But the good news is that Mr Trump isn’t going to use his power against you or me. He’s against those other people. This works at the micro level to inspire loyalty. It’s a psychological principle called intermittent reinforcement; when he’s kind to you, you feel honoured and special — because he can be so ruthless toward others. At the macro level, you know you have nothing to fear, either. In fact, he has assigned an enemy to hate: immigrants, refugees, and members of the media. You can basically say or do anything to those people.
Mr Trump knows that if he shows no sign of fear or self-doubt that people will tend to believe what he says. So Mr Trump says outlandish things with so much conviction that people are prepared to put aside their doubts about whether they are true and just believe him. (I’m reminded of Matt Damon’s line in the TV show 30 Rock: “If you walk briskly in a pilot’s uniform, you can go pretty much anywhere.”)
There’s a term called “gaslighting,” and it basically means to manipulate someone into doubting their own sanity. Any introspective person covering Mr Trump will eventually have to grapple with whether or not they want to believe The Donald or their lying eyes. It has been said that if you’re going to tell a lie, tell a big lie, because no one would believe you had the audacity to tell such a whopper. One gets the sense that some people believe Mr Trump simply because they can’t fathom that he could be so audacious with his lies.