at the DNC is exactly right. Be optimistic while saying things need to be better. Attack trump generally and don't give him a platform.
AH (Oklahoma)
Why does Trump in photos always seem to be surrounded by semi-thuggish types reminiscent of the Godfather movies? (That or his man-servant Christie trying to 'make his bones.') And he emits in his walk and gestures the kind of rotting virility you associate with vain, overweight 30's Fascists like Goering. What a wonderfully homegrown Macy's balloon...
Sue (Seattle)
This article articulates my instincts so well. People give Trump high credibility ratings not because they believe his facts but they believe his intent. So yes, show that he is a cheat, a con, a guru with feet of clay, go get him!
David H. Eisenberg (Smithtown, NY)
It's easy to see the guy across the table's flaws. The question for me is, how do you get partisans to recognize the unacceptable behavior, untruthfulness and hypocrisy in their own candidate? Sadly, the answer is that it is probably contrary to human nature to expect it of most people.

I mostly agree with the typical commenter here about Trump's flaws. How can you miss them? But, at the same time, they seem blind to Clinton's flaws. Nothing will change until candidates as dishonest as Trump have no chance with his own party - but also not until candidates as untruthful as Clinton have no chance with hers. Is it really okay with you that she lied to family and the public about what caused the attack in Benghazi; over and over about her emails (whether or not she should have been indicted); that she is probably lying to you about TPP? That she panders so much to black voters that she claims with a straight face to carry hot sauce with her in her pocketbook? I wouldn't even believe that if I didn't see her say it myself. It doesn't bother you that the billing records from her law firm went missing and that then 30,000 emails were deleted? No pattern for you? Or bother you that her accent changes to suit her audience, that she won't even say it was unfair for the DNC to favor her?

If you support her, likely these things are fine with you, just as Trump's supporters overlook his flaws. But, that's why we have the two worst nominees in our history. Whoever wins, we all lose.
KM (Fargo, Nd)
I'm stealing a line from Aaron Sorkin's 'West Wing' to suggest Trump is the 'Fortune Cookie' candidate. It is amusing to add that old joke we used to say after reading a fortune......
Andrew Lazarus (CA)
Somehow Mr Edsall made it through an entire column without mentioning we're talking about reclaiming white, less-educated men for Trump here. The Democrats also have a firewall of blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Muslims, and gays: something like 35% of the population that is overwhelmingly against Trump. It's still the trap that white rural voters are, as Sarah Palin said, the "Real Americans", and somehow it is more of a problem that Democrats get 35% of this demographic (largely women) than the Republicans being rejected by 85-90% of the apparently fake-Americans who don't have an ancestor who fought for the Confederacy.
will (oakland)
Why is the Times ignoring Michael Bloomberg's brilliant putdown of Trump ("I'm from NY and I know a con when I see one")? Just asking.
LVG (Atlanta)
Are We Stupid? Part III
First blogged here and elsewhere lastSaturday that it was obvious last Thursday that Trump and Manford were co-opted by Putin and that GOP nominee was compromising everyone's national security. Some people responded and said I need to get psychological help.
Yesterday Rush Limbaugh, titular leader and guru of the Know Nothing and Do nothing GOP said Donald's presser was a stroke of brilliance and would clinch the election for GOP.Leon Panetta, Michael Bloombrerg, Barack Obama. Joe Biden and Tim Caine differed last night as well as the former JAG general of the Navy.

Not sure if any of them are as qualified as Limbaugh to discuss State of the Nation.

The many members of the Stupid Party and Trump's Brown Shirts know a lot we don't know apparently- courtesy of Limbaugh and Russia.
However the rest of us are not stupid or lazy!!!

Ask every member of that Congress to haul Trump, his sons t with his full returns up there for hearings on his financial connections and tax evasion as well as complicity on the hacking. I sent my requests yesterday.
Three months of DNC records hacked. Watergate was child's play!!!

And Nixon denied any complicity until he got caught AFTER winning the 1972 election. How stupid does Trump and Putin think we are????
Dairy Farmers Daughter (WA State)
I liked Michael Bloomberg's assessment of Mr. Trump "I'm a New Yorker and I know a con when I see it". But a good con man will tell you that people are susceptible because they WANT to be conned. People want simple solutions to big problems. People are incredibly ignorant of the complexity of our most pressing problems, and therefore ware willing to accept Mr. Trump's vague promises. The con man's belief is "there is a sucker born every minute". Mr. Trump is merely taking advantage of voters who he believes are "suckers". The small businesses, workers, immigrant laborers and Trump University students who were taken advantage of by Mr. Trump are a small preview of what we would all bear should Mr. Trump be elected President.
Elizabeth Bennett (Arizona)
Trump supporters illustrate the old saying that "when ignorance is bliss, t'is folly to be wise". The uneducated, mostly blue collar workers who make up Trump's primary constituency, clearly demonstrate how important education is to maintaining a workable democracy. Their mindless, mean-spirited, and bigoted support of the Republican candidate is truly frightening.

We all need to give Hillary's campaign our whole-hearted support. Can't someone shout from the rooftops that all the smearing of her reputation, and the despicable words of Trump have come from the Republican propaganda machine funded by the Koch brothers and others who rejoice at the gullibility of too many Americans.
William (Baltimore, MD)
At some point, at long last, perhaps the Republican Party will rescind their nomination.

How someone like Ryan or Mitchell or even the irreducibly venal Priebus can honestly stand behind Trump and defend his candidacy -- is beyond me.

I understand snakes like Juliani and Gingrich -- completely souless creatures ... but, at long last, does the GOP have no shame?

Appealing to Putin? Admiring Putin? Saddam Hussein? REALLY???

Is there no depth too low for this demonstrable mental case.

It would be salutory if Mike Pence simply withdrew as the VP candidate. That would likely serve to help preserve the Republic -- and even the formerly decent core of the Republican Party.
Sgt Lucifer (Chicago, USA)
... the best offense against Trump is to go full-scale Bloomberg-Kaine on him.

Bombard him by calling him what he is: A lying blow-hard con-man who cheated his way to the top and, as Obama claimed, would threaten America's moral imperative in the world.

The man is too dangerous to ignore. Vote!
G (Iowa)
To deal with Trump, you have to understand his supporters and constituency:
1. Hard core Republicans, in their DNA hate Democrats and liberals
2. Grouchy, curmudgeonly people who long have set ways: hate gay rights, hate minorities: racial and religious , hate environmental sensitivities, love weapons, and generally despise authority, especially Govt authority.
3. People dissatisfied with the status quo. Lost jobs, or lost status, or feel they are losing control of society; some of these abhor the 'welfare state' despite the fact they may be using the 'welfare state' more than anyone else. They like a man 'who says what he thinks'
4. Those super-testosterone, predatory males who really do harbor misogynistic attitudes; they judge women on looks and shapes; they take advantage of others, maybe for gain, maybe just to prove who is in the boss. Think of narcissistic frat boys.
5. And those who just want to be different. Want to shock you with something out of the ordinary to grab your attention.

Who can the Democrats change? Not the hardcore GOP who in their DNA will never vote Demo. Not the atavistic, predatory, narcissists; Trump is their god. And I doubt the curmudgeons will change a thing: they have long hated the UN, Euro-socialism etc.

The people who might be won over are those dissatisfied unemployed and possibly under-educated people who will actually listen. And that is where Clinton needs to do the hard work in MI, PA, Ohio, Wisc...
Mike (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
Facts are irrelevant? Rational argument, civility and logic won't work? OK, how about an old fashioned Hollywood wind machine? In seconds the con man behind (beneath?) the orange cotton candy curtain is revealed.
Edmund Dantes (Stratford, CT)
You've ignored the real elephant in the room. 3/4 of Americans believe we are on the wrong track. They want change. I want change. This is a change election.

Hillary promises more of the same, not change. Trump is the embodiment of change. It might not be exactly the change you want, but you do know it will be different. It won't be Paul Ryan caving in to the Democrats.

And it won't be someone who can be browbeaten by the MSM, even though they distort his message at every turn. Trump has built an end-around the MSM, and that will make all the difference.
DR (New England)
What kind of change? Please be specific. Just chanting "change" is nothing more than a temper tantrum.
JD (Philadelphia)
Did you see Trump's lead-off in Scranton yesterday introducing Mike Pence? Straight off the invitation to the Russians at Doral, he tells the crowd that Pence has done a great job in Indiana -- 3rd lowest unemployment rate in the country. It's 27th. Dozens of statements like this every day.
Don't boo, VOTE!
Sara (Oakland Ca)
How about 'Don the Con?'
The Rest of The Story (Zzyzx CA)
And now he gets to receive national security briefings ? I wonder if the security briefing will include the information they have on him that will indicate just how dangerous he is to national security ? How is this possible ?
B (Minneapolis)
She should just keep asking him HOW he is going to Make it great, Make us love it, Make us believe that he cares enough to even try, knows how to do something specific and will follow through rather than changing the topic.
Barrie Grenell (San Francisco, CA)
I would highlight his inexperience coupled with his bravado: Show a Joe-nobody bragging that he can extract your wisdom teeth for 10% of the cost other dental surgeons charge and with no pain. It doesn't matter that he's never done it before because he just knows how. And while he's at it he can do the face lift you've been pondering. Let people remember that competence is no substitute for competence, with examples they can relate to.
Lawrence (Washington D.C.)
Perhaps a site, "Shafted by Trump" needs to be put up. Small companies cheated, workers let go, something that will reach peoples hearts.
Lee Harrison (Albany)
The sad fact of the matter is that these people either signed a non-disclosure agreement if they got any kind of settlement at all, or they are scared to death of getting sued to death by Trump.

If you want to start a site like this, you need a cadre of lawyers who guarantee that they'll defend, pro bono, to the end.

That would shaft Trump, for sure.
Said Ordaz (Manhattan)

The DNC is trying to figure out, how can they rig the general election next.
BigMan (Short Hills NJ)
DT stands for Dishonor/Traitor
Deborah (Ithaca ny)
Yes, of course, the Trump campaign is "based on attitudes and ingrained belief systems." These attitudes and beliefs have been planted and nurtured for eight years by Fox News, a number of pro-military fundamentalist Christian (anti-Obama) fund-raising organizations, and many conservative governors and public representatives.

The message? It's easy to hear. My cousins in the Southwest firmly believe that Obama is a foreign-born (dark-skinned) Muslim who naturally sympathizes with other (dark-skinned, alien) international Muslims, as well as violent (dark-skinned) urban thugs toting guns, ready to shoot the (blue-suited) police. And they do not like (dark-skinned) illegal immigrants.

Why do liberal messages, like those broadcast by the Democratic convention speakers and the pro-Hillary campaign, fail to convince these voters?

Oh come on. It's part of our history.

I interviewed gun-owning, female Second Amendment advocates in the 1990s. What did they and their husbands most hate? Liberal condescension, liberal preaching and judgments about their households. Here's a message I heard often: "All of you who despise guns and don't really give a DM about me, you never visited my house. You didn't know my grandpa. You don't know that's his Ithaca Gun. You've never shot a deer. You want to tell me what I should drink and smoke and say in this house? Well then, meet me at the door. And I will decide whether to admit you. Because this is my home. And I'm an American."
Dr. MB (Alexandria, VA)
Like the way we deal with these pundits and columnists who are immune to the truths! Don't underestimate the knowledge and wisdom of the common man, he/she might not flaunt the way you do (your so-called wisdom and knowledge!), but he/she surely knows what is what! Be rest assured! Too much of poison is spewed by these types of motivated and slanted columns, much is however not achieved, anyway!
Jacques C. (Los Angeles)
It is curious, two weeks ago my friends living in France emailed me that they found the US elections to be "décerebré", which in English means the brain has become detached from the body (the elephant in Tom's article). It's the same idea.
blackmamba (IL)
Ronald Reagan began his successful 1980 campaign for President of the United States in another American city named Philadelphia. The one in Mississippi where three civil rights workers were murdered where Reagan talked about state's rights in the heart of the former Confederate States of America and American Jim Crow.

And Reagan cleverly and cynically followed up with a smiling faced shrug salute to racially inflammatory rhetoric about " Cadillac driving welfare queens" and "strapping bucks standing in line to buy T-Bone steaks with their food stamps." Donald Trump merely lacks Ronald Reagan's acting and political experience or talent for white supremacist racist prejudiced rhetorical euphemism.

While Philadelphia means "brotherly love" there was no love for black brothers at the birth of the American nation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by non-black Founding Fathers nor in any Philadelphia at the beginning of the white Ronald Reagan Republican Revolution. Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi nearly 61 years ago and would be 75 years old this week.

See "Dog-Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class" Ian Haney Lopez
Trump is not bright - that's his Achilles heel. Portray him for what he is - dumb. It's not just a matter of no judgement. He mixes up facts, has childlike reactions (example, the mocking of a disabled man, name-calling, lying, etc.) and has no ability to learn. He so far has shown he is not capable of embarrassment but we sure do have to try. He is an idiot, so his followers must admit they will vote for an idiot. The press was too long amused by him and did not take him seriously enough to expose his lies, half-truths, stupidity, etc.
peggym2 (Queens, NY)
If I had the money, I would put together the exchange of Trump's ignorance, childishness and cruelty with the Disabled NY Times reporter. Perhaps using the clip shown at the DNC. I would blast the daylights out of social, television and radio media outlets. I would show this in the morning at night and in between. Since he and his 'followers' seem impervious to the truth or basic standards for that matter, I would appeal to the fact that this exchange alone show him to a nasty human, one incapable of any type of compassion. It is the tip of the iceberg. To show it continuously and to barrage him and his supporter regarding just this issue would be HUGE! No one can deny he behaved the way he did. Make it so ubiquitous the way we have with no smoking campaigns!
Ann (Rockville, Md.)
If, instead of retreating all these years, the Democrats had expanded upon the reform legacy of the New Deal, Trump would never have gotten as far as he has. Only time will tell if HRC and her advisors have learned this lesson. A minimalist, business-as-usual approach to governing will ensure the emergence of future Donald Trumps.
Henry Bennett (Pampanga Philippines)
My own personal solution: I forgive Hillary all of her mistakes, foibles, misstatements, outright lies, horrid judgment because Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Barack Obama as well as Michelle Obama utterly convinced me. Forgiveness is my solution. Here's hoping Hillary knocks it out of the park tonight.
PLombard (Ferndale, MI)
You can't use rational thought to counter irrational behavior.
Jim B (New York)
If repeating a lie gives it oxygen and keeps it alive, what about repeating the truth:

a) 3500 lawsuits
b) 6 bankruptcies
c) three wives
d) 0 released tax returns

The media, NYT included, seem to have consistently let Trump off the hook about factual issues while giving ample play to his lies.
DBT (Houston, TX)
Thank you, Prof. Edsall, for another wonderfully incisive column about Trump. I hope that the Democrats follow your excellent advice, and avoid getting dragged down into the insane arguments Mr. Trump creates, as his Republican rivals did. As Michele Obama said, when they aim low, we go high. Mr. Trump reminds me of fifth-grade bullies who had a genius, through their need for attention and utter lack of any moral fiber, to adapt themselves to any message that appealed to the lowest common denominator. We all know the best way to deal with bullies: Don't engage, ignore their message of hate.
John H. (Portland Maine)
A terrific review of the challenges ahead. This is a great road map for the next 100 days. I hope it is read by the Clinton team.
Camille (Canton)
It'll be properly difficult to run away from all you have created, which in essence is what is advocated, strategically, in this musing. Constant terror afoot that they cannot bring themselves to properly name, economic malaise for as far as the eye can see, never-ending war and the ever growing oligarchical landscape the in power crowd have crafted these last 24 years is their handiwork. If voters consciously want a continuation and acceleration of this, your candidate is Dear Madam Leader. There are other choices.
Jim (Richmond)
The fact that Trump gained financially from 9/11 should be known far and wide. I think (hope) this information would appall decent people.
David Holzman (Massachusetts)
The writer seems to think that mass immigration doesn't take jobs from Americans. He, and anyone else with similar views needs to do the math. Since the millennium, there are an additional 9.3 million jobs, an additional 18 million immigrants, and an additional 16.5 million working age Americans.

Mass immigration has also greatly reduced the wages of low/no-skilled American workers (3/4 of immigrants fall into that category). A 1997 study by the US National Academy of Sciences found that during the previous 15 years, the wages of Americans without high school diplomas had dropped ~30%, half of that drop due to the oversupply of cheap labor from mass immigration.

The Democratic party is partly responsible for the rise of Trump, due to Obama's harping on amnesty, and the party's refusal to see that there is far too much immigration. Immigration has added roughly two New York State population equivalents since 1990.
David Doney (I.O.U.S.A.)
Yes, the pocketbook appeal of Trump's proposals on immigration should not be ignored.

Comparing 2000 with 2015:
1. Foreign-born accounted for 33% of the age 16+ civilian population increase, but 53% of the labor force increase and 59% of the employment increase.
2. The number of native-born employed increased by 5.6 million (5%) while the number of foreign-born employed increased by 8.0 million (47%).
3. Labor force participation has declined more for native-born (5 percentage points) versus foreign-born (2 percentage points).

Other facts:
4. The share of foreign-born in the labor force increased from 4.3 million (5.2%) in 1970 to 26.3 million (16.7%) in 2015.
5. Comparing December 2007 (pre-crisis) to today, the number of employed foreign-born is up 13.3%, while the number of native born is up 2.1%.

Several studies indicate immigration is a net win for GDP, but reduces wages for lower-skilled workers by as much as 8%. It would appear also there is some crowding-out of native-born workers. If we don't have the skills, then we should require our corporations and universities to teach them.
kgeographer (bay area, california)
spot on, let's hope the Clinton team reads this
ELB (New York, NY)
Clinton should use quotes from Mike Bloomberg's convention speech in her ads, particularly about knowing a con when I see one. The tag line should be: Don't let Trump con YOU!

