Saturday, December 26, 2015

ANS -- The Christmas story is all about God divesting Himself of power

Here is an interesting philosophical / theological article for those of you who indulge.  The comments are closed and there are over 1100 of them, but you can imagine the tones exhibited....

The Christmas story is all about God divesting Himself of power

Giles Fraser
At the centre of the drama is a helpless baby. But how many people would be prepared to follow a powerless God?
New born baby
 'A religion of the baby, one that has foresworn hard power, can no longer be a warrior religion. This is not a religion that can support Trident. Nor can it have any need of seats in the House of Lords.' Photograph: Tanya Little/Getty

Friday 19 December 201409.36 ESTLast modified on Friday 19 December 201419.08 EST

When the American theologian Thomas JJ Altizer first published his work on Christian atheism back in the 1960s, he received an avalanche of hostility, including death threats. But most people were just plain puzzled. Christians believe in some big God up in the sky. Atheists don't. There is no middle path. Surely it's that simple. So Altizer's big idea that the project of the Christian God was progressively to work himself out of existence, found few friends on either side of the God argument.

The fancy footwork of Hegelian dialectics – refusing to accept the simple binary of God existing/not existing – just did not cut it in an age where God's existence had become such a raw issue politically. Nonetheless, Altizer's account of the Christian God being in a gradual process of divesting himself of His God-ness is a pretty good way of recapturing some of the puzzlement and shock value of the original Christmas story. "He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant," is how St Paul described the incarnation in a letter to new Christians at Philippi. This word "emptied" – kenosis in Greek – has been argued about by scholars ever since. To some it implied that, in becoming human, God was almost giving up divinity, or at least giving up something of the power that we often associate with it. From here on in, God would cry, bleed, and (horror of horrors) defecate. No longer omnipotent nor omniscient, He would be vulnerable to the constituent conditions of humanity. And all this seemed a bit too much like the beginnings of atheism. Like a prince becoming a pauper, or Prospero throwing away his magic.

Yet the astonishing assertion of the Christmas story is that the God who comes as a pathetic child is all the more God-like for the total evacuation of power. It's a birth story at one with what would become the central message of His teaching: the first will be last and the last first. It sounds like a phrase from the French revolution, with the mighty being pulled off their thrones and the weak being held up high. But it's the buried message of Christianity, extravagantly heralded in the festival we know as Christmas. At Christmas, God becomes a child. Power is divested. Might and right no longer nestle comfortably together. But how many people would follow this new God if He were no longer able to smite enemies or call down a plague of frogs? For what the Gospel drama goes on to demonstrate is that if might (in this case, the Romans) and right (in this case, Jesus) point in different directions, many haven't the guts to follow what is right.


Of course, none of this is in the slightest bit acceptable to an institutional church that has looked to the state for comfort, protection and kudos. No Christian coronation service is going to proclaim the first being last, or the mighty being pulled off their thrones. No state is going to hold up banners to a powerless poverty-stricken God screaming in a dirty shed. Indeed the whole reason Christianity came to have official status with European political leaders is because the Emperor Constantine superstitiously believed it helped him win battles. Talk about getting the wrong end of the stick. The Christianity of Christmas is not the religion of a warrior like David – despite the irony that He was born in David's city. A religion of the baby, one that has forsworn hard power, can no longer be a warrior religion. This is not a religion that can support Trident. Nor can it have any need of seats in the House of Lords.

I know, this is a Christmas column and you might have been expecting carols and community. But this sentimental stuff is such a massive distraction from the earth-shatteringly radical nature of the Christmas story which tells us to forget about the God of power. That's not what God looks like. No, when thinking of God, imagine a tiny child, unable even to look after itself. Still, 2,000 years later, the full theological and political consequences of this astonishing about-turn continue to be lost, forgotten, betrayed, ignored and denied – and I'm talking about by us religious people.


ANS -- The General Election Electoral Vote Map: Hillary vs. Bernie

Here is one person's picture of what is likely to happen at teh 2016 election.  Read it.  It's important.  Find it here:    --Kim

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The General Election Electoral Vote Map: Hillary vs. Bernie

All elections are decided by turnout, but given how closely divided the American electorate is, the 2016 Presidential election is even more sensitive than the norm to turnout. 2016 will be decided by which party has the candidate that can accomplish three things: generate enthusiasm from their own base, add new members to that base, and doesn't inspire the other side's base to turn out in opposition.

In my view, who the Republicans nominate will have minimal effect on turnout; all of their candidates are roughly equal in motivating both bases and independents. The real variable will be who the Democrats nominate: Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. I am not the world's leading expert on elections but I do study politics for a living and I have followed US politics very closely for over 30 years. Based on what I have learned from past election results and applying that to the trends in this election cycle, here are the two possible electoral maps.

If Democrats Nominate Hillary Clinton:

Extreme? No. A Hillary nomination moves the General into Mondale or Dukakis territory. Polls consistently show Hillary's Unfavorable rating exceeding 50% and she is seen as dishonest and untrustworthy by 61% of Americans--that's greater than Trump, Hillary starts the race from behind, name-recognition her only asset, and with undecideds on her in single-digits, she has no path to victory.

