Greedy Goblin

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Trump/Sanders and the Maslow pyramid

You probably know of the Maslow pyramid:

But have you considered the pyramid as measurement for political messages? When you care about Syria, Lybia, fetuses, transsexuals in bathrooms, gay wedding cakes and such, (unless you are a Syrian or a fetus) you are on the final level. You, without personal involvement, based only on morality try to solve the big problems of the World. You also make it clear that you have nothing more urgent to do.

When you are hungry, in danger, lonely or even feel to be a loser, you won't care about the human rights on another continent, since they are not you and they aren't your personal friends. If all Syrians and fetuses would be killed, you wouldn't lose food, safety, friends and no one would belittle you. Even going to the "proper" bathroom for a transsexual, having a wedding cake from that shop or not having to put too grooms to that damn cake is "esteem" issue at best. By even mentioning these problems you signal that you are above the first 3-4 levels.

On the other hand the ordinary voters have penny and dime problems. They are unemployed and in poverty (struggling for the first step) or work long hours just to make ends meet, fear of losing their jobs (safety, second level struggle) and they have no time for socialization or family life (no third level).

It doesn't matter to these people if you are pro-life or pro-choice. Both positions show that you are way above them and not going to address or even notice their problems. If you have time to read this blog, you most probably have food, shelter, safety and friends otherwise you wouldn't waste your time here! The Trump/Sanders phenomena shown that people reward if someone acknowledges the fact that the voters have below-step-4 problems. It doesn't matter what are the actual suggestions to these problems, the pure fact that they appear to care is rewarded. We won't know if Sanders could do anything for these people. We don't know if Trump is really caring for them (I'm pretty disappointed by his cabinet appointees, hawks, lobbyists and Romney?!) but both Sanders and Trump talked about these people and their problems. Clinton didn't and even labeled them "basket of deplorables".

The moral of the story is that - due to the large income inequity - most people even in the USA are not living in the "first world" so the "first world problems" of bathrooms and Syria are not their problems, actually they find these problems offensive and refuse anyone mentioning them. Why did Donald Trump noticed them? Because he is a businessman and made his money from satisfying the needs of customers. He clearly understands what moves the voters.

In simpler words: Trump and Sanders were running for president of the USA. Everyone else in the last decades were running for president of the World like everything in the USA were already fine. W Bush wanted to democratize the Middle East. Obama ditto, just with diplomacy an not guns. Hillary in-between. Al Gore wanted to save the planet from climate change. McCain wanted to stop the Russian menace. Romney failed to make an impression sorry. The American people got fed up being ignored and voted for candidates who at least talked to and about them.


Azuriel said...

It's a bit silly talking about "the American people" in broad, sweeping terms with this election. You like numbers, so look at them:

-Wisconsin: 27,257 for Trump.
-Pennsylvania: 68,236 for Trump.
-Michigan (still not called): 11,612 for Trump.
-Popular vote: +1,598,268 for Clinton thus far.

Those are the margins as of today. This wasn't some kind of broad-natured mandate on the part of the working poor - this was a strategic, Electoral College victory. Or hubris on Clinton's side regarding the "firewall," take your pick. If the above three states were more in line with Ohio (+455k for Trump), then you might have a point. As it stands, when the difference between two entirely different visions of America can comfortably fit inside a single football stadium, it's time to reexamine the narrative. The election went the way it did because 107,108 people were in the right states, and 1,598,268 people were in the wrong ones.

In any case, if you're surprised Trump isn't "draining the swamp," yet... buckle up. We'll see how low on the pyramid we can go once we start pulling out of economic treaties and starting trade wars with zero organized labor and complete automation keeping the blue collars hungry.

Gevlon said...

Wisconsin 2012
Barack Obama Dem. 1,613,950
Mitt Romney Rep. 1,408,746

Pennsylvania 2012
Barack Obama Dem. 2,907,448
Mitt Romney Rep. 2,619,583

Michigan 2012
Barack Obama Dem 2,561,911
M. Romney GOP 2,112,673

From this base, Trump's results are landslide. The popular vote is irrelevant, since

Kicking the economic treaties would surely help the US workers, we can argue how much (a single robot maintenance guy is more jobs than zero). The question is if he dares/wants to kick them.

Anonymous said...