The ads should address Trump's boasts about how he'll make America great, point out why his boasts are hollow, what the reality is, how Trump is ignorant and unequipped, acknowledge that people indeed have cause to be angry about certain important issues, what, and/or who, has made solving these issues difficult, and what she intends to do about it as President.

Another good tag line for ads would be: Trump's favorite line is: "You're Fired!" We need a President whose favorite line is: "You're Hired!"
skeptonomist (Tennessee)
Democrats seem to be oblivious to the fact that their policies have increased inequality and the power of big banking and finance. Establishment Republican policies have done so even more, but working-class Trump voters are rebelling against the Republican establishment in the desperate hope that Trump will be "on their side".

Bill Clinton claims that Hillary has been a big advocate for change, but this is basically false on economic rather than "social" matters. She gives secret speeches to Goldman Sachs for hundreds of thousands, was a supporter of "free trade" deals such as NAFTA, and after some slight adjustments moved back to the right on such matters by picking Tim Kaine for VP. If the key to winning is setting a truly new direction economically this is going to be very, very hard for Hillary and her approach so far has been superficial.
As the old joke goes, how can you tell if Trump is lying? His lips are moving...

The press need to keep digging into Trump's financing. He may have tipped his hand yesterday with Put in and Russia. Trumps connections to Russia are becoming as clear as Putin's ties to his US Russian mobsters laundering money through US real estate.

Trump SoHo is a place to dig deeper. What about the Palm Beach property Trump mentioned yesterday, while he was encouraging GRU espionage? Was it sold for cash? If so, high likelihood its money laundering.

Demands for his tax return need to be turned up at every opportunity. We will find out he isn't as rich or liquid as he claims. We will find out he isn't remotely charitable, unless you count free hotel stays and green fees. We will find out he owes a lot of money to Russian owned banks and oligarchs, Putin's people.

To save your party, competent Republicans need to be more vocal denouncing Trump. He is not a Republican. He is just using what's left of your party to form his next - and hopefully last - failed business, TrumpParty.
Jim (Long Island)
saving $300 billion annually on a prescription drug program that spends only $78 billion a year,

Mr Edsall, that one is easy. It is the standard Trump model

First you label it TRUMP prescription drugs(with TRUMP in YUUGE letters).

Then you borrow hundreds of billions from private sources to fund it.

Then you declare bankruptcy and walk away saying "They should have known better"
David Stevens (Utah)
Can we stop talking about Trump, at least til the DNC convention is over. You're just encouraging him.
child of babe (st pete, fl)
The Clinton campaign needs to find the best psychotherapists and psychological research to come up with a strategy (especially for the debates) that will produce a live meltdown. Trump is reactive and responds without one iota of depth but when he twitters or holds a news conference he feels ("knows" in his narcissistic way) that he is in control. The key is to create a scenario where he will feel out of control. Visibly exposing him, making him vulnerable, may be the only way that some people will "get it." They need to see it on live TV as it happens and then repeat, repeat, repeat. It would be great to have it on the first debate.

An ongoing approach might also be to ignore him; act as if he doesn't exist. Tell what Clinton is going to do in short, catchy phrases. Use neurolinguistics. Stop giving him the attention he craves and thrives on.

Responsible media needs to all follow the Washington Post example and declare Trump's incompetence. Let the news story become that precedent.

Journalists need to stop acting like it is responsible to give respect and credence to what he says in order to fulfill the equal time rule. Call him out. If they report what he says, follow it up with "but it's crazy" or "it is categorically untrue." Challenge him over and over on air; don't stop (as they always do) until viewers can really see him stumble, fall, get confused, freeze or lash out.
Christopher Neyland (Jackson, MS)
How depressing. The gist of this is that the American voter cannot be influenced by reality, and politicians must always pander to their baser instincts. The column even goes so far as to suggest that attempts to correct outright lies might reinforce the lie.

That may be true, but if so, the question must be: what needs to happen to make it not so. Because we cannot exist as a society if we're so dumb that we cannot base policy and politics on what is really happening.
epmeehan (Aldie. VA)
You nailed it
Robert McKee (Nantucket, MA.)
Somehow people have to just ignore him. They can't react to him because all he wants is a reaction …and to react to him is giving him what he wants.
Good advice. However, you can't seem to follow your own advice.
Joe (NYC)
"the mind is divided into parts that sometimes conflict, like a small rider — conscious, verbal, reasoning — sitting atop a large elephant — the other 98 percent of mental processes, which are automatic and intuitive.

The elephant “really runs the show,” Haidt said, Translating this analytic approach to the 2016 election, in Haidt’s view, means that in matters of politics and morality, you must speak to the elephant first. Trump did this brilliantly in the Republican primary, and in his convention speech."

This is the best and most succinct explanation for Trump's success I have read so far. He is so clearly unfit and unqualified to be President that I could not wrap my head around how the Republicans gave him the nomination. Haidt's quote makes perfect sense. Trump appeals to your basest fears and instincts. Once those instincts are activated, it takes a significant amount of logic to overcome the urge to act upon them. Apparently, for the frighteningly large number of Americans that voted for him or intend to vote for him in November, the elephant (fear) has gone wild and the rider (logic) can no longer control it. No amount of pointing out the contradictions, lies, stupidity and outright danger of Trump's statements will stop the elephant.

When an elephant goes on a rampage, the only way to stop it is to shoot it. Somehow, Democrats need to figure out how to shoot the fear in Trump supporters' minds.
HJS (Charlotte, NC)
My belief is 90% of the vote is already baked in. Democrats will never convince low information Trump voters to consider Mrs. Clinton, any more than the remaining Bernie or Bust holdouts will pull the lever for Mrs. Clinton. You cannot reason with unreasonable people.

Ironically, the fate of our great democracy rests in the hands of high information Republican voters. Will they do the right thing or will they take the Paul Ryan path? That's where this election will be decided, and our only hope, as a country, is for this slice of the electorate to choose Mrs. Clinton.
Wayne Fuller (Concord, NH)
Hillary and the Democrats are up against 3 factors. 1. Donald Trump is a showman, a carnival barker if you will, who knows how to wave his arms, wag his tongue and get attention. 2. Donald Trump is a salesman who understands the simple formula of problem-impact-solution-payoff. Trump, as did Sanders, has stumbled upon the problems that afflict many Americans and like a good salesman, he enhances the impact of these problems in the minds of his followers. He then offers a promise (a sales 101 technique) of solving their problem and then announces the payoff, "America will be great again." This is a winning message of which only Bernie offered anything like it. Hillary and her team of consultants don't get it. They answer with policy specifics about things that people don't know and don't care about. 3. Trump's rhetoric, once outrageous, because of the Internet is the new normal. Outrageous postings, hyperbole, sarcasm, put downs, and one liners are legion out on the Internet. It's ubiquitous. Politicians, stuck back in the pre-Internet age of protocols and polite behavior can't believe that Trump can get away with it but to the followers of Trump he is no different than what is said every day in the virtual world. How Hillary and the Democrats battle this I don't know but a good course in sales 101 might be a good place for Hillary and her team to start.
as257 (World)
About 47% voters vote Republican. They will do that again, Trump or no Trump. Trump has consolidated the white racist Christian vote. To discuss Trump's competence and his mental state will not affect his voters minds. But he will lose because of the demographics. In a national election, Republicans have scant chance of winning. They will do better in midterm elections because the turnout is less than 20%. Republicans will always win when the election is undemocratic through gerrymandering and suppression of minority vote. Unless and until, the midterm elections are abolished, which will never happen, they country will remain in a stalemate which helps oligarchy and plutocracy. Trump's infantile fantasy of becoming an autocratic force will not be realized because the US global hegemonic power works better by creating the bogey of Trumpism to keep its nefarious project of controlling the vast sum of economic and political power in its hand.
Howard (Los Angeles)
I don't know what arguments or tactics will work, but having anti-Trump people write about how bad Trump is in NY Times comment sections clearly doesn't help much.
Work for the Clinton campaign. Meet people one-on-one and respond to their personal concerns, instead of painting them all as irrational racists. Point out that a vote for a third-party candidate increases Trump's margin over Clinton and thus helps get Trump elected.
And remember that a lot of politics is local; work for a Democratic congress, state legislature, city council.
Bob Laughlin (Denver)
I keep hearing that T rump's voter base are really tired of being called yokels and rubes and stupid by the uppity elite snobs in the coastal cities.
This from a solid swathe of Americans that for 40+ years have voted against their own economic, social, and mortal interests.
I believe that last night between Biden, Kaine, Bloomberg and Obama the voice crying out in the wilderness to the moderate democrat and republican voters who are honestly dissatisfied with the current political gridlock might have finally gotten through the noise.
The news is that the gridlock was caused by these self-same independents desperate search for moderation in the republican party.
The news that 60% of voters in the 2014 election didn't know that republicans were already in control of Congress and making sure that nothing got done is the direct result of false equivalence reporting by our major news sources.
The 25-35% of voters who are T rump's base and who don't care about facts or how their Nation works will never come around. These people are truly stupid and cannot be saved. However, when the democrats do finally gets the wheels of the Nation turning again these people will get more than their share of the benefits. As the red states are net debtors to the blue ones.
"These people are truly stupid and cannot be saved."

Thanks, Bob. I appreciate the compliment, coming as it does from an elite snob.
DR (New England)
GLC - I was a Republican once and I have to concede that I was indeed being stupid, stupid and lazy because for too long I didn't bother to learn the facts about the people I was voting for.

Bob could have and perhaps should have found a more tactful way to express himself but sadly what he said is true.
Purplepatriot (Denver)
Well, this is depressing. Edsall suggests that appeals to reason will not move the electorate, particularly the Trump supporters who respond to his rhetoric emotionally rather than rationally. He's probably right. Democrats need to develop a mean streak and be ready to do whatever it takes to take Trump down. I'm sure he and the GOP will not hesitate to do the same to Hillary. This election is going to be a world-class mud slinging contest. Trump leaves no choice.
Alex Hicks (Atlanta, GA)
Truman's appeal and how his opponents might deal with it is, of course, of great interest in this electoral season. However, what has been more in play since the nominees were effectively set th le some months ago has been Hillary Clinton's personal popularity. The main variation in the Trump-Clinton horse race since June has been Clinton's slide in the horse race and in supposedly underlying views of her trustworthiness and favorability. This slide appears to have been triggered by Comey's early July report on his investigation into Clinton's email use when Sec. of State and to have been moved along by the onslaught on Clinton during the GOP convention.

Edsall's focus on Trumps primordial threat provides an interesting perspective on Trump side of electoral preferences. However, it is only sight into what to make of and do about the stigmatization of and admirable and by politicalstandards quite honest woman, ad about the events that evoke the traumatizing narrative that presents us with the the moment's most intractable and consequential enigma. Fortunately, the partisan intensities are likely to keep the horse race within low single digit bounds; and a delegitimazation of Trump might do to offset the misinformed irrational hostility toward Clinton. But it would be interesting to have some new insights into what to make and do about a electorate that has been profoundly outFoxed.
Robert Levine (Malvern, PA)
Unfortunately, what this comes down to is that the voters on average are not particularly intelligent or well informed. This situation is not unlike the scenes in the nature shows where we see the dominant male chimp running around pounding the ground with a big stick, terrorizing the other chimps. It is very disturbing to think that some variety of instinctive primate behavior may wind up in the Oval Office and make decisions we may have to live with for decades, if we get to live at all.
fjbaggins (Blue Hill, Maine)
Excellent article that addresses the Trump conundrum; one of the problems is that a good chunk of voters in swing states see him as an outsider who offers a new direction that could help them with declining wages, status, etc. Hillary's weakness is that she can easily be painted as part of the old '90's third way" approach that some believe helped cause their pain. She will be hard pressed to assert she offers a fresh approach.
Stefan K, Germany (Hamburg)
I find it pretty frustrating that voters have to be spoon fed like this.
But I will admit, that there is no spare set of voters to switch to.
I wonder if the average individual has improved at all since the dawn of civilization.
Or is it all just built on a few tricks of social convention?
kavaseri v krishnaswamy (chennai (india))
Indians like me are surprised that a rump candidate can succeed in gaining the presidential nomination. Instead of countering his stupidity as it flows out every hour, the democratic party must concentrate on what it can do for the Americans while pointing out the grievous divide that has already been caused in the polity by the campaigning this year.
JD (Ohio)
The Democrats main problem is that Clinton is such a complete and condescending liar that she can't effectively campaign for herself. The more people see her the more they dislike her.

Aaron Leo (Albany, NY)
A true shame that the American people need to be tricked into realizing what a complete sham Trump is.

Even more sadly, I feel that most of his appeal is the desire of middle- and working-class whites to return to the (more) patriarchal and white supremacist society of the past. It just goes to show how little has changed.
Sara (Oakland Ca)
trump's promise of a GREAT RNC show proved empty- a dismal affair. This should be the start of his record delivering the goods he boasts about.
In the DNC convention, we hear how hard folks have worked- Obama reading briefings late into the night, processing complex input from disparate advisors (both HRC & Kaine working for the public good). Trump suggests he will be more of a figurehead, managing others. Trump's biggest vulnerability is the obvious fact that he has never studied, analyzed, worked hard, compromised or served others tirelessly.
Bloomberg informed us that Trump has not actually built anything since the 1980's. Rather- he has escaped financial ruin by marketing his brand ('gilded Trump pomposity') & concocting a pseudo-reality TV show where he gets to play an omnipotent boss. A teapot strongman.
Trump may be so muddled that he believes his own posturing- that swagger is all you need. A zero sum game is a primitive model for global relations.
Trump's vulnerability is he has never demonstrated a capacity to do the job.

(BTW- the weak rider on the strong horse was Freud's early image of the ego & id. Did Haidt use 'elephant' as a joke ?)
g.i. (l.a.)
The best way to deal with Trump is to let him have as many press conferences as possible. They will be his undoing. The man is train wreck headed on a collision course with history.
Jack (Boston)
At least Trump knows the depth of our problems, unlike our Polyannish president and his heir apparent. Police shootings and terrorist attacks are out of control. Our borders are a sieve. NAFTA and TPP are a disaster. China ignores intellectual property laws and manipulates its currency to beat us at trade. They run around the South China Sea like they own it. Europe has been ripping us off for years by not paying what they owe to support NATO. The Middle East is a mess. Trump may not have all the solutions, but at least he knows what the problems are.
Jessi C. (Detroit)
Does he have any solution?

The problems you have mentioned have already been mentioned at the convention this week. Do you think they're just mentioning words without understanding their meaning? Are you the only one who has a dictionary?
DR (New England)
Trump doesn't have any solutions and he certainly doesn't know what the problems are. He couldn't find most of the countries he talks about on a map. He has never had to budget or worry about health care or personal safety etc.
heyblondie (New York, NY)
I have found reading articles by Mr. Edsall and others about Mr. Trump's appeal
a deeply depressing experience. The idea that some voters allow irrational impulses to guide their political choices makes one feel like a fool for making the effort to keep up with "issues".
Rob Pollard (Ypsilanti, MI)
A lot of this analysis, in my view, is correct. Battling Trump on the facts, point-by-point, is not a winning game. Many folks (Dems included, though not as much) go based on what they "feel" is happening ,e.g., "It sure seems like the U.S. is a more dangerous place, much worse than when I was kid. [Shows person stats from when he was kid proving that this is not remotely true]. Well, all I know is I read about mass shootings all the time."

Dr. Haidt is right with his focus on Trump as the con man who doesn't have the interests at heart of the working man. There are literally scores of examples, including just from two days ago with Trump stiffing that Patriot Kid singing group. Ad after ad should utilize those stories, which will have much more impact than a recitation of stats.

Beyond that, keep going after Trump himself as a fraud. The word "tax returns" should be on every Hillary's surrogates lips, with a reminder Hillary's return are posted for all to see from the last 20+ years. They should also never use the word billionaire without "alleged" or "supposed" in front of it.

Finally, ads should be cut of all the time Trump has been "confused" (e.g., uninformed) such as him literally thinking Tim Kaine (Va.) was Tom Kean (Nj). It would annoy the heck out of him, if nothing else.
Amen. You and Dr. Haidt have hit the nail on the head. Thank you.
Jennifer (Hamilton, MA)
Democrats need to personalize the Baltic States and actually name the countries: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. There are many Americans from such countries and they also have close proximity to countries such as Poland that suffered greatly under Russian rule.
David N. (California)
There is one word that sums up much of Trump's relationships, personal and professional: predator.
Raghunathan (Rochester)
This time in November when we go to vote there is no contest in who we vote for.
Hillary is certainly the better choice to have her fingers on the security button than her opponent, as they proclaimed it last night at the DNC.
One does not certainly want a person in the WH who uses foreign governments to sabotage our sacred elections to win votes.
Paul (Bellerose Terrace)
Or, you could dig deep enough into his American Real Estate deals to demonstrate that he's a fully owned front man for Putin connected Russian oligarchs, the only funders of his projects he can get since American banks cut him off.
William (Baltimore, MD)
Remember, Melania Trump's father was a communist official with Tito. Do we have here an actual Manchurian candidate? Certainly, Trump's business is -- according to his son in law -- disproportionately invested in by Russian oligarchs.

{surprise surprise}
John Brews (Reno, NV)
The cogent advice here is to avoid "giving oxygen" to Trump's rousing of our subterranean fears by inadvertently amplifying them when counterarguments give them more air time.

