The reason you’re still getting those phone calls from Kevin with Tech Support at Windows Security and he needs you to reprogram your computer so he can install malware is because the scam is working; they’re finding more marks every day.
In a way, that would also explain why Donald Trump is now the Republican nominee for president.
Why did almost everybody fail to predict Donald Trump’s victory in the Republican primaries? Nate Silver blames the news media, disorganized Republican elites, and the surprising appeal of cultural grievance. Nate Cohn lists a number of factors, from the unusually large candidate field to the friendly calendar. Jim Rutenberg thinks journalism strayed too far from good old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting. Justin Wolfers zeroes in on Condorcet’s paradox. Here’s the factor I think everybody missed: The Republican Party turns out to be filled with idiots. Far more of them than anybody expected.
In the previous election cycle, joke candidates like Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann briefly caught the fancy of Republican voters but collapsed in the face of scrutiny. Republicans did rally around Sarah Palin after her vice-presidential selection was unveiled, but eventually her lack of qualifications became so impossible to deny that she didn’t even bother running in 2012. It was natural to expect a similar collapse from Trump, who cut an even more absurd figure (and certainly carried more ideological baggage on issues like abortion, health care, past support for Democratic candidates, and many other things).
Unlike Bachmann or Cain, Trump had an even weaker grasp on intro-level Republican dogma, instead ranting like a drunk on a bar stool (“Bomb the shit out of ISIS!”). In debates, rather than use the standard tactic of mouthing pabulum that sounded vaguely like a substantive response before pivoting to his preferred message, he dispensed with the pabulum altogether, relying instead on vague, repetitive bragging and grade-school-level personal insults of his opponents. He puts down his opponents’ beauty or their height, or simply smirks at them. His appeal operates not at a low intellectual level but at a sub-intellectual level.
You have to give Mr. Trump credit for being able, as veteran comedians and hucksters do, to read the room and know how to pitch to the crowd. He knows that the base of the GOP is made up largely of people who fall for the most obvious cons like the Windows scam; after all, they bought into the Reagan “morning in America” line while the country spiraled into debt and sold guns to Iran, got screwed with their pants on by George W. Bush and his war on sanity, fell for the birtherism and racism against Barack Obama, and forgave every corrupt politician like Newt Gingrich who cried “Jesus!” and took their money and lusted after their wives, their daughters, and, in some cases, their sons.
The reason Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann sputtered and fizzled out is because they were as lacking as their marks. Donald Trump knows how to exploit the stupid, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that he really does lack the judgment of your average middle-schooler. The idea that he’s to be trusted with a classified intelligence briefing, let alone the nuclear codes, is enough to want to invite the British back.
I know it sounds like I’m some kind of elitist or snob who’s dismissing the ten million voters in this country who voted for Mr. Trump in the primaries as idiots, but at some point we have to face reality. (By the way, not all poorly-educated people are stupid. I know folks who never made it through high school who have more smarts than some with Ph.D’s. Wisdom is not measured by degrees.) All people may be created equal in the sight of the law and, as the Quakers say, there is that of God in everyone, that doesn’t guarantee that they have the intelligence to choose the right person to lead the nation. And yet they vote. After all, this is America, and that’s the choice we’ve made and the chance we take.
I just wish they were smart enough to hang up on Kevin.