Trump's Door In Our Face

In psychology, there’s a technique for getting others to do what you want that's known as the “Door In The Face” technique. It’s a simple, but incredibly effective, method that works like this: if you want something, ask for something far more extreme first. After the inevitable freak-out and refusal, moderate your request by asking for the thing you truly want. Confronted by your sudden acquiescence and the seeming moderation of your position, people are far more likely to agree to your second demand or request, even if it's something they would never have considered originally. The Door In The Face technique is one of the most common ways people try to get what they want, so much so that people who’ve never even heard the name have been found to use it in their everyday lives.

This technique has been coming up quite a bit recently in politics, albeit construed in a different manner, the idea that we're “grading Trump on a curve.” What this phrase really wants to say is that we accept things from him we would tolerate in no other president, simply because it’s better than some of the other things he does or says he might do. The sane brand of unacceptable behavior feels refreshing because it’s at least sane, so we let it slide. This is, of course, dangerous. Accepting the hitherto unacceptable from him simply because he’s more extreme than any other president we've had only encourages the kind of behavior we should be actively working to prevent. In a child, this is unfortunate. In the leader of the free world, it’s downright dangerous. 

This is not, of course, to say that such techniques have never been used before. Indeed, proposing something extreme before moderating in order to appeal to more people might be one of the most frequently used techniques in all of politics. However, Trump’s presidency might be the first in which the president by his very nature pulls the Door In The Face technique on us. Anything he does that seems like the actions of a man who might be considered sane by a lenient psychologist is treated as acceptable, because it’s a refreshing moderation of his usual style. We’re dangerously permissive of him, accepting things we never would from a more reasonable president.

In other words, we need to stop grading this man on a curve. Neither his campaign nor his temperament can be used to excuse him of things we’d never excuse another acting president. Whether that’s a slightly less overtly racist travel ban, the appointing of his own remarkably unqualified daughter (sane though she might be) to an official advising position, or slightly tempered warmongering in the middle east, we need to hold him accountable for every mistake he makes ands not just the ones that live up to his TV personality, as we would any other president. After all, as president his choices will have lasting impact on us and the whole of the world. An insane campaign and troubling demeanor does not give our president a blank check to make bad choices

With excitement and optimism,

Alex