There are, of course, other subterranean primeval forces in our brains. So maybe an approach is to stoke those fires, rather than trying to minimize the reptilian fears. That seems to be the idea behind the "WE can" slogan of the campaign, and the "it takes a village" phrase of Hillary. The power of community also has a deep emotional root.
Chris T (New York)
Here's how you deal with him: go tit-for-tat style on him, levying his outrageous insults with similarly outrageous insults. I can probably think of a few ways Trump is vulnerable to insults. It would also serve the secondary purpose of actually making Clinton seem interesting.
Hari Prasad (Washington, D.C.)
Mr. Trump appeals to rage and grandiosity - to people who project theirs through his. The single most effective retort is the same as to Sen. McCarthy in 1954, "Have you no sense of decency, sir?" There are enough examples to show that this is really the problem. A narcissist cannot bear to have his bubble punctured.
c2396 (SF Bay Area)
The impression I've gotten from talking to Trump voters is that they feel their cause is lost. They admit defeat. They don't embrace it, and they're bitter and angry about it, but they cannot imagine a better life. They feel like losers, and they are filled with resentment about that. But they don't have a solid, practical plan to improve their lives. They can't imagine that as a possibility. They feel helpless to do anything besides lash out.

What they seem to want is to reduce everyone else to the level of misery and defeat that characterizes their life. They want REVENGE. They want to hit somebody. They don't want to improve their own lot in life so much as to bring everything down. It's a sort of combination suicide/homicide emotion, like someone who kills himself by driving into oncoming traffic knowing he'll die, but also knowing he'll take a lot of other, innocent people with him.

That's how bad it is for some people. The feel doomed, and they want to take everyone else down with them. They feel beaten up, so they want to beat up people who they think have so far escaped the beating they got. Their idea of fairness IS revenge and nothing else.

I don't know what to do with people sunk to that level of despair. I wish I did, but I don't. I think half the population in this country needs to be in therapy. But that's probably also the half that would never agree to therapy in the first place.
Wanda (Kentucky)
The irony is that many who feel this way are not doomed at all. I often wonder when we turned into a nation of whiners. And also, ironically, some of the people I know who struggle the most--the bartenders with two kids, the guy mowing the lawn--are the ones who seem to worry more about others than they do about themselves. The people who seem to want things handed to them are the ones who have pretty comfortable lives, but as David Brooks might say, they seem to have no investment in their communities, no sense of loyalty to any cause but their own comfort. Instead of enjoying what they have, they want to sit in the garage with a shotgun, as if they expect the barbarian hordes at any minute to come and take it away. And Trump is fanning this feeling that it's us against them (whoever they are). Yes, we've got some deeply serious issues with violence and terrorism, but a bunker is not just a place of protection, it can be a prison. I think I would want to try and make people feel courageous again. Where is our courage? Where is our faith? Where is our sense that our country is exceptional, even if we have not always behaved up to our ideals? Trump is trying to make the campaign a string of Jerry Springer episodes, diminishing us all into caricatures, not just Clinton. As he says, who are we to lecture anybody? Who are we? Meh. Apparently nothing special after all. And so many people are waving their flags and lapping the venom up.
Retired Teacher (Texas)
But it is mainly Republican policies that have stripped working people of jibs and income. Republicans still believe in trickle down. There is nothing they are proposing to help the disenfranchised but more tax cuts for the wealthy and vague promises about bringing jobs back. That's it, so how can working people continue to believe they care about working folks? They never have; they never will.
David J.Krupp (Howard Beach, NY)
We can't medicalize human nature. Unfortunately human beings are naturally drawn to demagogues. The only way to stop this charlatan is organize, organize and organize to get every rational voter left in America to overcome every obstacle put in their way by the republicans and vote for secretary Clinton.
chrisinauburn (auburn, alabama)
While Biden, Bloomberg, and Obama delivered rousing speeches that were far more than I could have hoped for in favor of Clinton and against Trump, each could have more easily summed up how many feel about this election. They could have pointed to someone who has been dedicated to public service her entire adult life, also serving as a senator and secretary of state, then pointed to Crazy Donald (or Traitorous Trump) who has only been in any endeavor for himself, looked into the camera at the American electorate and said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
After last night, I hope there are many rational Republicans now looking into the mirror and asking themselves how they, in good conscience and as decent patriots and Americans, can vote for Trump. The choices could not be starker.
Lsterne2 (el paso tx)
Too many Trump supporters appear to live in an alternate universe. They believe (not all of them, obviously, but many) that the earth was created (literally) in 6 days, that it is 6000 years old. They do not believe in global warming, or, if they accept that it is, that we humans have in any way added to it or are able to do anything about it. They believe that Trump will build the wall, rebuild all our infrastructure, cut their taxes and lower the budget deficit. They think he can reverse the Industrial revolution and that companies will abandon their quest for lower wages and return to the US, and that their incomes will rise in spite of his statements that the minimum wage is, if anything, too high already. He will repeal Obamacare and replace it with? Utopia, Eden, the fountain of youth? Who knows.
These people are impervious to logic. They admire Trump because he ignores all the mores of civil and civilized behavior and uses the crude, vulgar and profane language they would use if they thought they could get away with it.
Hopefully, there are more of us than them.
manfred marcus (Bolivia)
Well said. Trump cannot be defeated with reason nor logic; his demagoguery seems relevant to a cadre of misinformed and prejudiced folks who are driven by fear and resentment, and based almost exclusively on base emotions, and who clearly seem oblivious to the truth (or could care less about it). This vulgar bully gains his strength (if it can be called so) from insulting his adversary, and proposing crazy off-the-cuff absurdities; and, lest we forget, from allowing biased individuals to express openly what used to live under the surface and in the fringes. That this bombastic, arrogant, know-nothing poor rich 'juvenile' is dangerous, goes without saying. That is why this "ugly american" must be defeated. That a reluctant republican party has surrendered, in an act of cowardice and hipocrisy, is not unexpected, given its role in allowing crooked lying Trump's 'Birtherism' hysteria to flourish...with their silent complicity.
John Brews (Reno, NV)
A very persuasive case for not becoming too cerebral and focusing upon "Trump's primeval appeal". The subterranean fears Trump plays upon aren't readily countered by an agenda, however well thought out and however accurately identifying what must be done. The abstract appears simply cerebral to most voters, and tantamount to trying to simply argue away the visceral feelings that trouble us.
Beartooth Bronsky (Collingswood, NJ)
I worked as a software development consultant for 40 years, including extensive work for most top banks and investment firms. No financial institution in NYC will lend Trump money. No NYC workers will hire on with him. He has ripped them off so many times that he has to use foreign investors and bring in foreign temp workers for his domestic projects. He has been a pariah on Wall Street for decades (as was his father).

Consider two of Trump's beliefs:
a) Hillary is withholding email because it must be hiding top secret info.
b) Trump wants our primary antagonist, Putin, to hack them and have access to this top secret intel.

If a) is true, then b) is inviting the Russians to hack America's classified secrets. Does Trump even understand the implications of pleading with an enemy to affect our election AND steal classified state secrets? That would be complicity in foreign espionage and outright treason.

Putin is currently trying to reabsorb the old Warsaw Pact nations into a new Soviet Union. His biggest stumbling block is NATO. Trump declares his admiration for Putin's "leadership" and strength and threatens to weaken and undermine NATO. How much easier Putin's goals would be after Trump weakens and divides NATO?

Trump, said last year he had met and admired Putin, and on Wednesday, that he has never met him. He is a psychopath with a borderline personality disorder. He has a towering, yet fragile, ego. He seeks to be an unchecked authoritarian leader like Putin.
Donald Coureas (Virginia Beach, VA)
To understand why Trump is surviving this election campaign, even though he is unprepared to hold the office, look at history. In Germany in the 1930s, an obscure maniac (Hitler) was winning election after election to take control of the country because the Germans feared a depression and an agreement that ended WWI that they could not afford to support. In other words, fear and hunger overtook them and numbed their opinions of Hitler, who was obviously crazed. There is a similarity here between Germany at that time and our country today where the largest segment of the middle class not only fears starvation but fell into a depression because of the workings of the institutions they most trusted to make a living -- corporations. In order for the Democrats to get back on track, they must renounce Hillary Clinton's husband's coziness with corporations and wealthy individuals, which he helped to benefit by allowing Glass-Stegal to be repealed and other actions such as faulty btrade agreements that partially splintered the liberal Democrats, who are still splintered today. It doesn't help that Hillary appears to still cozy up to the corporations and Wall Street that have caused the alienation of white voters who have turned to Trump, who advocates dealing with the problems that cause the middle class so much anguish -- towit greedy corporations and the gamblers on Wall Street who support them.
dairubo (MN &amp; Taiwan)
Trump's general verbal incoherence and his evident personality disorders appear to be early warning signs of oncoming dementia. We can anticipate the condition getting worse as the election approaches.

Fortunately he won't win (as long as the vote count is accurate).
karen (bay area)
States like progressive CA are immaterial in presidential elections due to our arcane and outdated electoral college system, which is anti-democracy on steroids. (and yes, I know we are a "republic." That does not make it fair nor right that huge swaths of our population are effectively disenfranchised.) That said, the only states that matter are the battleground states. The DNC needs to deploy its amazing cast of HRC supporters in these states. The RNC was notable for its lack of political leadership presence. HRC's is the opposite. Let's get these credible people-- Bloomberg, Michelle, all of them-- out in the field to register voters and build up election turn-out. And BTW, remind these voters that it is not just Trump who is nuts-- it is the fiasco of the GOP that has led them to this demagogue, and the way to really win is to vote Dem in every down ticket office. Most of these potential voters are very short on their civics education, but will respond. I have faith in them. Does the DNC?
Franklin II (connecticut)
I think that the most powerful and accurate message about Trump is that he aims to be dictator and aims to destroy our liberties. Everything he says and does tells us that.

His entire message can be summed up as "Give me the absolute power and I will fix everything, despite all those loser politicians in both parties who have made everything bad for America. Trump, and only Trump, as the most powerful president in history, can make America great and powerful again."

Reasonable and accurate commercials can compare him to Hitler, which is a fair comparison.
Don Shipp, (Homestead Florida)
"And then there was a lot less of Trump". With each passing moment last night Donald Trump was reduced in stature and the metaphorical foliage covering his business frauds, insensitivity to working Americans, and informational ignorance was stripped away, leaving a diminished, damaged, demagogue. The final coup de gras was delivered, to the Duke of disingenuous dysfunction, by the precise rhetorical scalpel of Barack Obama. His slicing and dicing of dystopian Donald was greeted by a thunderous response. The political tour de force ended with the pieces of Donald Trump's faux legitimacy scattered among bits of trash on the convention floor.
Dr. Planarian (Arlington, Virginia)
One of the chief problems with using information and facts in arguing with Trump and his proposals is that he has systematically attracted a following from among the most ignorant, information-resistant factions of our society -- the fearful, the resentful, the incorrigibly bigoted.

They cannot heed what they do not hear.
Jim Kardas (Manchester, Vermontt)
I agree that the Grace ad about the girl born with spina bifida was one of the best I've seen in this election cycle. Another is the ad running now showing children watching Trump's rants on television. Several of the better ads during the Democratic primary campaign were run by Bernie's campaign showing rural farm scenes with real folks. All have human interest appeal that I believe will work best for the democrats. Positive. Heartfelt. Genuine. Let's keep it going.
South Side Alice (USA)
I appreciate this column, because, as Haidt put it, facts speak to the rider of a large elephant, but do nothing to persuade the elephant. But emphasizing his unpresidential character could backfire because to his followers it's a plus. They think he's standing up to political correctness when he's at his crassest.

The elephant needs negative AND positive messages. The negative: Trump's a loser who fakes success: he started with a million dollar check, inherited a wad of cash, and had repeated bankruptcies that screwed the people who trusted him. Taunt him that his fear of releasing his taxes is because his fortune is imaginary.

The positive: make people feel heard! The world has gotten a lot better for those of us who used to have very few rights (myself included) and we can celebrate that, BUT that doesn't make the pain of blue collar workers struggling to adapt to a changing economy any less real. Clinton is famously good at listening and making people feel heard...can she demonstrate that on a national scale? Democrats need to acknowledge that the US has, in its embrace of "personal responsibility," failed to sufficiently recognize how the larger system changes (increasing automation, disappearance of entire industries like photo film, decline of unions, low taxes on the rich, etc.) has undermined many’s sense of having a fair chance. Counter the autocrat who magically takes care of you, with a team effort to take care of ourselves by bringing back fairness.
David Taylor (norcal)
The United States is in a hateful funk at the moment, and people aren't sure who to hate. Immigrants? bankers? Congresspeople? The President? Politicians? CEO's? There was a candidate for each party that harnessed every type of hate, on both side of the aisle. On the GOP side, the person that embodied the most broadly shared hates won - Trump. On the Democratic side, this wasn't the case. Democrats were torn between getting their hate on and being prudent. Prudence won. But can prudence trump hate? I'm not so sure. If Hillary had a long history of taking on the "malefactors of wealth", rather than pal-ing around with them, she would win in a landslide. But having pal-ed around with the malefactors, she can't harness enough prudence and hate to overcome pure hate.

This situation could go on for many years.
John Smith (Cherry Hill NJ)
TRUMP can be defeated by quoting his own words, when he say that he's OK being compared with Hitler. That's the sound bite that will bring him down in the minds of most voters who are repulsed by Trump's extremely poor judgment and insight. His mocking of a handicapped person should be sufficient to alienate another wide swathe of voters. Other 10 second sound bites could include Trump confusing 7/11 with 9/11 and tweeting that Paris is in Germany. I'm sure the list of sound bites that capture Trump's harakiri moments will bring people around to the realization that he is the latest political corpse The walking dead. Trump is medically impaired. He must be required to submit to an extensive physical examination including extensive neurological testing and brain scans along with thorough neuropsychological testing. Describing behaviors that show Trump's symptoms of frontal lobe dementia is not going to have the effect of attracting voters to him. One thing I fear is that any debate between Hillary and Trump will, sooner rather than later, devolve into a session of her mud wrestling with a pig. The only possible outcome, even should she win, is that she will not look or smell too good afterward. One defense against that outcome is to be certain to appoint moderators who will challenge him vigorously if his responses are, predictably, grossly inappropriate and fail to answer the questions put to him. The Purple Kool Aid true believers will swallow that poison.
Shaz (Toronto)
There are those who will never find Hillary honest or trustworthy. Sadly, it's a "lesser of two evils" principle. One small way to reach those voters is to expose Trump for his lies, his cons, these eposés should be on the front page, every day. Put a face on those harmed by him, interviews, photos. Calling him a liar and a con isn't strong enough anymore. This ignorant vulgarian will do harm to America..... look what he's done in the past year, he's started a revolution of fear and hate. FInd people he has harmed, tell their stories.
RMAN Boston (Boston)
The Dems will not win this election by playing above the fray specifically because those who support Trump reduce these kind of analyses to political correctness.

Secy. Clinton needs to do two things to win:
1. Acknowledge that she understands why some mistrust her and acknowledge that she must, and will, do better. She has to blunt the hate and become more human. It won't work with the hard-core Trumpies but will with many others.
2. Be abundantly clear that Trump is not just "temperamentally unfit" but call it what is - mental instability coupled with pathological narcissism.

It's time to take off the gloves, disrupt the Trump news cycle and play Trump's own game. Taking the high road will end up with Trump's possible election at which point we are beyond hope.
Hadel Cartran (Ann Arbor)
Thank you Mr. Edsall for another thoughtful article.
I would suggest that Prof. Haidt's comment about "conflict with 'deep moral intuitions about fairness versus cheating and exploitation' " and Turning us all into suckers unfortunately applies also to Clinton and leads/or led many to support Sanders, Trump, or a 3rd party candidate.
There is the concept in social psychology that if a society or social group feels that one of their members is being unfair, not playing by the rules, or unreasonably bending and twisting them and getting away with it, they will take steps to punish them, attempting to restore some sort of moral balance and order, even if doing so harms themselves in the short run in some way.
Many, many clearly feel that Clinton does not play by the rules, and puts herself above and beyond them, does the talk but not the walk (except on specifically gender and child issues) and do not want to be suckers again. At the same time we see Bill Clinton's quote 'a woman who has never been satisfied with the status quo' there is the story in today's NYT 'After Laying Low, Deep-Pocketed Donors Return to the Fore' which said: 'After a wrenching yearlong nominating battle with searing debates over the influence of Wall Street and the ability of ordinary citizens to be heard over the din of dollars changing hands, the party's moneyed elite returned to the fore this week, undeterred and mostly unabashed.' And 'ambassadorships they hoped to earn under Mrs. Clinton.
Jefflz (San Franciso)
Trump’s primary appeal is to racists, bigots and misogynists who use his economic recovery fable as cover. Trump doesn't have a plan to "make America great again", he only has a plan to make Trump great just once. He will do and say what ever it takes to achieve this goal, no matter how hypocritical, how incoherent, how fraudulent. At the end of the day, it is Trump’s Reality TV schtick that attracts his cheering fans. They don’t want a President, they want an Entertainer-in-Chief that expresses the lowest and ugliest of human sentiments.