But why the near landslide loss? It's a perfect storm, led by the nation's mood. Over two-thirds think we are on the wrong track. People want change. Hillary is The Establishment politics-as-usual candidate in an election cycle where a significant portion of the American electorate is demanding change. Hillary turns off every American wanting change which includes significant portions of the Democratic base. If Hillary is the nominee, there will be record low turnout from traditional Democratic constituencies like students, labor unions, and minorities. She will get little support from Progressives many of whom will, if they vote at all, vote Green. Among independents, Hillary is viewed unfavorably by a large majority (net -27 in the latest poll), and she strongly motivates the Republican base to vote to defeat her--Conservatives hate her even more than they hate Obama. A Hillary nomination guarantees Republican victory.

My only real doubt on this map is Illinois--Hillary could lose that state also if Chicago turnout is low enough to be overcome by downstate Republican votes. Some will express surprise that I predict Pennsylvania would go Republican but that state is far more in play than some pundits realize. Outside of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the state is solidly Conservative and therefore, a large turnout in the large cities is needed to overcome that. If the Democratic nominee cannot inspire a large turnout from the base and attract independents, Democrats cannot win. Similar arguments back my predictions about Virginia, North Carolina. Minnesota, and Colorado--states that would easily go Democratic if there is a candidate who motivates above average turnout from the Left. The balance is so on edge that Democratic turnout losing even 5% turns a comfortable victory into a huge defeat. Which leads us to the other possible electoral map.

If Democrats Nominate Bernie Sanders:

Does Bernie really make that much difference? Yes, because even a 5% swing of turnout means that many states flip from one column to the other. Bernie is the only candidate offering change and whether you like his Progressive ideas or not, Bernie is clearlynot an Establishment, status quo candidate. Arguably, even a smaller change in turnout could make this dramatic of a shift. Bernie excites the Democratic base far more than Hillary does, and he brings new voters into the Party who would sit out if Hillary is the nominee. Bernie polls better against Republicans with independents and rather than call Republicans to the barricades in opposition like Hillary does, Bernie actually attracts some Republican votes. Unions will find it much easier to motivate their members to turn out for pro-worker Bernie than for Corporatist Hillary and that swings Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania into the Democratic side.  My one doubt on this map is Wisconsin, which bizarrely thinks Scott Walker is acceptable. But even if Bernie can't carry Wisconsin and even Virginia and North Carolina, he still wins.

Mostly, it comes down to Ohio and Florida. These are states that slightly lean to Republicans, particularly on Conservative hot button social issues. so the question is whether the Democrats can offer a populist pro-working class message to overcome that. Hillary does not offer that; Bernie does.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

ANS -- The Second Amendment Check Boycott List

Here is a post by the NRA listing companies they think are bad (and want you to boycott) because they don't allow guns in their sites.  It has been recommended we use this boycott list in reverse and patronize these companies BECAUSE they don't want guns in their places of business.  For what it's worth:

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The Second Amendment Check Boycott List

All companies we boycott have received a 2ACheck rating of "F" for their lack of respect for the rights of gun owners.  Your experience with some of these companies will vary based on location, however, the boycott is based on the corporate policy toward responsible gun owners.

We believe guns in the hands of good people make everyone safer.  We encourage freedom loving Americans to boycott anti-gun companies until they improve their policy.  Please share this page.

We also strongly recommend everyone know the firearms laws applicable in their own state, and states they travel through.  We recommend something like the Traveler's Guide to Firearms Laws.

Print this image and post it publicly for all to see, take it with you, give it to friends, etc.

 Boycott List 2014.09.22

We are attempting to provide detailed rationale for the entries on this list.  Some, but not all have been provided.  We are working to get the rest updated ASAP.  Click on the name of a company below to learn valuable information about the company, its policy and other brands under the same corporate umbrella.

We provide you with contact information for every company on the list. We encourage you to contact them for the following reasons:

1) Verify for yourself that we have accurately described their behavior

2) Inform the company that they have lost your business

3) Encourage them to change their policy to be more respectful of the rights of gun owners if they want to earn your business.  Our long-term goal should be to try to influence them to respect our rights.  Never be rude.  Always be polite.


  1. A & P
  2. AMC Theatres
  3. BB&T Bank
  4. Bloomin' Brands (Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill and others)
  5. Brinker International (Chili's and Maggiano's)
  6. Buffalo Wild Wings
  7. California Pizza Kitchen
  8. Carmike Cinemas
  9. CBL & Associates Properties (Shopping Malls)
  10. CBS
  11. Chuck E. Cheese's
  12. Cinemark Theatres
  13. CNN/Time Warner
  14. Comcast/NBC Universal
  15. Costco
  16. Forest City Enterprises (Shopping Malls)
  17. General Growth Properties (Shopping Malls)
  18. Goodyear
  19. Groupon
  20. hhgregg
  21. Hooters
  22. Howard Hughes Corporation (Shopping Malls)
  23. IKEA
  24. Jack in the Box / Qdoba Mexican Grill
  25. Jo-Ann Stores
  26. Macerich (Shopping Malls)
  27. Modell's Sporting Goods
  28. Paragon Theaters
  29. Peet's Coffee and Tea
  30. Regal Cinemas
  31. Simon (Shopping Malls)
  32. