“It’s not a bug. It’s a feature.”
This phrase was used both jokingly and seriously by programmers during the 1980s and 1990s to describe flaws in their programs. When something acted in a way that was counter to the intended function, the first response was to try to think of a reason why having the unexpected effect was desirable.
If a wily programmer could successfully think of such a reason, many hours of time could be saved. Rather than correct the problem, the software would simply be presented as having the additional “feature”. There might be negative side effects, but the software developer knew that if a customer could be talked into buying the product with the feature presented prominently, they were unlikely to give up on whatever they purchased.
To do so would be an admission of poor judgment.
Republicans are having this same basic psychological trick used against them. President Trump doesn’t have many tools available to him, but this is among his most effective. This is the reason his reversal on Ukraine makes sense.
Taking Ukraine out of it entirely, the formula is as follows:
- Assert that the attacks are partisan lies, for at least three days. This provides enough time for the punditry to get Republicans to discuss – on Facebook, among friends, with family – the potential scandal and to stand on the side of the President.
- Admit that there is some truth to the attacks. This disorients his followers, and makes them more suggestible than usual.
- Attack someone or something publicly. This provides a focus for his followers’ displeasure. Any frustration they may feel about being lied to yet again by their leader will be targeted toward the new focus of attack.
Every time the process is used successfully, it further cements the ties between President Trump and his base. People who would never have defended blatant governmental corruption now cheer when it’s Trump who abuses his authority.
This is the reason that there will never be a point, prior to impeachment hearings, where the majority of the public will support it. The casual voter is tired of politics and fighting and is steadfastly refusing to pay attention, often because both Republicans and Democrats disgust them. The Republicans will not be shaken enough to abandon Trump, no matter what he does.
Impeachment proceedings may change that. If conducted properly, they can draw the attention of and possibly sway the independents who are currently trying to avoid politics entirely.
This matters because the steadfast on both sides of the main political aisle are basically followers. As long as they can frame the argument as them vs. “the other guy”, they’re unshakable in their convictions. If the overwhelming majority of the body politic shifts, however, they will go along with what everyone else wants… first grudgingly, then happily.
This is what has happened in our society with both marijuana use and gay marriage… two things that just twenty-five years ago were disfavored by a strong majority of the country.
This is why Pelosi should have started the hearings immediately after the Mueller Report dropped, if she truly wanted Trump removed instead of simply wanting to win control of the government in 2020. There was never going to be a shift from the Republican base.
It’s past the point where he could shoot someone on the street and get away with it. He could shoot their parents or their children and walk away with their support.
They’ve bought the product, and they’re going to figure out a way to use it… even as it destroys their operating system and corrupts every important file they’re convinced they need.