To paraphrase George Carlin - you cannot defeat an idiot on his own terms. Democrats should not get into a mud wrestling match with Trump. There is no way to attract the Christian Taliban vote. There is no way to attract the mindless Trump enthusiasts who are beyond reason. Uniting the Democratic Party and appealing to the moderate voters in swing states will be the winning strategy.
drollere (sebastopol)
as always i appreciate dr. edsall's analysis and in particular his extensive quotes from dr. haidt. my perspective is a bit different.

the psychology of sacredness implies magical powers or more exactly the elevation of ordinary powers to magical status. in mr. trump's rhetoric that magical power is the threat of force -- coercion, intimidation, torture. this is aligned with his appeal to the authoritarian personality, and to the various threat fears of his constituents.

the silver bullet is not to delve policy but to delve force. exactly how will mr. trump force mexico to pay for the wall? exactly how will he expunge us of illegal immigrants? exactly how will he coerce the armed forces to perform torture or congress to pass unconstitutional legislation? exactly how will he force retailers to say "merry christmas"?

once you have mr. trump on his heels in the validation of his magical potency, you can address the core strategy of his life: he's a bully. bullies always boast and then back down. bullies always swagger and then cower, promise and then run away. "temperament" is much too complicated a concept for trump supporters to grasp. but every one of them has had experience with a bully.

bullies also, in my experience, handle female aggression very poorly. speak to them like their mother, and they melt. look at his performance against carly fiorina. if she puts her mom suit on, clinton can wipe the floor with him.
William (Minnesota)
Clinton's strengths--her intelligence, her articulate explanations of issues, her in-depth familiarity with policy matters, and her basic decency--have been parried by Trump's clipped put-downs, such as "Crooked Hillary." If Clinton were to answer his calculated, coarse shorthand with reasoned responses, she would worsen the distorted image being painted of her as a wonky, weak leader in need of a nap for her overworked brain. To win over undecided voters, she needs to ease up on her tendency toward reason analysis, cut down on the verbiage, and fashion a more pointed offensive against an opponent who thrives on disparaging street talk.
jrd (NY)
There's an answer to Thomas B. Edsall's first question, but he may not want to hear it. The Democratic party certainly doesn't.

Some Trump voters are irremediable, but the difference between either defeating Trump or losing to him, and a landslide Democratic victory is only a few points. If Democrats and their presidential candidate were seen to be working for ordinary people, this election would no contest.

But of course no one sees the Democratic party as the advocate of working people, much less the scourge of predatory capitalism and rent-seeking. On the contrary.... It's become a party of social liberalism -- eager to talk about other people's racism and bad attitudes, but which won't offer a peep on the issue of class, much less do anything about it.

Hard to imagine, but this year's Democratic candidate ran against a $15 minimum wage, free college tuition and universal health care. And she calls herself a progressive...

Anyone who wants to assess the extent of that betrayal, need only contemplate a Trump victory.
James Jordan (Falls Church, VA)

I think Dems should use Mr. Bloomberg's statement that he knew a con when he saw it. It was the most effective and truthful statement of the evening.

Mr. Trump has perfected a tabloid style that captures the media--print, TV, and the social media. He is in an entirely different class of communications and seems to be more effective that the Dems. His strategy of more ink, more clicks, more mentions has crowded out the Democratic messaging. Clearly American's are being conned but the media is complicit in the con, there are some exceptions, but he knows the importance of ratings, and clicks to the livelihoods of the media.

Government is important, the historical evidence demonstrates that government has contributed more to our quality of life and life expectancy than any other societal mechanism. Many of us, including some of our celebrities, and Presidents, see government as the problem.

The discussion of problems and alternatives for a solution can be very boring and deadly to ratings and readership. I wish it weren't so but we are only human and we are easily exploited -- everyone in the advertising business knows how easy it is.

I want the Dems to keep describing as clearly as possible a pathway to a better future. How do you do this? I don't pretend to know, when you are dealing with a whole party that denies global warming. So the idea for building an international system in space to supply the Earth with cheap electricity will probably not come up.
Tom (Earth)
You are right about the complicity of the media. Why should Trump pay for campaign ads when he is guaranteed extensive coverage of his mindless rants? The liberal media is most at fault here; they assume that people will discern how uncontrolled and stupid Trump is. But the don't; they eat it up.
Anant Vashi (Charleston, SC)
Tom, another good piece. To your point, I thought the most effective assertions at the DNC so far have been those casting the Donald as a con-man. Bloomberg, Kaine, Biden and even the President. This plays very well to the doubts people have about Trump, including his supporters. The convention has been great so far, but I think the takeaway should be an unrelenting reinforcement that Trump is tricking the whole country is an effective counter to the Trump facade. If facts and policy are not relevant this time around, great, lets talk about Trump. We need to see more Trump U., more cheated business partners, more hypocrisy on hiring foreign workers, more flip-flops, more insults of John McCain and others. more Trump bashing his own military and allies. Democrats have to expose the man behind the curtain as the fraud that he is. Even though many of his supporters do not care about facts and truth, they will not take kindly if they think they are being duped.
stu freeman (brooklyn)
In my view, there are three ways of beating Trump. First, keep focusing on his career as a business "success"- on the lies and the lawsuits. Most especially, keep asking why he won't release his tax returns and why he fails to attribute any part of his success to his employees and to the man who built his company- namely his own father. After all, what kind of a man takes credit for the accomplishments of his dad? Even family-values conservatives might find that a tad bothersome.
Second, Mrs. Clinton needs to spend a bit more time dealing with the economic concerns of blue-collar white Americans. By which I mean that she has to reassure the small-business owners and the auto industry employees and the steel workers and, if possible, even the coal miners that her proposals will work for ALL Americans, and not "merely'" for the indigent and for racial and ethnic minorities. That's going to take a lot of appearances at state fairs and factories and a lot of speeches delivered to primarily white audiences in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
And if the aforementioned proposals don't move the needle, we'll just have to see about mandating an IQ test to be administered to all prospective voters.
Blaise Adams (San Francisco, CA)
Yes, Trump has been inflammatory in his rhetoric.

But why does his message of deporting 11 million illegal immigrants have appeal?

As Edsall points out, many of Trump's supporters undoubtedly regard deportation as hyperbole. But they support an unachievable goal in the hope that AT LEAST Trump will act to STOP continued illegal immigration.

They are aware that politicians of both parties have LIED in the past. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986

1. required employers to attest to their employees' immigration status;
2. made it illegal to hire or recruit illegal immigrants knowingly;
3. legalized certain seasonal agricultural illegal immigrants, and;
4. legalized illegal immigrants who entered the United States before January 1, 1982

Yet illegal immigration continued!

For many, opposition to continued illegal immigration has nothing to do with race. This opposition simply recognizes that the US is already overcrowded, and at some point the US has to stop growing its population.

Population in the US increased by 82 million during the period 1980-2010. Such rates of population growth are unsustainable long run and lead to shortages of resources.

In particular, illegal immigration requires shifting resources from poor American citizens to the poor of other countries who have jumped to the front of the line instead of following the law.

Illegal immigration is unfair. Tax cheats go to jail, why not illegal immigrants?
rs (california)
immigration, illegal and legal,has been flat or negative the last 8 years. So what's your problem, really?
Todd (San Fran)
Because America is a country of immigrants, and they serve essential functions in our society. In any event, if you'll read up, you'll see that illegal immigration is at its lowest point in decades, which is to say that your problem is not a problem, but merely a pretext to continue on your agenda of racism and xenophobia.

In almost every case, the arguments marshaled by Trump's supporters fly in the face of readily verifiable facts, which is to say that they are pretextual arguments, offered solely to distract from the real strategy.
Andy (Currently In Europe)
No wonder that so many apparently religious people are so irrationally attracted to Trump. He speaks to their basic fears, and deeply religious people are more likely than others to accept statements at face value if delivered by a dominant, messiah-like personality. It's the "sheep" mentality that makes so many people easy to brainwash through a religious, messianic message and by the promises of a strongman who will lead them to glory.

These people don't like to think, they don't like to be challenged by facts; all they want is for a dominating figure to lead the way. No matter how much the Democrats will debunk Trump's lies and deceptions from here until November, I don't think we'll win any of these voters back.
dave d (delaware)
I am not a Trump fan and I certainly will vote against him in November. But, I find that the short-sighted, knee jerk reaction that most pundits and people of my ilk have toward his pronouncements may help steer a clear course for him to election.

When Trump say NATOs is a bad deal for the US, what this translates to his followers is: We are tired of giving Europe a free lunch, pay your fair share or you may be on your own. Some would call it a bluff, but to these folks it's the Great Negotiator putting the ball in play. If my side continues to miss the point of these assertions by Trump, it's going to be a long, and potentially disappointing, campaign.
WmC (Bokeelia, FL)
The best way to handle Trump is to put pressure on down ticket Republican candidates. They should be called upon to either justify or repudiate his patently irresponsible remarks. Yes, Trump supporters are beyond rational persuasion, but where are the adults in the Republican Party? Will they really vote in favor of anything he has proposed? Is it OK with them if he refuses to release his taxes at the same time he invites Russia to hack his opponent's email account? Even spookier than Trump's support among the uninformed and uneducated is the silent acquiescence among down ticket Republicans.
Tortuga (Headwall, Colorado)
The trick to defeating anyone is: voter turnout. Motivate & facilitate your people to vote. It appears DT has no infrastructure in this regards. He will be at a distinct disadvantage.
Chris Gibbs (Fanwood, NJ)
Some Trump supporters, at least, are completely fact-averse. Several Viet Nam veterans I know have become fixated (I am not one such.) on Benghazi, which fuels their hatred of Clinton, all the while ignoring Trump's smearing of McCain, his record of ducking our war over a fake medical condition, his calling today's military a "disaster," and his recent attempts to play footsie with Putin. They just don't care about that stuff and hang onto an event that investigation after investigation has shown did not involve the former secretary of state beyond her holding down the job. In their hatred of this woman (and, yes, that is a large part of it) they cling to fantasies. It just makes me sad.
Lorem Ipsum (DFW, TX)
They fixate on Benghazi, and Solyndra before it, because of the effort it took to be able to spell those words with confidence. Sunk cost that must be amortized as broadly as possible.
JMM. (Ballston Lake, NY)
After hearing Biden, Bloomberg, Kaine and Obama last night I think they get the point of this article. Opinions about Trump are visceral. (I personally have a gut reaction to his voice now. Simply cannot hear it without a tightening in my gut because his amorality frightens me.) Most of his supporters will never change their minds. Seen a number of supporters interviewed who just shake their heads or won't respond to reporters' questions about Trump's lies and misinformation. They are either brainwashed by a demagogue or know he is full of hot air and cannot accomplish what he says but they have lost hope in government so will use their vote as a big middle finger.
Vicky (Miami)
I suppose the old saying "love is blind" applies to Mr. Trump's devotees. His celebrity status, wealth and provocative rhetoric appeal to all who are "in l0ve" with his persona. Besides there's a white guy underneath the orange patina. His vision of making America great again implies that everything now is "a yuuuge disaster" and that "only he" can fix what's wrong.

Yes! Some things in America are very wrong. Yes! Some things in America are very right. Notwithstanding America's significant warts, I believe it is still a great land. Fixing problems takes great effort from everyone. After all the sum of the parts equals the whole.
MarkG (MA)
How do you "wrong-foot" a candidate who has two left feet? The strategy has got to be to get ahead of him and make him react (irritably) over and over. If he continues to set the tone - great Dem speeches notwithstanding - he will be formidable. His followers may not be thinking but they are not tone deaf. Trump pipes the tune which they slavishly follow.
Jordan (Melbourne Fl.)
"You didn't build that", "you can't do that", "if you talk or think like that you are a racist xenophobic bigot", if you are not for open borders you are a xenophobic bigot, if you don't have understanding and compassion for the point of view of people who killed 8 cops recently then you, sir, are simply not a "real" American and are beneath my contempt. The above folks, is what is wrong with, and what is potentially going to cost Hillary the election.
Todd (San Fran)
So you'll gladly stand WITH an avowed racist to avoid being called a racist?

Interesting strategy.
DR (New England)
Do you care as much about the thousands of people of color being murdered in this country as you do about those 8 cops? Think very carefully about this.
PogoWasRight (florida)
I am frightened.....the only thing more dangerous than Donald Trump is Donald Trump with a Republican controlled Congress and Supreme Court. And that scenario is staring us in the eye. My only hope - OUR only hope, is that America goes to the polls and votes in the local elections to keep this from happening. Recently some one opined that, if Trump wins, they would move to another country. That is beginning to make sense right now. GO HILLARY !
Leonora (Dallas)
Trump is a dangerous moron. And he is also mean. He used to throw rocks at my friend's baby brother's playpen from his yard while his Mother was in the house. People don't change that much. He's a nasty mean-spirited bully who has no business being President. He also has a bad case of ADD.
Sarah (Arlington, VA)
Do you really think that Il Trumpolini's base understands that because of his man-crush for a ruthless dictator he invited Russia to invade the Baltics?

That is Schmaltics to them. They wouldn't even find these three small state on a word map to begin with nor could they spell their names.

In addition, they have no clue why both the invasion of those countries and his annexation of the Crimea is of geopolitical importance to Putin, wanting to have more warm water ports and coastline both in the north and the south of his now now new Empire to launch his navy.
Lorem Ipsum (DFW, TX)
Trumpolino is more like it. "Topolino" in Italian can mean either a tiny clown car (the original Fiat 500) or Mickey Mouse.
gpickard (Luxembourg)
Donald Trump is boasting like Samson did in the Bible,
“…with the jawbone of a donkey, with the jawbone of a donkey, I have slain 16 philistine republicans.” And indeed Mr. Trump did take out his republican opponents with the jawbone of a donkey and is still using this weapon with devastating and macabre effect.

Now that the convention is almost over and the emails are subsiding, Mrs. Hillary Clinton and her hunting party are all getting kitted out with pith helmets and elephant guns to go on the traditional safari to bag the trumpeting beast.

The problem is Mr. Trump is not an elephant. He is one of the most destructive and bizarre political animals to have roamed America, at least in my lifetime. The elephant guns just won’t do.

So what shall Mrs. Clinton do?

It is impossible, but what if like Delilah, Mrs. Clinton, wooed him into her lair, made nice to him, spoke kindly to him, extolled his opinions, his strength, his beautiful hair; and once he is napping, give him that haircut he so richly deserves.

After the haircut, it would be hoped, that like Samson, Mr. Trump would be as any other man and easily defeated.

This is where the analogy breaks down, Mr. Trump probably has several more sets of hair and he would still have that jawbone of a donkey.
Bitsy (Colorado)
Mr. Edsall writes a thoughtful column, as always. I find most of what's said to be pretty intuitive and almost obvious. What is not is this:

"Despite Jordan’s confidence in Democratic presidential prospects, at the moment Trump has moved ahead of Clinton by 1.1 percent in the RealClearPolitics aggregation of recent polling."

Instead of repeating ad nauseam the seemingly endless list of reasons why Mr. Trump is unfit for office - of any kind, much less the Presidency - someone, anyone, needs to figure out why exactly the guy seems to be gaining in popularity - and doing so not despite but because of his outrageous behavior. That's the only real question - why does the guy continue to reasonate with so many people? I feel like I'm back in grade school watching a substitute teacher struggle to gain control of the class while the class clown steals the show. And I get why that happens with a room full of kids, but this seems unexplainable.

I would suggest that to dismiss his supporters as stupid or simply ill informed, etc. is lazy and entirely misses the point. What's really going on here - and how can that be turned around before November?
Todd (San Fran)
They're largely uneducated, full stop. You can't rationalize an irrational situation, and his followers largely don't operate in a world of facts.
HES (Yonkers, New York)
I have come to believe that there is something seriously wrong with Donald Trump.
His rantings and ravings has all the hallmarks of a person with mental issues that should be assessed by qualified mental health experts.
The American people need to know that he is sane enough to lead the country before the November election.
gratis (Colorado)
Trump will be getting National Security Briefings soon.
Where is the GOP on this. Where are the Bushes? Colin Powell?
Where is Paul Ryan? Christie? McConnell?
Where are the adults?
Stan B (Santa Monica, CA)
You call him what he is, a child. A spoiled child. You tell him not to talk dirty. You tell him to grow up. Keep it simple.
Diogenes (Belmont MA)
So Donald Trump is the wizard of Id?

I don't think so. He has no control of his own Id, but that doesn't mean he can capture other people's. He is not a skillful orator like Ted Cruz. Indeed, he struggles with expressing a coherent thought or even sentence. More than most politicians, he constantly repeats stock phrases like " believe me", "crooked Hillary", "she's a mess". This indicates that his thinking is slow, and he has to put in fillers to come up with the next original sentence or thought.

As is generally recognized, he is extremely thin skinned, and has to react vehemently to the slightest criticism. It is like shooting a squirrel with a cannon. His off-the-wall comments get him the spotlight but also into trouble.

While he is still doing well in the polls, I predict a tipping point is coming, and he will crash.
Scott (S Dakota)
Don't forget another of his platitudes - "We're working on that. We'll have a great plan in 3 weeks." Chuckle.
fjbaggins (Blue Hill, Maine)
I think what the writer means is that Trump is the wizard of tapping into the id of a segment of the electorate, and connecting with their basic fears and self-interest.
Purplepatriot (Denver)
I hope you're right. It's going to be up to democrats to communicate effectively with voters who are drawn to Trump, the very people democrats have failed miserably to reach for years. Democrats will need to do what the GOP bosses have done for decades: dumb down the message and go for an emotional response to manipulate voters.
Don K (New York)
Mr. Trump has shown his thin skin. Keep hammering at him. Label him a "fraud", a "con man", a "carnival barker", etc. at every opportunity. He can't handle the ridicule and he will lash out, exposing his unstable mental state for all to clearly see.
Guy Walker (New York City)
Hasan Minhaj is a comedian and political satirist similar to Will Rogers's on stage with just a newspaper, performed a simple test at the RNC. He introduced himself to delegates, spoke to them for a couple of minutes and then introduced himself as a Muslim and was saying goodbye to America as Donald Trump prepared the order to deport him.
Every single person he was filmed with very sweetly responded they have nothing against him and that Donald Trump would never deport him. That Donald Trump doesn't hate Muslims and that Minhaj would be able to stay. His interviews ended with hugs.
This experiment, absolutely demonstrates and defines a voter sentiment that should be identified as naive, illogical and misguided. Those of us who are none of these things keep asking "why?".
There are 3 reasons why.
1. A do nothing congress. There are voters who will react illogically as an act of defiance. This is naive and childish, but they have reverted to an Anything But The Status Quo reaction and they don't care if they spill the broth. Not the first time Americans have enjoyed throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
2. The myth of an easier life of local manufacturing and agriculture. Convinced they have been cheated, hence the lashing out at Hillary as a cause began by exaggeration and some fabrications of NAFTA.
3. A finely rehearsed act. Vilifying a liberal base as those who "give stuff away" smacks deeply into the core of reverting to "it's mine".
Dadof2 (New Jersey)
As usual, Mr. Edsall takes the long way around to get to the point: Donald Trump needs to be framed as what he is: outside the pale, disloyal to everything American, and disdainful of the basic rights and freedoms Americans now take for granted.