As Bill Clinton once said, "It's the economy, stupid." Concerns about the economy cover level 1 and 2 needs and is a primary decision factor for voters that are not financially secure. In the UK our Conservative party has a reputation for being better economic caretakers. Political shorthand is that we elect Conservatives when times are tough and replace them with Labour when things get better.

@Gevlon I expect Trump to pause on new treaties and attempt to tinker with some pre-existing ones but mass withdrawal would be painful. Established industries have a huge competitive advantage because they have built up a supply chain, support networks and local infrastructure. Once lost they are very hard (expensive) to re-gain and it is the US consumer that will end up paying a huge premium in the short-term.

Unknown said...


There are millions of Trump supporters in California and NY who simply didn't bother voting. Those two massive states provided Clinton with most of her popular vote "win".

As for Trump and his economic future: don't expect miracles. With the amount of debt the US have, he is more likely than not to have a serious currency or inflation crisis in his first term. Which will be none of his fault, as the basis of it are reaching Reagan and were only made worse with every subsequent government.

maxim said...

Don't like Maslow. It presupposes a bit too much.

Put simply, a lot of people escape from issues on lower levels to the upper levels (which is essentially what the loudest Clinton proponents did). Also a lot of high level people are much more interested in solving low level issues because they understand that you can't have decent high lvl without having good low lvl.

The consideration that for a long time many US presidents campaigned for what is in reality the "world president" is interesting. Given the extent to which current US capitalisation relies on the world carrying its money there, i don't find it at all surprising.

Jim L said...

There are millions of Trump supporters who didn't bother to vote? How do you know this? Do you think there are millions of Hillary voters who didn't vote because their vote didn't matter?

As for the US debt, it is large in absolute terms, but not all that big in percentage of GDP. There are lots of countries that are worse. Especially since the US economy is one of the most dynamic in the world.

Gevlon said...

@Jim L: we don't know that. That's why talking about popularity vote is stupid. We have no idea about the results of a popularity vote election.

Anonymous said...

2016 estimate population of US 324m. how many are eligible voters? (my google fu ended in "not that easy (couple minutes) to pull that data")
how many voted 125m (62m+63m)? 125m < 199m even if there are 100m not eligible. the third none-candidate campaigned and won in a massive landslide out of the three, with "you politician fucks .. do what ever, I don't care. leave me alone with your charade."

Azuriel said...


From this base, Trump's results are landslide.

No, we don't see that at all. Clinton got 231,740 less votes in Wisconsin than Obama, but Trump only gained, literally, 721 more than Romney. Trump did "awaken" more in Pennsylvania and Michigan (293,358 and 167,132 respectively) than Romney, but not in any way suggestive that he lured Obama supporters over. And, again, the ultimate difference were 107,108 in those three states.

What it is likely to come down to, in the final analysis, is the fact that the margins in these three states are considerably lower than the amount of 3rd-party votes there. The margin in Wisconsin in particular is below the amount of Jill Stein votes, let alone Johnson. Pennsylvania had 190k 3rd-party votes with the margin being less than 70k. I'm not saying all of those would have voted for Clinton had it been a head-to-head competition. But I think this election was close enough to confound any attempts at drawing some kind of grand, Maslow narrative about the working class rising up.

Anonymous said...

As Azuriel have points out, Maslow is very simplified model of reality that can produce approximate generalisations at best. That is worth considering when trying to analyse an election where a 2% swing would have resulting in discussions on a Republican thrashing and US political institutions that are robust with voters that punish candidates who undermine political norms and violate standards of decency.
The lesson to take from this vote and many others around the world is that there is a significant portion of the population that has seen its economic well-being stagnate/decline over the last 10-20-30 years and feels under threat from liberal globalisation. The election outcome is irrelevance to that conclusion.

Anonymous said...

You guys are still trying to rationalize and talk about small details.

Gevlon just described you the elephant in the room standing next to the table, and you are trying your best to ignore that and whining about sagging floor boards next to that table.

Elephant being that while you are feeling fine at the top of the pyramid, HALF of the americans felt offed by democrats and Mrs Clinton and a huge chunk of Americans are struggling at the top of the pyramid.

And somehow all those low income fellow americans are nonissue to democrats, who prefer to rush to help syrian refugees and illegal immigrants instead on EXPENSE of those americans at the bottom of pyramid, raising crime rates on their living areas, where YOU dont have to live and increasing unemployment rates/lowering wages.

Syrian refugees should be helped, but in areas of their culture where it would be more successful and less expensive - meaning you can help MORE of them.