Do Emotions Trump Facts?

By Thomas Sowell

Donald Trump
Do Emotions Trump Facts?
Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell

United States -( Those of us who like to believe that human beings are rational can sometimes have a hard time trying to explain what is going on in politics.

It is still a puzzle to me how millions of patriotic Americans could have voted in 2008 for a man who for 20 years — TWENTY YEARS — was a follower of a preacher who poured out his hatred for America in the most gross gutter terms.

Today's big puzzle is how so many otherwise rational people have become enamored of Donald Trump, projecting onto him virtues and principles that he clearly does not have, and ignoring gross defects that are all too blatant. There was a time when someone who publicly mocked a handicapped man would have told us all we needed to know about his character, and his political fling would have been over. But that was before we became a society where common decency is optional.

Yet there are even a few people with strong conservative principles who have lined up with this man, whose history has demonstrated no principles at all, other than an ability to make self-serving deals, and who has shown what Thorstein Veblen once called “a versatility of convictions.”

With the Iowa caucuses coming up, it is easy to understand why Iowa governor Terry Branstad is slamming Trump's chief rival, Senator Ted Cruz, who has opposed massive government subsidies to ethanol, which have dumped tons of taxpayer money on Iowa for growing corn. Iowa's Senator Charles Grassley has come right out and said that is why he opposes Senator Cruz. Former Senator Bob Dole, an establishment Republican if ever there was one, has joined the attacks on Ted Cruz, on grounds that Senator Cruz is disliked by other politicians.

When Senator Dole was active, he was liked by both Democrats and Republicans. He joined the long list of likable Republican candidates for president that the Republican establishment chose– and that the voters roundly rejected.

With both establishment Republicans and anti-establishment Republicans now taking sides with Donald Trump, it is hard to see what principle– if any– is behind his support.

Some may see Trump's success in business as a sign that he can manage the economy. But the great economist David Ricardo, two centuries ago, pointed out that business success did not mean that someone understands economic issues facing a nation.

Trump boasts that he can make deals, among his many other boasts. But is a deal-maker what this country needs at this crucial time? Is not one of the biggest criticisms of today's Congressional Republicans that they have made all too many deals with Democrats, betraying the principles on which they ran for office?

Bipartisan deals — so beloved by media pundits — have produced some of the great disasters in American history.

Contrary to the widespread view that the Great Depression of the 1930s was caused by the stock market crash of 1929, unemployment never reached double digits in any of the 12 months that followed the stock market crash in October, 1929.

Unemployment was 6.3 percent in June 1930 when a Democratic Congress and a Republican president made a bipartisan deal that produced the Smoot-Hawley tariffs. Within 6 months, unemployment hit double digits — and stayed in double digits throughout the entire decade of the 1930s.

You want deals? There was never a more politically successful deal than that which Neville Chamberlain made in Munich in 1938. He was hailed as a hero, not only by his own party but even by opposition parties, when he returned with a deal that Chamberlain said meant “peace for our time.” But, just one year later, the biggest, bloodiest and most ghastly war in history began.

If deal-making is your standard, didn't Barack Obama just make a deal with Iran — one that may have bigger and worse consequences than Chamberlain's deal?

What kind of deals would Donald Trump make? He has already praised the Supreme Court's decision in “Kelo v. City of New London” which said that the government can seize private property to turn it over to another private party.

That kind of decision is good for an operator like Donald Trump. Doubtless other decisions that he would make as president would also be good for Donald Trump, even if for nobody else.

About the Author:

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at


  • 23 thoughts on “Do Emotions Trump Facts?

    1. One very good reason for this article being published on this site. Trump has said in the past that he wants assault weapons banned and wants to lengthen the time for gun registration.

    2. Hussein Obama is a Muslim born in Africa ! Cruz is eligible to be president and hopefully he will be president ! I would vote for trump if he wins the nomination but Cruz would be a much better president ! There’s something about them New Yorkers I don’t trust ! They way they talk,the hand movements,the obnoxious attitudes,etc. !

    3. Mr. Sowell
      I’d take about anyone that is NOT a lying crooked career politician. But political commentaries without association to the shooting sports, I think has no place in this column

    4. I have enjoyed having Trump in the race. He has made for some great conversation and good tv. I would vote for him over Hillary or Bernie. But I will vote for a true conservative in the primaries.

    5. Why exactly is Cruz ineligible? Because he was born to an American citizen working in Canada at the timr of his birth?
      Would you also argue that the children of US service members born overseas are not citizens?

      Children of US citizens are US citizens. Period.