His latest call for Russia to invade American computer systems to help him get elected and smear Hillary Clinton is tantamount to treason and invites them to violate American law. He's already invited them to invade our allies, the Baltic States.

Only two men before in either the Presidency or running for the office have EVER engaged in such treason. One was Aaron Burr, involved in an ill-fated insurrection after he was no longer a candidate. The other was John Tyler, "His Accidency" who was elected to serve in the senate of the Confederacy but died before he could be seated, again, after he left the White House. And they are two of the more despised men in American history.

But Mr. Edsall is correct. It is clear that attempting to rebut Trump's 1000 lies one by one is a forest and the trees dilemma.

No, he must be painted as destructive, dishonest, and, mostly, outside the mainstream of normal America, a man with no soul and no honor and no decency.
TheBronx (New York)
Fully agree with this op-ed. Most Trump supporters ignore Trump's proposed policies; they are scared and looking to vote for their savior.

The ONLY way to knock Trump off his pedestal is to attack him based on his personality and on his history of looking out only for himself at the expense of everyone else that he has dealt with. Let people know that instead of being their savior, he is a con artist.
Glenn Ribotsky (Queens, NY)
I can reasonably claim that there are few out there who despise Trump more. Being a native Noo Yawka I've had more than ample experience to see how he treats people, how his every utterance and machination is only in the service of increasing his sense of self, and how there's no bar of deception too low for him to vault in the process. So yes, I do think the proper way to attack him is as a grifter, a con artist, a smoke blower, a confidence man ready to fleece the American public.

But, since we can't count on the electorate at large to pay attention to any of these (though necessary) efforts, we must also prepare for a possible Trump administration.

Space here is too limited to discuss much in the way of specifics. I am heartened, though, to remember that liberal California survived the Governator, and progressive Minnesota survived Jesse the Body.

I think a good activity for disheartened Sanders supporters would be planning how to protest and subvert a potential Trump administration. As Molly Ivins pointed out in the context of Reagan's presidency, nothing makes it more fun to be a liberal than to have an idiot conservative in the Oval Office to rail against. (And Bush the second was just as much, or even more fun to lambaste.) So sharpen your rapier wit and your policy platforms, Bernie bros and fellow travelers--you may very well need them.
Lawrence (Washington D.C.)
''nothing makes it more fun to be a liberal than to have an idiot conservative in the Oval Office to rail against."
Unless they deploy you or a family member.
DR (New England)
Lawrence - Agreed. My son and son in law will never be the same thanks to G.W.

Those of us who managed to avoid being directly impacted by G.W.'s two wars still had to live through the great recession he left us with.
rjon (Mahomet Illinois)
The Trump "attitude" is carnival. One can find carnival in almost every bar and pub (and many back yard barbecues) in the country. As restraint and decorum get lifted with increased amounts of alcohol, even bars develop something called "bar culture"--rules that keep people from going off the deep end--rules like basic honesty, enhanced civility, and maudlin good fellowship.

I'm pretty sure Trump drinks alone. And he's clearly a mean drunk. In my judgment he needs to be cut off. There are liability laws, you know, so the bartenders (the media) and the barbecuers need to be especially vigilant--the bar itself may be in danger.
BchBum23 (NYC)
There is always a facet of campaigning that includes a bit psychological gaming. However, is it necessary for Clinton to jettison cogent, well-researched proposals as the campaign's centerpiece in favor of sound bites to counter “the sheer id of Trump’s primeval appeal”? Is it even possible for a sane person to lower oneself to Trump's level of insanity? At no time did I even imagine that the high road might not be the way to go. Unfortunately, after these past few months I think Clinton and team must at least consider other campaign strategies, however unseemly they may be. It is imperative to keep a man who should be in a straitjacket from wearing the Commander-in-Chief bomber jacket.
Rufus T. Firefly (NYC)
If they held elections in the stone age, Adolph Trump would have likely had a good message.

However we as a society have evolved into something more complicated than living in caves and carrying clubs.

Trump obviously has not evolved. He is primitive in every sense of the word. Clearly needs a time machine because his time has come and gone----about 50000 years ago.

Back to your cave Donald----or in your particular case Trump Cave on Fifth Avenue.
james (portland)
No written word can defeat Trump the Traitor.
Paul (Bellerose Terrace)
But showing he's a fully owned agent of Putin's surrogates mght.
AM (New Hampshire)
Interesting article. Many Trump supporters seem just to be ignorant, incapable of even simple analyses, and willfully misinformed. However, the majority of them seem simply to want their vote to constitute an epithet to politicians, or a cry for protection in a threatening darkness.

And whose fault is that? The media's. They make their living by washing us in fear every day, causing Americans who once lived in the land of the free, the home of the brave, to cower in the corner about every imagined or exaggerated danger, begging for a "daddy" who would sound stern and powerful.

So, ultimately, whose fault is that? Ours. We don't think, we react. We don't give weight to facts, statistics, reality; we surrender to insecurities, easy conspiracy theories, and manipulative talking points. We need to grow up, be adult, and be strong (like our country once was), not weak and prostrated, like the media, the Republicans, and Trump would like us to be.
James E Dickinson (Corning NY)
I think John Oliver in his last Last Week Tonight show got it right. The Trump and Republican supporters are completely "fact free" and rely only on their "feelings" to make a judgement who they will vote for.
Oliver (NYC)
The psychologists are saying what most people already know. Donald Trump's supporters can't be swayed by fact and reason. But if you are a disaffected democrat and are for Trump because he's pivoting left, why not stay with the democrats who are already to the left of Trump?

Let's hope Mike Bloomberg's plea to vote for a "sane" candidate resonates with independents and swing voters. And let's hope those pesky Sanders supporters can imagine the consequences of sitting out the election.

To paraphrase Senator Sanders after being booed by his own followers, it's easier to boo than to to tell your children and grandchildren that you didn't stop Trump from becoming POTUS.
TvdV (VA)
It's not the lies themselves, but what they signify. Trump supporters seem to believe the lies signify a willingness to "go against convention" and not "play politics"--leading the ironic situation that he is seen as some kind of truth teller because of how he lies, with no hesitation or calculation. For Democrats--and for the sake of the country--the task is to reveal that his lies signify something else: a man willing to take advantage of anyone and everyone for his own monetary or egoistic gains because he has no moral compass. Rather than refuting his lies, Democrats need simply to say, "Of course he lies. He lies, cheats, and steals, and he's been doing it his whole career. Who does it lie to, cheat, and steal from? People just like you."

My point is that people accept the notion that Trump lies cravenly--it's up to the Clinton campaign to point out why that's a bad thing. It may be self-evident to millions, but those folks have long ago made up their mind. Trump has bilked countless people, many of them vulnerable, and if YOU are filling vulnerable, he's coming for you now.
Perry Allen (Florida)
It was a bit surprising to see Tom Edsall of all people write this, "Trump has moved ahead of Clinton by 1.1 percent in the RealClearPolitics aggregation of recent polling." I guess Edsall had to fill in The Times' desire to always say something, anything, negative about Clinton. Edsall must know that the number he uses was taken AFTER the Republican convention but BEFORE the Democratic convention (along with Trump's seditious calls for Russia to help him by committing crimes). Wait a week, Tom. Then look at the polls. Even better, wait until Labor Day. Citing the poll in the manner Edsall does is, quite frankly, intellectually dishonest. Edsall knows better.
eyein the sky (Winston-Salem)
The real test of no collusion between the Republicans and the Russians will be when Wikileaks releases Trump’s IRS tax returns.
A. Stanton (Dallas, TX)
I have had numerous differences of opinion with President Obama over the years, especially over the hideous Iran deal, but watching him on the television last night, I couldn’t help thinking that the man speaks in grammatically correct American English sentences and paragraphs that, however purposefully inaccurate and misleading they may be at times, actually transmit his ideas and thoughts to the American people in a straightforward, coherent fashion.

Now comes Trump with his policy proposals that are not policy proposals; his bombast; his epithets; his non-sequiturs; his deliberate lies; his slurring of women and minorities; his empty slogans; his stupid braggadocio; his preposterous boasts of having formed fast friendships with members of every minority group on earth with the possible exception of Laplanders and Eskimos; his pathetic claims of loving everyone and being loved by them; his ridiculous posturing as an exceptional patriot and great man of business; and his baseball hat that has a fortune cookie slogan printed on it.

Why is it that the Founding Fathers never thought to include a provision in the Constitution mandating Presidents of the United States to be capable of writing and speaking simple American English at a level understandable to ordinary people
over the age of 13 and bearing a reasonable approximation to the truth?

Yes, I know they couldn’t foresee Mr. Trump, but they needed to.
Peter (Colorado)
The Democrats need to stop trying to win on policy and start hammering Trump on temperment just as the article points out. Hammer him daily with tax returns, connections to Russian oligarchs, connections to Putin, mob ties, fake hair, orange skin, small hands, whatever will get under his skin and cause him to have a total screaming meltdown on national TV. They need to turn him into Dr. Strangelove without the underlying humor of Peter Sellers. Trump is so thin skinned it shouldn't even be hard to do.
arp (east lansing, mi)
This piece is a useful step in the process of addressing a very scary reality: that so many voters are immune to facts and traditional American values, and more intent on venting and acting out than on choosing a leader who has the skills and temperament to confront complex problems. The Clinton campaigb has to be imaginative and surgical, not to mention ruthless.
rareynolds (Barnesville, OH)
What a great article. As a person on the street, I have found one of the most fascinating and frightening aspects of this election season to be how out of touch most candidates and pundits are with the needs of real Americans. On paper, I am middle cass and even on the high end of that shrinking group, but it came clear this past year that NYT columnists occupy a world I have fallen out of since 2008, one of secure, affordable health insurance, of not experiencing fear and frustration and the threat of financial ruin to pay for one's children's college educations while debt to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars are a baseline part of their package, and of not worrying that one's job may evaporate tomorrow or that we might be picking through trash cans to eat in old age. The secure, dignified world we once knew is gone, even for many well educated, professional white people, and we are frightened. A world of poverty we thought ended in the 1930s looms. We don't just want but need change before we are completely humiliated. I don't want my children to have to beg to clean the toilets of some rich kid in order not to starve. That's what my immigrant grandparents did. We thought that was over. I agree with almost everything this column says and really hope and pray the rich Dems can "get" all this and move away from wonkishness, stats, minor issues and timidity and towards a bigger, bolder vision that offers a very positive vision of the American dream for all Americans.
xtian (Tallahassee)
I totally agree. The Democrats need to stop running against Trump and for the issues and concerns of the electorate!
ChesBay (Maryland)
rereynolds--The fact that you thought a "world of poverty" ended in the 1930's shows just how completely out of touch you are. As an upper middle class citizen, you have more moral responsibility than you seem to be taking. You appear to only be concerned with yourself, NOT "all Americans."
rareynolds (Barnesville, OH)
I Understand what you are saying, but was thinking more broadly that the world of no minimum wage, threat of starvation, the real hunger that Dorothy Day describes did mitigate in the second half of the 20th century. We are all in this together. I never think of myself alone but know my security is tied to every other persons. No man is an island.
SomethingCoolInJune (US)
The Grace ad works because it gets behind his bluster and bravado. This will appeal to the masses. His temperament on foreign policy will likely appeal to distrusting Republicans/politicos.

I'm confident the man will lose in November. However, we have to keep the pressure on. The Donald says he does well in those environment. Yet, even in his business life, there are times where the pressure became too much and he eventually caved. He's completely beatable. But it has to be clear that he will lose more than he gains.
Douglas Curran (Victoria, B.C.)
"Don the Con". I want to see an ad featuring the Atlantic City plumber stiffed by Trump. I want to hear from the black woman refused a waitressing job at Trump's Mara del Lago as she watches Rumanian labour flown in by Trump filling her job slot.
Tokyo Tea (NH, USA)
There is a theory in business that customer loyalty is not based on rationality but on emotion. Only when you touch consumers' emotions can they become loyal enough that, even if you deliver less than they want, they still want YOU. And one way to touch their emotions is to fulfill their values.

This is the problem: We are fighting using rationality, when he's been winning with emotion—ugly emotion, it's true, but corresponding with the value of a certain group of people. This is why nothing anyone can say makes any difference.
Lee Elliott (Rochester)
A lot of what makes Trump so popular among the white working class is the fact that Republicans have treated them so badly. For years they've promised that billionaire tax cuts and a clashing of regulations would bring lots of jobs. But the jobs have continued their steady exodus to overseas and good jobs keep turning into minimum wage jobs.
Trump is the "Last Hurrah" of the Republican party before all those Reagan Democrats return to the Democratic party. Trump is the "Hail Mary" of the snake oil salesmen whose good times are crumbling. Folks are realizing you can't pay the rent with abortion restrictions and pro gun laws.
Trump with his audacity has convinced a lot of people that he is a different kind of Republican. Indeed he has convinced the elite of the Republican party that he is. But in truth it is simply a new gang taking over the same turf that provides little for its inhabitants. Nitti is replaced by Capone.
The Republican way is the current era is to fill the pockets of the very rich and at the same time convince the "not rich" that this will somehow make them better off.
Ed (Oklahoma City)
Let the surrogates trash the draft dodging bully. Hillary can take the high road, with an occasional Ann Richards swipe at the man who has numerous negative attributes.
Louise Barnett (Lancaster, PA)
I heard a Democratic Party operative from a county near Pittsburgh talking about the support for Trump in his usually Democratic area where many jobs in coal and steel have disappeared. He queried one Trump supporter, a former steelworker, telling him, "those jobs in steel and coal aren't coming back." The man replied, "I know. But at least he's talking about it." In other words, voters like this man want their plight to be acknowledged.
Alix Hoquet (NY)
“The biggest concern is that he is temperamentally unsuited to lead the country.”

"Telperamentallly unsuited" is Orwellian double-speak. The stakes are too high for that. Please, say what you mean. There are lots of ways to say it:

He's erratic.
He's a narcissist.
He's reckless.
He's stupid.
bluesky (Jackson, Wyoming)
Trump is all the things ascribed to him in the article, but I am curious why anybody does support him? Only yahoos with deep resentments, the forgotten dregs of the country? Except they appear to be almost 50 percent; even at 30% that's a lot of people and the NYT does a terrible job of informing its readers through the voices of Trump supporters, columnists, pundits, why they vote for Trump. In its zeal to demolish Trump the NYT does seem to neglect its primary purpose to inform readers and help them understand the events of the day.
Reed Erskine (Bearsville, NY)
A big Trump theme is Winners vs. Losers, sort of a natural considering his casino business background, his high risk, shoot from the hip style. His pitch is: I'm a winner. Follow me and I can make you a winner too. This has visceral appeal, but, as many of his associates and customers have found, when the Donald wins, they lose. A vote for Don the Con is like buying a lottery ticket. Your chances of getting what you want, what you need, are 45,000,000 to 1. Be a Sucker, Vote for Trump.
Nemo Leiceps (Between Alpha &amp; Omega)
Haidt has a point. Who and what is the elephant?

I live in Trump country. This is what I see them for:

In middle school remember those kids who did whatever it took to be "popular" including turning on friends because they were not popular or failed to add to their own popularity

Remember those bullies on the playground spoiling for a fight usually picking someone weaker for an easy win? Look at the on lookers who not only don't break it up but are getting off vicariously on the bully's attack?

Remember the parents of classmates of your child who when called in for their child's bullying, cheating, slurs, abuse of social media, who not only defend their child but attack yours for being a loser?

Those people who drive their SUV's taking out their ego's in tons of metal at high speeds on anyone with the temerity to drive safely and defensively scaring the bejezus out of you and your family every time you survive a close call caused by aggressive, ruthless driving?

That person who no matter how diplomatically you try to point out that they've taken advantage of you turn the situation into an attack starting with saying you are the rude one having had to ratchet up your point just to get their attention after several attempts?

These are the people who are the elephant. I know. I live in a majority of them all day every day.
mdalrymple4 (iowa)
I think we just have to let the non-educated, which is Trump's base, figure out for themselves just how bad he would be as president. Maybe there is some line out there that he will cross that even his avid followers will find sickening. He has crossed so many lines of decency in the past 14 months, maybe nothing he will say or do will shock them. Worse case, if elected I think they will come to understand the danger we have been warning them about but it will be too late for our country.
Tom (Pa)
Those who are Trump supporters tend to be folks that are disillusioned with the way Washington works - or rather doesn't work. They feel they have been abandoned by Washington and they have been in most cases. So Trump voters see him as an outsider to those who do not represent them. In voting for Trump, they are voting AGAINST Washington. Trump is not the answer. Clinton is probably not the answer either, but she certainly knows more about working with the 535 than Trump ever will. A lot of things are broken in Washington. Let's not send Trump there to finish the breaking.
gs (Berlin)
On the other hand, Trump's "Mr Putin: Release my tax returns!" makes him as presidentially unassailable as Reagan's "Mr Gorbachev: Tear down this wall!":
PointerToVoid (Zeros &amp; Ones)
"The effect of a defense of this nature may be perceived as belittling or minimizing the concern."

Give me a break. These are supposed to be men's men. The toughest of the tough. They get up at dawn to work the land (with their bare hands). They drive huge trucks and "roll coal". They stalk deer with a bow and arrow and then eat their kill for lunch...raw. Books you say? NERD! These are supposed to be totally self-reliant (they did build that road) with no need for you betas.

And yet point out their ignorant, racist, bigoted nonsense as ignorant, racist, bigoted nonsense and all of sudden they have the vapors (fetch the smelling salts!) and are going to faint? Tough guys? Spare me.
Catherine Feiler (Durham NC)
During the republican convention most of your articles and opeds were about Donald Trump not Hillary Clinton, which was understandable, but now during the democratic convention most of your articles and opeds are about Donald Trump. No wonder he doesn't need to spend much money on advertising. I refuse to read another article about that man. The other night for the first time I saw the clip of how he made fun of the gentleman who has disabilities; Donald Trump is an immature, despicable human being who does not deserve our attention, let alone our vote for the presidency of our country. God help us all if he wins.
kwb (Cumming, GA)
When the alternative is an "Obama 3rd term", appeals to logic are futile.
Janet (Salt Lake City, UT)
This op-ed is not advocating an appeal to logic. It advocates appealing to the innate decency of Americans. For example, Michelle Obama's speech: is Trump the type of person you want your son to admire, given Trump's fear monger, hate-filled tweets, enormous ego, and his bullying. As President Obama stated last night, he was raised by grandparents with values that are truly American, and without stating Trump's name, are antithetical to the values Trump exhibits.

So the challenge to you is not one of logic, it is one of feeling. Does Trump really have the temperament and values that you admire? If so, go ahead, vote for him.
ChesBay (Maryland)
kwb--It's fabulous, isn't it? 8 more years of pure reason. Really looking forward to it. Also looking forward to your incessant whining.
Tom (Earth)
Obama third term sounds good to me.
Yogini (California)
Hillary should run a commercial of Trump saying, "Wages are too high." when asked about the fight for raising the minimum to 15.00 an hour

Trump said: "We're not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is. People have to go out, they have to work really hard and they have to get into that upper stratum. But we cannot do this if we are going to compete with the rest of the world. We just can't do it."

Run that 24/7 in the swing states.
Christine McMorrow (Waltham, MA)
What a challenge. 95% of Trump supporters are going to immediately discount anything Clinton tries to say through Trump's moniker "Crooked Hillary." It's what we all do: consider the source before listening.

The research Mr. Edsall cites shows how primitive fears respond to miracle thinking. Trump supporters are like toddlers convinced a monster is hiding under the bed--Trump declares he, and only he, can slay those dragons, just because he says so. It's irrational, but it's working.

We're dealing with a social phenomenon in many ways a byproduct of our media technology. Sure, there have been demagogues in America's history, but none became a major nominee for President.

I agree ads critiquing policies or refuting crazy stuff Trump says aren't effective. While I'm hardly a politico, I am a voter: the only ad Team Hillary has run that I find highly effective is the one showing a chain of Trump insults with the kids watching at home. I stop what I'm doing and cringe every time that ad comes on. It hits so many levels--his mockery, the look on the kids' faces, a sense of personal shame that his vulgarity is being rewarded, and of course, reminds viewers of Clinton's lifelong advocacy for children.

Her ad team needs more ads like that, to hit the guts of independents and those who hate her: something to overcome their desire to use a Trump vote to slap her down by showing the effect of his insults on families.
AM (New Hampshire)
Good suggestions. We also need ads showing Trump as a loser. Which is what he is. He ceaselessly describes himself as a "winner." In fact, he was born a trust fund baby; if someone in his position had just socked his money away in a safe investment, he would have done better than Trump has done. That does not even take into account the promises he's broken, the relationships damaged, the companies ruined or harmed, and the losses caused by his lies.

In his business career, Trump has "lost" far more than he has "won." And that's in an environment that actually rewards deceit, cruelty, boastfulness, and scamming. Imagine what type of a "loser" he'll be in environments - politics, statesmanship, and diplomacy - that require character, thoughtfulness, coolness, and care.
Sophia (chicago)
I disagree in part about the ads. There are rational Republicans out there, many of them women, many of them well-educated. I'd bet quite a few are extremely uncomfortable with Trump and might well jump ship, change parties, vote 3rd party, or write in somebody like Mitt Romney.

So rational approaches work with them; Bloomberg's speech will reach them.

The people that scare me are those for whom Trump really is "their voice," and they are so full of resentment and also, racism and bigotry that even if he loses we'll be dealing with the now-open viciousness for decades to come, I think.

Attacks on "political correctness," in this context, are attacks on decency. Trump has given cover to misogyny, racism, bigotry, antisemitism, white supremacy.

That isn't going away because of ads, however artful.
diogenes (Denver)
If Trump wins, the Democratic Machine has only itself to blame by anointing the candidate with the highest possible negative ratings in their Party. Is she qualified? Of course she's qualified. Has she been unfairly attacked over the years? Of course she has, but unfortunately that's politics, and a lot of the stuff the Republicans threw at her over the years stuck. Right now, they couldn't be happier to have her as the "Entitled" opposition candidate to their own unbelievably unfortunate nominee.
W.A. Spitzer (Faywood)
Trump routinely expreses a level of nacissism that belongs in therapy. Narcissism is not a a trait that most people find attractive. Separate the narcisist from the illusion of wealth and power and most people will find what is left loathesome and disgusting.
Mark Thomason (Clawson, Mich)
"How do you deal with an opponent immune to the truth"


You don't support her with a lede like that.
stu freeman (brooklyn)
Trump lies with every breath and you have the chutzpah to pretend that this op/ed piece is about Hillary? I never realized that Michigan was so close to Moscow...
Bill (Madison, Ct)
You are buying the republican kool aid. Yes all politicians lie but Trump does it on a level never seen before. In fact checking Hillary comes out ok.
Mark Thomason (Clawson, Mich)
Guys, at some point reality will have to intrude, or you'll suffer disaster. Americans very widely see a credibility problem for Hillary. Denial is not an effective way to deal with that. Focus on trust in truth telling is not something that will help Hillary with voters. If someone is drinking Kool Aide on this, it is you guys.
ExPeterC (Bear Territory)
And here we have the dilemma: how can Hillary Clinton with all her experience, focus groups and strategists defeat an imbecile? There is of course a boomerang aspect to this question- this should be a landslide for her.
hen3ry (New York)
"He’s an attitude, a direction, not a policy agenda." That's exactly right. Everything Trump is saying or has said during his campaign is what many of us have thought or felt in the last couple of years or longer. It's not about being rational unless we force ourselves to look at what he's saying while applying some logic. He's going to build a wall between us and Mexico. Why? To stop illegal immigrants. Will it work? Probably not. Why not? Because people have legitimate reasons for crossing the border in various places and because a wall will backfire in the most unexpected ways.

He wants to end the ACA. How? What will he replace it with? Do we return to health insurance companies discriminating against people who go to the doctor, who have had cancer, have diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.? How would ending the ACA help Americans pay for or receive needed medical care? It sounds great but is it? And so on down the line with his proposals/hot air.

With the reputation Trump has with the banks can we expect them to be willing to back him up when the country has to spend money or needs a loan? Will he, as president, let the United States default on its loans, on its monetary promises at home and abroad? How much integrity does Trump have in the world today? How much experience does Trump have in foreign affairs, working within a budget, getting things done with tact and hard work? Clinton has the experience. Trump doesn't. That needs emphasis.
John (Newton, Mass)
What a bumper sticker that would make.
Alan (Beverly, MA)
I just checked - bumper stickers, T-shirts, and coffee mugs already printed up and available online.
PogoWasRight (florida)
Here is another bumper sticker if Trump wins:
Colorado, That is !
They have water in Pots and Pot in the water !
Happy Days Are Here Again ! !
william pool (santa cruz ca)
PUTIN/TRUMP is more like it.
Richard Luettgen (New Jersey)
How do you deal with pundits so hubristic as to be incapable of acknowledging “truth” as anything other than the sum of their own convictions? Or that others, with similar good intentions, don’t share their premises or their solutions? America is advanced citizenship, immensely diverse, and the only way we have found to cohere as a people and nation is through compromise – the one major exception to that, our civil war, stands as bloody cautionary lesson to what happens when that means of moving forward fails us.

Garin’s numbers are highly suspect. Though Mrs. Clinton can expect a bounce from her convention, unless Putin really DOES find those 30,000 “deleted” emails and releases them, it will remain that she and Trump are dead-even within the margin for error, and about as many distrust her as distrust Trump. Garin’s claim that “most” believe Trump “unfit” for the presidency obviously is an ideologically interested fiction.

How does Mrs. Clinton deal with the historical anomaly of Trump? She explains, in words of less than four syllables each, how she plans to skate her increasingly leftish agenda, provided her by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, past a Congress that is adamantly opposed to such excess – even just a U.S. House so opposed. Philly certainly didn’t answer that question. Until someone does, she won’t amass unquestioned support.
Martin (New York)
I completely agree. Clinton needs to emphasize the urgency of electing an adult Congress to go with an adult president. The Republicans in congress barely even reach the point of refusing to compromise; they use their office primarily as a platform to raise money by raising anger.
heyblondie (New York, NY)
"...past a Congress that is adamantly opposed to such excess."

What excess?
Lee Harrison (Albany)
Trump is so disastrously unelectable that this election becomes a clear test of of the American people's (and individual people's) ability to sustain a democracy in the face of a crazy demagogue.

The sad point is that the core Trump voters want crazy, and he gives it to them. Longer term, past this election, America must deal with this, because having 20 to 30% of the American electorate wanting a crazy neo-fascist white-revanchist government is a serious problem -- a disastrous problem for any functioning conservative party in a democracy.

Beating Trump in this election though, really should not be so hard. Every day Trump creates a new outrage, and he has a long history of them.

Everyone can see that going after Trump for his unscrupulous business dealings is a way of exposing his character. The man has cheated nearly everybody. Trump U. is a bleeding sore that no politician should be able to survive -- running for president while charged with RICO? Come on...

One simple thing i have not seen in play is the fact that nobody in golf is willing to say a nice word about Trump. Not one. It's Trump's hobby and business, Trump owns a lot of golf courses. And there are long list of people who are on record that Trump cheats at golf. Why does a billionaire cheat at golf? Something pretty sick about that.

And then there are Trump's "Richard Ailes problems." There are a lot of them out there. And then there's the "Katie Johnson" suit.
Rick (Vermont)
It's not clear that new outrages generated by Mr Trump do him any more damage. The question is, has he done enough damage to himself to lose the election? The other question is, will Clinton be able to get through the next few months without being further damaged?
Leonora (Dallas)
Yes -- the fact that anyone can now support him only speaks to the nuttiness and lack of information of so many people. Of course, these are the same low-information folks who don't get how they are destroying themselves with food everyday. Their brains must also be affected. How disappointing.
LVS (Baltimore)
In "The Sociopath Next Door", the sociopathic mentality is actually a very bored one -- because there is no empathy, there are no real social relationships to derive meaning/pleasure from, and the only excitement that a bored sociopath gets in life is usually by beating out/winning out over other people at whatever "game" is at hand. And since they have no real empathy, and so no real morals, beating/winning can come at any cost (to the rules or other people). So I'm not at all surprised that he cheats at golf. He is so obviously a sociopathic personality. I LOVED Joe Biden's method of pointing this out in last night's speech, in his section about how Trump's famous phrase "You're fired" is SO revealing of what his true character is. Joe asked how any decent person could find pleasure in saying such a thing to someone! And he's right; any one with actual empathy would not. But a sociopath has NO empathy - it's an utterly foreign thought process.
PaAzNy (NY)
It's always just a smoke screen to steal more middle class money. That is all any republican ever wants. Blame somebody for something while you fleece them via backdoor policies. They've done it for decades and will continue as long as they can.
Steve (Jones)
Trump bashes all Muslims and you bash all republicans. You are two sides of the same coin and good examples of why we do not address our many problems.
Jim McCulloh (Princeton, NJ)
It's not that complicated. If Americans feel better off today than they did eight years ago the in-party wins. If not, the in-party loses.
W.A. Spitzer (Faywood)
A good point, but here the key is "if Americans feel better off" , not whether facts show that "Americans are better off". Success or failure will depend on whether people believe truth or fiction.
MC (Ondara, Spain)
The in-party in the Whitehouse? Or the in-party in Congress?
Rick (Vermont)
..and what we are seeing is the frustration of those who don't feel they are better off (on both sides of the political distribution).
Dwight Bobson (Washington, DC)
With the GOP, you are dealing with conformational bias. The essence of confirmational bias is that to counter a bias with facts serves only to make people confirm their bias and feel more strongly that they are correct in their bias. It is based on a fundamental ignorance that if a person has always thought their information was the correct information, no amount of effort to change their minds will work. This is especially evident in those who have either power or money which they use to bully others. They are at heart cowards and their bluster is a front for the fear they have of appearing weak or worse, wrong. They are individuals weak of character and values that enhance humans of substantial intellect and knowledge.
N B (Texas)
I'd like to see adds with all the flips followed by flops where he contradicts himself over and over. I'd like to see an ad with hims spouting fuming drivel and the ask the question is he the man to have the power to start a nuclear war followed by the proverbial mushroom cloud.
DR (New England)
Agreed. Where is the ad where he talks about meeting Putin, followed by the statement he just made where he says he's never spoken to Putin?
AG (Wilmette)
I completely agree that what needs to be shown is that Trump is a nutcase, and that facts and specifics are beside the point to his loyalists. However, even arguing that he is belligerent, bigoted, potty-mouthed and insensitive might not work, because his supporters have turned those qualities into virtues -- "He tells it like it is," they say. His behavior is seen as a justified response to the ultimate crime of "political correctness." They are willing to spite their own faces because it feels so good to hit back at the world that has dealt them a raw deal. It satisfies that same deep seated emotional need that war satisfies. Your word, "atavistic," is just right, Mr. E.

To my mind, the most effective way of diminishing his support is to show that he is in fact, to use his favorite put-down, a "loser". And one of the clearest areas in which he has "lost" is his birther jihad. This is the kind of thing that matters to his uneducated uninformed insulted and injured white base. Democrats should run ads showing his face at the Correspondents dinner as Obama cleans his clock. Run this kind of ad for two weeks, and follow it up by another asking him what his "investigators" found in Hawaii. I don't see what response he could put up to this, and it would be guaranteed to send him over the edge.
Robert Stewart (Chantilly, VA)
Thanks, AG. You are spot on.
PaulB (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Here in the battleground state of Ohio, the Democrats have been running a TV ad that very much aligns with the advice of those quoted in Edsall's column today. It show young kids watching TV, And listening as Trump swears, demeans the physically disabled, and brags about how tough he is. It ends with the words: they are listening.

The takeaway, that Trump is scaring young children is powerful, emotional, and devastating.
Ed (Oklahoma City)
An ad like Johnson used against Goldwater about the threat of nuclear war would seal the deal.
Terri McLemore (Palm Harbor Fl.)
The same ad has been running here in the battleground state of Florida. As a parent and educator of young children, it is a powerful and visceral reminder to all of us that our children are listening, and developing their own moral compass from what they hear and see around them. That being said, it is shocking and frightening to me how many of my friends and colleagues support Trump. How do you walk into a diverse, multi-ethnic classroom and post, "We treat others with kindness and respect.", making that statement the linchpin of your classroom rules, then turn around and cast a vote for a racist demagogue. I am not suggesting that you bring your politics into the classroom, but what I am saying is: your cognitive dissonance is pretty astounding. I actually have friends who post on Facebook that we need a "Christian leader" to bring our country back from the brink, then post their support of Donald Trump. I'm not sure at this point, how the Democrats can answer this dissonance. Except to run the aforementioned ad on a loop, and hope that some of these people begin to finally get it.
ChicagoWill (Downers Grove, IL)
Agreed, Paul. Just let me add to your last sentence, "and that the parents will be on the hook to undo the damage he has done to their children."
Moshe ben Asher (Encino, CA)
The essential, irreducible character of Donald Trump in this election is that of snake oil salesman. He's the stranger who comes to town, dedicated to separating the rubes from their money, promising with a carnival barker's conviction that only he has the magic elixir that will cure all their maladies. Of course, when questioned, he says he can't reveal what's in the elixir—you have to trust him—and following behind him is a trail of ripped off customers. He's slick, a facile liar, convincing to those who are suffering. But, of course, his countenance, the discontinuity between the smile of his lips and his vacant eyes, reveals nothing so much as the conscienceless sociopath incapable of empathy, single-mindedly always pursuing his own sensual and material gratification to the exclusion of all other ends.
David in Toledo (Toledo)
Nixon in 1968 had a "secret plan" whose details he couldn't reveal, to end the war in Vietnam. (And 5 or 7 years later, depending on how you want to do the counting, it ended, no thanks to Nixon.) Despite everything that year, Nixon almost lost.

Trump is even more of a con man, and 2016 is a much better year for Democrats. Citizens United, though, and voter suppression.
JD (Ohio)
MB "The essential, irreducible character of Donald Trump in this election is that of snake oil salesman. He's the stranger who comes to town, dedicated to separating the rubes from their money,.."

It never ceases to amaze me that NYTs readers jump on Trump, when H. Clinton is 100% dishonest and corrupt. Additionally, the Clinton's have taken 156,000,000 in speaking fees. (disguised bribes) See And, you are talking about Trump taking rubes to the cleaners. The Left is in total denial.