    6. Not a Trump hater ,but my gut tells me Trump is for Trump and is the Republican(?) version of obama!
      This country cannot afford another bad mouthing divider with no political experience other than donating to those that benefit his business efforts !

    7. The issue I see I is that Trump is the only Republican candidate that might have a chance to beat the Dems. We keep marching up candidates the public doesn’t want. With the electoral congress already stacked against us, the GOP has to sweep every swing state. They march up great orators who are actors that promise everything and anything and the tv cameras love. We march up tired looking old men who talk policy and reality. The MTV generation won’t buy it.. They aren’t evening listening.

      I don’t know if I trust Trump. Prior to this election bid I thought he was a total ass clown only seeking the limelight for himself. A joke. And I don’t know what his past political affiliations are but I’m sure it was all about what’s good for the Donald. I wonder if he isn’t egomaniacal enough to push the button to send nukes at some country that makes him mad and starts the final cataclysm. But he is the only candidate the GOP has that stands a ghost of chance.

    8. Trump is really just the opposite side of the same coin as Obama. Both will do or say anything to get what he wants and brag about it while doing so. Neither value the Constitution nor are constrained by it when it conflicts with what they desire. The positive side for Trump as compared to Obama is that A) Trump appears to actually like the US and doesn’t seem to want to intentionally destroy it (accidentally may be a different story) B) Trump has actually accomplished something in life. and C) The popular sentiments that Trump is pandering to are in exact opposition to goals Obama pursued/is pursuing. The questions then are How far can we trust Trump? and Is voting for him worth the risk?

      As for the first question, by Trump’s own admission the answer is only so far as what we trust him to do is consistent with what he wants to do and what is most beneficial to him. If we are trusting him not to compromise conservative values for personal or political gain, then we are fools.

      Now the second question depends on the situation. If the situation is a general election against Barack, Hillary, or Bernie then you pretty much have to take the risk. If the situation is a primary vs. at least one solid, principled conservative(as we are actually facing) then it is borderline insane to take such a risk.

    9. Thank you Mr. Sowell, very well and plainly stated. I can only hope that thinking voters really see Trump for the selfish egomaniac that he is. Understandably many Americans will vote against the democratic liberals put before them. But please not Trump.

    10. Trump admits (brags actually) that he bribes politicians, that’s a crime and typical of the prevailing ills in our political system.

    11. I think most white Americans are tired of being put down by Obama, the Clintons, and all Democrats. We will vote for the Republican who will stand up for us. I would vote for Putin before I would ever vote for the extension of Obama, Hillary or Sanders. The bottom line is the majority is sick and tired of being put down and run over by the minority. Like it or not, things are going to be shaken up in the 2016 elections and it’s far too late for the Democrats to say they changed their minds and back peddle. The gun grabbers are in for a real whipping too. Trump is not afraid to say what he thinks instead of what he thinks the minority wants him to say. That is his appeal to the majority of the American people.

    12. AHHH, another Trump hater. They are going into convulsions because they realize that Trump is going to win. I like Trump because he is not a political insider. I disagree with the article and firmly believe that Trump is an Alpha business man and that he is the best candidate to help us get out from under this national debt. He is also the strongest Pro 2 A candidate.

    13. What I meant to say was that I agree with Mr. Sowell, not this ass-clown “Jorge Norberto Pedace”. Senior Pedace is praising John Kerry – something I DON’T agree with.

    14. Hey “AmmoLand”. Help me understand why people who are supposed to cover “shooting sports news” would publish this article. Why would you insult such a large percentage of your customers/viewers/readers? The writer compares Obama supporters to Trump supporters. If you want to publish a hit-piece on a presidential candidate who MANY of your readers support I would call that a lack of judgement. But when the writer goes even further and insults everyone who supports him (MANY OF YOUR READERS) and yet you still publish it, I would call that just plain stupid and offensive.

    15. Con las debidas excusas y el perdón de quienes lean este comentario,creo más bien,que en estos momentos en
      nuestro querido y respetado por sus valores Estados Unidos de Norteamérica,se está viendo una crisis de valores
      en la cual el electorado ha entrado en la duda de convencimiento,sobre a que candidato puede darle su voto.
      Como Latino Americano,me atrevo a decir,que nuestros hermanos del Norte,tienen a un hombre valioso,que no lo
      están sabiendo mirar como merece,es el Embajador John Kerry,podeedor de una capacidad muy importante,a la
      vez que de un carisma político apreciable,prudente,sumamente inteligente para enfrentar los problemas de una
      gran nación,tolerante cuando corresponde,y dueño de una simpatía ciertamente encomiable y envidiable .Espere
      mos que el Gran Pueblo Americano sepa votar,para que el mundo libre tenga un liderazgo deseable

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