Barbara (Chapel Hill)
Aaaah yes -- brings to mind the infamous Sylvester McMonkey McBean from Dr. Seuss's classic tale of "The Sneetches". The Sneetches learned a valuable lesson as a result of their encounter with McBean, but they learned it the hard way and after they had lost everything. Let's hope we can all catch on to The Donald's game before it is too late.
Martin (New York)
Interesting thoughts, all of them. But reaching over Trump's head to the public is only half of Clinton's problem. The GOP establishment and media have been Swiftboating Clinton for nearly 30 years--how does she overcome that? Hillary hatred is so deep that it is, for a lot of people, simply part of their identity. And, more fundamentally, how is the gullibility of people taken in by Trump different from the gullibility of people taken in by GW Bush, by Ted Cruz, by Fox news?
Mary Ann Donahue (NYS)
@ Martin ~ Great comment/summation!
Michael Thomas (Sawyer, MI)
The 'gig is up' when obvious, fact based, rational argument is entirely lost on roughly one half of the voting public.
There is simply no way to force such people over to your side.
When Trump voters say: 'We know he doesn't mean any of this and that he can't possibly accomplish any of the things he's promised us, AND he might pose a danger to the Republic, but I'm still going to vote for him', we are left to chance.

Both Parties caused this cynicism by consistently working against the interests of the American people and placing the interests of the well healed ahead of 'us', for many, many decades.
If the Democratic Party wanted to defeat Trump the simple answer would have been nominating 'an outsider'. Instead they selected THE insider's, insider.
They had the chance to advance an outsider, one who consistently out-polled Trump throughout, but used their energy, we know know, to undermine his every effort.
I'm voting for Secretary Clinton but I'm also adjusting to the possibility of having to couple the following two words: President-Trump.
karen (bay area)
I am an HRC supporter, not a lesser of two evils as you are. But I agree with you. I do not think Bernie could have won though, but I fear HRC cannot either. Wasn't there anybody else?
B (Minneapolis)
When Trump makes grandiose statements that are glittering generalities, such as "You'll Love It", "You Better Believe It", "It Will Be Great", "It Will Be Yuge", etc., just ask him "How", "How", "How" until he is forced to try to answer.
He will show us how unprepared his is to be President, both because he has never thought about real solutions and because he does not have the temperament or judgement needed to be President
Jon (Skokie, IL)
In most instances, he responds to questions of "how" by attacking the questioner. This may work at press conferences, but not in the debates in the fall. The nation will get to compare Trump and Clinton side by side. If the comparison isn't obvious, consider that Clinton is far more intelligent and adept at substantive debate. She respond with facts based on her extensive knowledge and he will respond with bluster because he knows nothing. It won't be close!
Bogara (East Central Florida)
Quite true about his public speaking weaknesses. Yet in the past, when Clinton supporters were asked to name her accomplishments, hardly anyone could think of anything.
El Jamon (New York)
Want to really turn the worm? I'm totally serious about this.
Here is what it will take, in our pop culture political world: Have several empty chairs on stage. Have Michael Imperioli, of the Soprano's fame, come out to talk to the empty chairs. But, instead of doing a Clint Eastwood thing, fill the chairs with blue collar contractors who have been ripped off by Trump. Interview them. Let them each say their piece. Then, have Bruce Springsteen stroll out and sit on one of the empty chairs...the only one left on stage. Bruce takes out his acoustic guitar and plays the haunting ballad from his Nebraska album, "Atlantic City". If Bruce wants to say anything, let him, but he really won't have to. That alone would do the trick. This is Pop Culture America. A gesture like this would put Hillary over the top and permanently damage Trump in the minds of the blue collar fence sitters. It would also cause Chris Christie coil up in the fecal position and weep. I'm being funning, here...but also serious. A cameo by Bruce Springsteen at the DNC would tip the scales.
wolf201 (Prescott, Arizona)
Great idea.
Susan H (SC)
Love your Freudian slip, probably aided by spell-check. Or maybe it wasn't a slip, just a perfect description of the NJ governor.
csp123 (Southern Illinois)
"Fecal position"? An intentional Freudian slip, perhaps?

Seriously, though, your idea is splendid. I'd only suggest adding to the interviewee list people bankrupted by Trump U operatives who urged them to max out their credit cards in pursuit of a phony dream of eventual riches.
rudolf (new york)
Trump again stole the show and that is the bottom line of this Democratic Convention. In just one stupid one-liner he stole the ROAR of the President and that is a troubling reality.
russellcgeer (Boston)
Umm, what one-liner? Where was I supposed to hear this?
Keith Hood (Ann Arbor, MI)
And it seems to me that too many Republicans and Trump voters have a skewed vision of reality. Trump's RNC acceptance speech was all promises with no specifics yet I heard one Republican official after another praise the speech for it's specifics. Was the speech they heard playing in an alternate universe?
sharon (worcester county, ma)
When I listen to or watch this vile, disturbing demagogue, the word human can't be used in association with him since he exhibits no traits that make us human, my chest literally constricts as my heart recoils in horror. That he has so much support in this country makes me physically ill. How have we turned to such ugliness, hatred and viciousness? How can anyone with a soul, an ounce of compassion support such a despicable man? How can anyone come to his defense? How can anyone be so empty that they gleefully support such a damaged person? It's incomprehensible. How can people who claim to be Christians, who claim to be compassionate, who claim to be followers of Jesus' word defend this indefensible monster? There is no understanding. Do they believe what they say, what they are told on Sundays, what they expect of their children? How can they expect tolerance, empathy, compassion from their children but then support such a disgusting ideology. If you vote for Trump you ARE Trump. You support his vileness, his ugliness, his unmasked hatred. I watch the commercial of the little children exposed to the viciousness and his ongoing poison and think if you love your child how could you EVER support this man? If you feel love for anyone how could you support this man? There has never been such a rage filled candidate as Trump. The ugliness toward Obama, Clinton and others is beyond vicious. Trump is extremely dangerous. How can his supporters be so blind? Are they as empty as he?
ChesBay (Maryland)
Yes, they are as empty as he is, supporters and elected officials alike. That's one of the primary problems.
wolf201 (Prescott, Arizona)
In a word, yes.
Mark (Providence, RI)
That so many people support this vile sociopath is both frightening and depressing.
Where has reason and judgment fled? To think of him as our president makes me want to leave the country. Hearing the nonsense that Trump supporters write or speak leaves me deeply discouraged about our country. Let us pray that there are enough people who are able to discern the true nature of this horrible person that he does not earn the position of power which he does not in any way deserve to have.
SF (New York)
Trump's bad baggage is vast and heavy.I really don't understand how the midia did not worked on it so to avoid this little Mussolini to be able to even reach this point.
He is a complete con artist as Mr.Bloomberg defined him yestarday.The Trump University probably is the lowest level scam ever applied by someone.He is shameless.He lost his bearing a long time ago and had the guts to invite Putin to do cyberattacks on America. He is just crazy.Lock him up.
Pete (West Hartford)
Agreed. Logical arguments cannot dissuade a lynch mob; and Trumpists are just that.
Hugh Massengill (Eugene)
Say what you will about Trump, but the fact remains there are millions of Americans who are so fed up with the arrogance of those they feel abandoned them, that they are willing to go with someone who may be linked to Russia, who is undoubtedly unqualified for the job of President, who will undoubtedly run the country into the ground.
Only Trump has been willing to be the champion of those who watched their jobs get exported to China or Mexico, and only Trump has been willing to take to task both the warmongering Bush family, and the insanity of the Middle East wars.
No, Personally, I won't vote for him, but I worry that what he has been pointing out will be ignored and those disenfranchised by the educational elites and the 1% will face just more of the same in a Clinton administration.
I so wish Bernie would go back to Washington and start a national Progressive Party and work to change election laws so third parties could run and not have their votes work against their interests. Let them designate that if not elected, all votes cast for them would simply go to another candidate.
Hugh Massengill, Eugene
Bill (Madison, Ct)
Here's something Bernie is starting. Right now they are just collecting money.

the Sanders Institute is being posited as the next step of the Sanders revolution.

Now that Sanders is no longer actively running for president (though he has not yet conceded from the 2016 race), the Senator is attempting to funnel the millions of revolutionary supporters into further political and societal activism.

The Sanders Institute’s first order of business is strongly supporting at least 100 candidates nationwide in down-ballot races.
Susan H (SC)
How is he the "champion" of those whose jobs have been exported? He just asked for a bunch more H1B visas because he claims he can't get enough wait staff for his Florida golf clubs.
Bob (Pittsburgh, PA)
To stop the Donnald you need to destroy his brand is name with an unrelenting attack on his character, his fitness and even his sanity. To affect him the Trump name has to be so debased that no matter what the outcome, he won't be able to even show his face in public. The ammunition is there and available. Repeating and liking tough guys referring to convicted rapist Mike Tyson, partying and with a convicted child molestor which has led to a lawsuit charging Trump with possible child rape, the forcible assault on Ivana which was described under oath in a deposition. She was either lying then or now. The alleged attempted assault of an business associate's wife. Rapist? Child Molestor? Don't believe it? Play the tapes of him sexualizing his infant daughter, saying how hot is other daughter is and saying he'd date her if she wasn't his daughter. Not much of a stretch from there to these acusations being true. Joke, normal people don't make those type of jokes in public and repeatedly.

The only thing needed to destroy the Donald is the stomach to do it and we do need to do it. We have the potential with this candidate that has the potential to destroy our republic. As a student of history, the people of Germany and Italy in the 20's and 30's wanted a change and thought that the narcissistic megalomaniacs worst impulses could be contained and see how that worked out. Those who don't know understand history are doomed to repeat it. How stupid are we as an electorate?
Timothy Bal (Central Jersey)
"To counter Trump, Democrats have to get into the electorate’s ... unconscious level of responding to events ...." In my humble opinion, the electorate does not respond to events unconsciously - they are unconscious only while they are sleeping. But reaching their subconscious minds - that is the goal.

What an awful choice we have: crooked Hillary versus Donald the Demagogue. I'm with her.
Tony (Boston)
All this intellectual analysis is silly. This is a simple arithmetic problem: For the vast majority of Americans, their costs are rising and their incomes are stagnating. Their standard of living is declining and they are angry, as well they should be. The leadership at the top is so out of touch with the lives of ordinary Americans that they are missing this obvious point. They are blindly lashing onto anyone who promises them that their lives will get better and America will be great again. Trump is exploiting this reality and the Establishment is so out of touch with the masses that they simply can't comprehend this. Can they really be expected to trust Hillary to do this? She is the ultimate Establishment candidate.
N B (Texas)
And Trump is lying if he says he can change anything.
Mary Ann Donahue (NYS)
About the arithmetic problem, I agree. But Trump is pals with Carl Icahn who drastically downgraded the arithmetic of my life when he ravaged TWA. Pretty sure that Icahn and Trump share similar values about money and working people. And, it doesn't favor the workers.
Ann O. Dyne (Unglaciated Indiana)
One of my own siblings (perhaps others, I fear asking) is a Trump supporter. It's incomprehensible to me.

As one local sage says, all we can do is demonstrate that 'people with our values have more fun: won't you join us'.
A. Morris (Dobbs Ferry, NY)
When I shop for a car or a washing machine, when I'm deciding on which restaurant to dine at, I look for the ratings, I check on who was satisfied and who felt they were ripped off. If the ratings are low and I read how bad the user experiences were, I avoid that choice.
This is such a no brainer. This is a man who has left behind hundreds if not thousands of victims who have been burned, ripped off or outright ruined by "deals" that he has not only personally profited from, but has bragged about it to boot. These are people just like the dupes lining up now to buy this man's snake oil. Gather them up. Put them in front of a camera and let them tell their stories of broken promises, lost wages, lost fortunes and flood the airwaves with it. Take them on the road with the candidate and let them talk about what a slime ball and con artist Trump is.
People may "feel" that they can't trust Clinton yet they have no evidence to support those feelings. Trump's history of dishonesty is well documented and the evidence should be there for all to see.
Susan H (SC)
One problem for these people who have been stung by Trump is they are probably afraid he will sue them if they speak up which could cost them whatever they have left to defend themselves. As one who had been cheated by a client who refuses to pay, it is sadly true that a small business cannot sue a billionaire or centi-millionaire. They will eat you for lunch.
Bruce (Ms)
Will there be debates between Hillary and Donald? Imagine this, with questions coming from the people, not just from the media. Maybe this will clear the air.
w (md)
Trump is incapable of debating from my observation.
Will he be a no-show? He did that in the primaries.
Michael Weber (Charlottesville VA 22903)
Trump will dominate a debate with Hillary the way he did in the primary. It is impossible to debate him in the usual sense, which involves arguments and counter-arguments. And if you try to respond in kind you lower yourself to his level, as Rubio discovered.
DR (New England)
Michael Weber - Hillary isn't Rubio. She's smart, tough and articulate.
Steven A. Williams (Palo Alto, CA)
Classical mythology offers several ways to conquer the many-headed beast that is Donald Trump. To defeat the Hydra - the beast with nine heads; once a head was lopped off, two would take its place - Hercules' chariot driver would cauterize the neck once Hercules lopped off a head. The other option, used by Jason in the Argonautica, is to bypass the heads altogether and hurl the sword into the heart of the three-headed dragon protecting the Golden Fleece. It appears the experts agree with Jason: the heart, not the end, is the vulnerable area.
blaine (southern california)
Trump talks to the elephant and so far the Democrats are not doing that. I agree with this analysis.

Two guys walk into a bar, a philosopher and a marketer, they get drunk and have a debate. At one table a group of academics listens to the debate and awards a TKO to the philosopher on points with a massive victory. The rest of the crowd though figures the marketer won the fight by a knockout and carries him out of the bar on their shoulders.

Reason, facts, data, logic, all wonderful stuff. But it can still be the means of losing a bar fight.
Richard A. Petro (Connecticut)
Far too much analysis for the GOP/TP/KOCH AFFILIATE's choice of Donald Benito Trump as their "standard bearer".
It's really very simple;
a. Rush Limbaugh was not available or, hopefully,
b. The Republicans are actually some form of "Doomsday Cult" seeking their own destruction.
I'm REALLY rooting for option "b".
R. Law (Texas)
As enough former customers, employees, and vendors of Drumpf's who have been scarred by the experience of dealing with him tell their truths over and over and over to the American voters, Drumpf's brand gets diminished - which is all he cares about.

Hit him where it hurts, which happens to be the advice of the expert, Haidt.
sjs (Bridgeport)
No kidding. In NY, if you got a room of random people and asked "who got ripped off by Trump" you would get a show of hands for sure.
Anne-Marie Hislop (Chicago)
The battle is really for the independents and moderate Republicans. Trump supporters are a lost cause because their particular distrust of most institutions (with the exception of right-wing media) means that all criticism by professionals, anyone with political and/or governing experience, or most media folk is seen as more evidence that Trump is their strongman sticking it to those they hate. Trump's habit of mocking and name calling means that those who criticize him quickly become the butt of humor for his most consistent fans, i.e., the media etc. is "a joke."

Some who traditionally vote GOP will do so because they are single issue voters (e.g., abortion) who hope that Trump will advance their cause better than Clinton (e.g., SCOTUS nominations). Others will vote for Trump because they have always hated the Clintons and could never, ever bring themselves to vote for one (and will never listen to anything she says); still others will vote for the party hoping that Trump can be controlled into signing much of Ryan's agenda.

All of that said, I know folks who have never, ever voted for a Democrat who will vote for Hillary. They see Trump as unqualified and dangerous, a bully, bigot, and xenophobe. It won't be a happy vote for them, but it is a thoughtful one.

It is the folks in the middle, the reasonable, rational folks whom Hillary must reach - those and the far left Bernie camp many of whom will come along - some of whom are lost to a snit.
Sophia (chicago)
I'm coming to the sad conclusion that many Bernie supporters are determined to crash the system.

The brats heckling Panetta were recognizable from other disturbances during the past couple of days, particularly the cute little blond cheerleader type who probably has little to lose (unless we all get nuked of course) - like Sarandon who can zip off to Cannes and bedeck herself in cashmere the brats are entitled and thoughtless and appear to lack both empathy and imagination.

Looking back to the '60's, I remember similar kids - limousine revolutionaries. I also think now, omg were we this insufferable?

But - that was also the time of Vietnam, a still fraught Civil Rights movement. Women were completely unequal and we had real, deep poverty in many parts of America from the Ozarks to the cities. Friends of mine nearly died from back-alley abortions. The death toll from the war was appalling and so many returned alive but horribly wounded or psychologically scarred - and that scarred their families and loved ones as well.

We have made amazing progress since then. And much remains to be done - yes! But burning the house down makes even less sense now than it did then - and we remain (for now!) a democracy where progress is evolutionary, where it comes from the ballot box and from sheer hard work and not from tantrums and rage.

I'm praying that the kids will come with us this time, because Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush and Bush wrought years of sorrow.

And Trump is worse.
Pat B. (Blue Bell, Pa.)
I'm a lifelong Independent; a Bernie supporter. I assure you I will be voting for Hillary in November... and am stunned to think that anyone who supports what Bernie stands for could even consider a Trump vote. They aren't voting for progressive principles- they are voting for anarchy.
Dave (Auckland)
All candidates should be psychologically evaluated, and those evaluations should be made public. They would be at least as important as the candidates' tax returns.
Anna (New York)
Absolutely agree.
sophia (bangor, maine)
I wish the press would demand two things constantly: (1) A true medical report (the one he released was so fake it wasn't even funny) and (2) his tax returns.
James Lee (Arlington, Texas)
Professor Edsall's cogent analysis paints a portrait of human beings as creatures governed more by emotion than logic, at least in times of crisis. Whether our current national condition qualifies objectively as a crisis, moreover, matters less than our perception of the status quo. The improbable popularity of Trump strongly suggests that, in the minds of many Americans, the country faces severe challenges. The dim light on the horizon heralds, not the dawn, but the ominous onset of night.

President Obama, in his speech last night, apparently channeled Edsall's sources, because he did not rely on a factual analysis of Trump's false promises. Rather, he sought to convince his listeners that Trump's dark portrait of an America in decline confused his own perverted perspective with the reality of a vibrant nation attempting to realize its founding vision of a country committed to equality of rights and opportunities for all its citizens.

He coupled this more optimistic interpretation of the status quo with a blistering attack on Trump's threat to American ideals. The Republican's promise personally to rescue the country from its ills, the President asserted, contradicted the democratic principle according to which Americans worked together to solve national problems. No demagogues needed.

If this alternative narrative does not capture the imagination of the electorate, then Trump's version of a nation in decline may prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Paul Leighty (Seatte, WA.)
Agreed. Detailed policy arguments will simply bounce of the electorate.

Like Mayor Bloomberg tonight; calling him a con man will make a difference. Revealing that he is a cheat and fundamentally dishonest will work much better. There is a visceral part of the American condition that despises fakes and trimmers that transcends party, race, and creed. Let's keep reminding folks that this dude is not trustworthy and will turn on us all if it suits him.
Jason Shapiro (Santa Fe , NM)
Exactly. Bloomberg's speech may be pivotal (we'll see excerpts in some DNC ads) because not only is Bloomberg an independent not afraid to voice his differences with Democrats, but he is the kind of genuine, self-made billionaire that Trump only makes believe to be. Bloomberg also comes from the New York business and financial world that Trump claims to have "conquered," when in fact it is obvious that Bloomberg and his cohorts have nothing but contempt for the crass liar that is Trump. The irony is that Bloomberg may end up delivering more genuine Independent voters to HRC than all the other speeches last night.
Robert Eller (.)
"Let's keep reminding folks that this dude is not trustworthy and will turn on us all if it suits him."

Trump has already turned on us. What else would you call his campaign for President?

"If it suits him?" Nothing else but treachery suits him. He's always been a user.
patsy47 (bronx)
Absolutely. Mayor Bloomberg's speech really nailed it: he's a con man, a cheat, a welsher, a weasel. The loathing that Mike Bloomberg has for that man is palpable whenever he has cause to speak about him.....because Bloomberg is a truly successful, ethical, essentially self-made businessman, and Trump is exactly the opposite. The Clinton strategists would do well to use clips from his speech as the basis for a truly powerful ad campaign.
Anne (Washington)
The people who will vote for Trump will support him no matter what he does, because he's a hater and they are, too. He can say anything, as long as he targets the right people. They don't care what else he does.

His inevitable failure to make their life better will be blamed on someone else if he's elected.
Aaron Adams (Carrollton Illinois)
The decision about whom to marry, a decision much more important than whom to vote for president, is rarely determined by rational thought. It is, unfortunately, a decision based largely on emotion. This is the case with Trump. He is completely irrational but he appeals to the emotions of his followers, giving voice to issues that they feel strongly about but are fearful of expressing. Many people find his crudeness refreshing when compared to the scripted and robotic talk by your typical candidate.
Mary Ann Donahue (NYS)
Totally disagree with "The decision about whom to marry, a decision much more important than whom to vote for president,....". Voting for the President of the USA has consequences far greater than any individual love story.
Rob Crawford (Talloires, France)
Very interesting. If he is an attitude, that is what should be attacked, not the specifics.
HeyNorris (Paris, France)
I find it singularly depressing to read that we are in need of cunning strategists who understand our psyches better than we do to save us from ourselves.

It is inconceivable to me that anyone who is not mentally disabled can think it a good idea to put power in the hands of a man so clearly volatile, mean-spirited and incurious. Yet here we are.

And we got here in large part thanks to a man who famously brought Nixon to power by teaching him to blur facts through speaking in sound bites and "kickers": Roger Ailes. By practicing his facts-are-trivial, repeat-a-lie-until-it's-true dark art on the American public for 20 plus years, he made a large segment of the population intellectually lazy enough to think Trump's hatred and lies are just fine.

I'm not so sure that clever psychological strategies will alter this bunch's catatonia. What will save the world from the terrifying specter of Trump in the Oval Office is if every last American who hasn't guzzled the Ailes Kool-Aid gets up off their butts on November 8 and goes to the polls to pull the lever against ignorance.
sophia (bangor, maine)
And not only vote on November 8 to ensure Trump's demise, but also volunteer to help get others to the polls. Volunteer to drive someone or drive many. If we each did that, he won't reach the Oval.
Klee (Philadelphia)
Excellent point.
What a frightening vision ... Just wait till Donny T acquires the White House. For a cheeky peek behind closed doors at a haunted Halloween there under Donny T, the ribald romp AW, DONNY! is spot-on unforgettable political satire. HRC superPac Priorities USA should post that playscript for free downloads, as its devastating effect is long lasting, unlike pricey TV ads that evaporate in a few days. Or we can resign ourselves to a Donny T White House … hang on, folks.
Peter Gluklick (Huntington Woods, MI)
The longer Donald continues the more it seems a cynical ploy to ennance his Brand. His talk of 'Deals', who will pay for walls and defence, his Russia customers buying his properties at extraordinary prices its all abut money, Doalds money. It's all he thinks about. Even his daughter advertised her introduction speech dress for sale in wide release the following morning. This is about the Brand, the ability to make 'deals', to get favorable tax reductions, favoranle zoning treatment, etc. Attack the 'Brand', his deals, his children's deals. Attack and expose all that is Trump but not Donald Trump.
JMM. (Ballston Lake, NY)
Seriously? The dress for sale?
Michael (San Francisco)
Shorter version: Prople stupid enough to vote for Trump aren't going to be swayed by facts
Janet (Salt Lake City, UT)
This op-ed is not summarized as you suppose. It is an attempt to describe a campaign strategy that may appeal to those who you have defined as "stupid." It acknowledges that countering with facts would not work.

How would you summarize the proposed strategy?
wolf201 (Prescott, Arizona)
Actually, Mr. Edsall isn't talking about using facts. He's talking about reaching down into the psyche and using that as a tactic, Trump supporters don't listen to facts so we need another way to communicate.
Stephen (Geneva, NY)
Apparently they are busy applying to Trump University.
Alan R Brock (Richmond VA)
The absurdity that is Donald Trump should be obvious to any rational person. However, the recent GOP convention convinced me that Republicans have discarded rationality.

Mr. Trump is indeed absurd, but he is also potentially extremely dangerous to the United States and global civilization. I expect that his erratic behavior will exponentially increase between now and the election. He is incapable of moderating it.

In November we will discover if there are enough intellectually honest people left in the electorate to finally put an end to his perverse ego trip.
Meredith (NYC)
Well, what are the main voter concerns? Jobs, financial security, economic issues. If the Dems had better addressed these properly through the years, the toxic environment that breeds the Trump disease wouldn’t thrive.

It’s jobs sent overseas, low pay at home, high costs for health care, college, housing, and a retirement time bomb with the loss of guaranteed pensions. The Dems are also tethered to big money. It's media supporters avoid this and bash the Gop rw crazies, to paint Dems as the good guys. But Dems have Wall St in their cabinets. Will HRC do same?

The only reason Hillary is now better responding to the needs of the nation is Bernie Sanders pulling her toward what’s defined as Leftward--but really should be centrist.

If the Dems go back to being the party of salaried, working people, in the tradition of FDR, Truman, LBJ, and even Gop Ike, then political disease viruses won’t be able to attack our democracy.

The ultimate cause of this atrocious campaign is turning over our elections to big money, thanks to Citizens United, called one of the worst decisions in our history.

The 1st step to restoring normal political health is to reverse that, and use public funding of elections with strict private limits, like most other democracies. They don’t waste billions and 18 months electing their leaders, giving away their lawmaking to big $$.

Mr. Edsall, as a political journalist, would you compare public financing systems for us, as a role model?
Tony (Boston)
Exactly. You must understand that Mr. Edsall obviously is out of touch with the realities of life down in the trenches. he should visit Cleveland or Detroit and see what is happening to the masses. He might change his mind about why they are angry and flocking to Mr. Trump.
sharon (worcester county, ma)
Meredith- demographics have shown that the median income of his supporters is $70K. He had large support in MA one of the wealthiest states in the nation. He wins wealthy communities. He overwhelmingly won my town. We are highly educated, a bedroom community to Boston, and have a median income of $87K. This isn't about jobs or the economy. If it were he would be lambasted for his hypocrisy. He is not. None of his supporters seem to care that he outsources his OWN products to China, Bangladesh, Mexico, Turkey, etc. That he HIRES illegals for construction, maintenance, etc, that he imports H2B visa workers instead of hiring Americans desperate for a job. The man is filth and a charlatan. He has stated that American wages are too HIGH yet he is the one to turn to for job security??? Do any of his supporters even listen to a word he says? Have they even given a cursory glance at the destructive Republican platform? There is nothing about jobs, nothing about healthcare, nothing to support and promote the working man, just control. The Republicans wholeheartedly support TPP. They are the ones who wrote the NAFTA treaty. It was fast-tracked by H. W. Bush and was veto proof. But why let the facts bother his supporters? This campaign is all about darkness and emptiness. I never realized how much hatred so many harbored, how empty and soulless they are. It is apparent in their exuberant, hate filled embrace of such a vile monster. The government didn't create this monster. We did!
Pedigrees (SW Ohio)
Meredith, this may be the most intelligent and reality-based comment regarding the 2016 election that I've read so far. I am truly afraid, however, that the Dems are not getting the message or at least not giving these issues enough weight. The vast majority of us work, are retired from working, or someday will work for a living whether we're white, black, brown or purple, straight, gay, transgender, male or female, old or young.

How have we gotten to the point where policies meant to make the lives of the working majority better are seen as "leftist" if you're a Democrat or "socialism" if you're a right-winger? Isn't that the role of representative government - to pass legislation that will benefit the vast majority of Americans?

Many believe that Trump's appeal boils down to racism. I'm sure in some cases it does. But if those voters were not faced with a lifetime of economic insecurity would they really see the others as enemies? If you have a reasonable degree of economic security you're way less likely to worry about illegal immigrants taking your job.

There is no more economically insecure existence in this country than that of an employee. The vast majority have no contract, no pension, no guarantees of the certainty that business demands for itself, and the safety net is so full of holes as to be almost useless. There is no other developed nation as hostile to its own workers as the US. I fear that Ds just don't get that and it will result in a Trump presidency.
soxared040713 (Crete, Illinois)
I think we have to begin with--and end--with the psychology of the white male, the (mostly) blue-collar guy who passed 40 some time ago.

He's s a baby boomer who remembers when American pre-eminence was unquestioned and he always gave himself credit for its greatness, even if he did nothing. He was white and male; everyone else was shoved to one side to make way for him.

He told himself (and looking around, saw little contradiction) he deserved, was entitled, was gifted a unique birthright and any challenge to the status quo was an attack upon him and others like him.

He recoiled from and was repelled by Martin Luther King, Jr. The civil rights movement, to the white male, was a new, annoying drip-drip of discontent by the invisible and marginalized. Why couldn't they accept his superiority and just shut up?

He came from solidly Democratic (Northeast, Middle Atlantic, Midwestern) antecedents, families who benefited from hard collective bargaining. In employment lines he stepped over or around others to get what he wanted from others who were doing the hiring, men like himself.

They deserted the Democratic party in 1968 to join their Southern brethren to vote in decisive numbers to elect Richard Nixon who was then a more polished version than the GOP candidate today who "feels their pain."

He isn't interested in patriotism; that was always just a concept, the kool-aid the GOP urged them to swallow.

Their self-pity is fed by Donald Trump's own. Like begets like.
Joel Gardner (Cherry Hill, NJ)
As the "historian" Newt Gingrich argued, when confronted with data that show that crime rates ate lower than ever, "Facts aren't as important as feelings." And he has a PhD in history! So how can we expect better from any Republican? Or perhaps his strain of postmodernism shows he's learned the malleability of truth from the left-wing academics he derides on a regular basis.
N B (Texas)
Are they angry because their lives are that bad or are the angry because they don't have it as good as their neighbor?
Marilyn (Alpharetta, GA)
Or their neighbor has it better and is a different color or religion. It's the same old story, and it never changes. We learn nothing. It's getting harder and harder to be optimistic in my "golden" years.
KAStone (Minnesota)
'Should Democrats, I inquired, point to the infeasibility of Trump’s proposals and the damaging results of any attempts on his part to follow through? That approach would not work, Garin said, because voters, including many of Trump’s supporters, don’t really “believe he will build a wall, or get Mexico to pay for a wall.'" Thank you, Thomas Edsall, for getting to the heart of the problem. We keep thinking it's about his proposals. The truth is that Trump's supporters love to see Democrats taking Trump's hyperbolic assertions as "policy." Studying them, laying out our objections. They love to see us express our incredulity. . Because to them that shows us to be weak and naive. It means we are missing the larger picture - what they are actually about which is not one or another policy but a wholesale rejection of not only of democratic values and of basic decency but of reason. They would if they could have an end to all discussion, all debate. They have no vision for America. They just want to tear down everything we believe in and have worked for - equality, freedom. We need to keep driving home what they are fundamentally about - which is vengeance and destruction.
Dana (Santa Monica)
When people keep hearing Mr. Trump babble his daily racist and sexist nonsense and outright absurd proposals and still cheer and love him - it signifies there is something else going on as rational thinking has clearly been suspended. Trump is totally untrustworthy - he is a compulsive liar who contradicts himself daily. And yet his supporters call Ms. Clinton the untrustworthy one - she's the liar and the person guilty of treason - not the man who continues to flatter Putin and ask him to break the law by hacking. These same people (including Trump) have insane beliefs about President Obama - they want "their America" back - which is a not at all subtle code for a white man back in the oval office. Since Ms. Clinton can never be a man - her supporters are going to have to work extra hard to get every single right minded, decent voter to the polls.
Anna (New York)
Projecting their own crimes on their victoms or opponents is a hallmark symptom of sociopathy.
Enri (Massachusetts)
Haidt gets closer to a correct diagnosis by saying that 98% of our mental process are automatic and intuitive. He should have added unconscious. However irrational, those processe are connected to a social reality. That social reality is experienced in concrete interactions with others at work, home, and the people we do business with. It is getting more difficult to live in that social reality. Citing statistics about the low crime rate is not going to cut it when the ground is shaking with economic insecurity and uncertainty about the future.

Trump is addressing the fear associated with that insecurity using the automatic and intuitive processes coded in language of fear, exclusion, difference, and insularity to his advantage. The Democrats by contrast to their peril are oblivious to those feelings and attempt to paint in rose colors a reality that is conflictual and polarized (Haven't we talked about inequality for 5 years to forget it now?) Everything Trump does is unconventional and this year that is the right approach. The Democrats by contrast go conventional and choose a Wall Street friend as their VP pick. That's self injurious and presented as rational and conventional.

This is the year of anger (not rationality) as the primary or unconscious processes tell us. Freud teachings should not be forgotten. BTW, I am not a Trumpist.
Len Charlap (Princeton, NJ)
How is Hillary who supported Dodd-Frank and wants to strengthen it a friend of Wall Street which hates it?

From her WEB Site:

Restore basic fairness to our tax code. Hillary will implement a “fair share surcharge” on multi-millionaires and billionaires and fight for measures like the Buffett Rule to ensure the wealthiest Americans do not pay a lower tax rate than hardworking middle-class families. She’ll close loopholes that create a private tax system for the most fortunate, and she’ll ensure multi-million-dollar estates are paying their fair share of taxes.

Close corporate and Wall Street tax loopholes and invest in America. Hillary will close tax loopholes like inversions that reward companies for shifting profits and jobs overseas. She will charge an “exit tax” for companies leaving the U.S. to settle up on their untaxed foreign earnings. She will close tax loopholes that let Wall Street money managers pay lower rates than some middle-class families. And she’ll reward businesses that invest in good-paying jobs here in the United States.

Pay for ambitious investments in a fiscally responsible way. Hillary believes that we can afford to pay for ambitious, progressive investments in good-paying jobs, debt-free college, and other measures to strengthen growth, broaden opportunity, and reduce inequality. Hillary will use the proceeds from ensuring the wealthiest and the largest corporations pay their fair share to pay for these investments without adding to the debt.
Enri (Massachusetts)
Len, don't shoot the messenger. Read this piece about Kaine by someone who has worked inside Wall Street and written books about it. Your knee jerk reaction reflects an irrational attitude and proves the point of Edsalls piece.
sharon (worcester county, ma)
He is promoting primal rage, nothing more. How many of his supposed "poor" supporters are affected by Wall Street? If they are as poor as they claim I would highly doubt they have a stock portfolio. Nor lost a home that they never had. Others lose their jobs. The responsible person picks himself up and moves on. The responsible person finds a way to make it work and takes charge of his situation and his life. The responsible person doesn't blame imaginary boogey men for all his ills. He picks himself up, dusts himself off. The rational person doesn't ignore facts. The rational person doesn't believe the bombast and lies. Yet he was quickly defended for his engaging in foreign espionage leveled at breaking our democratic political process. He should be investigated for sedition. Where are the Republicans, the "law and order" folks? They should be screaming for his head on a platter!! The should be screaming for FBI and CIA investigations. He should be disqualified from the presidency with his borderline treasonous remarks yet he is defended!!! the only conclusion to be drawn from this is that his supporters are so enraged that they no longer think rationally. this sin't about jobs. This is about hatred and viciousness. I am sickened that we are such an ugly nation. I proudly and naively thought we were better than this. We have no better angels. We are just an empty people with no soul. We are no different from the other vile nations on earth that we condemn. We are them.
See also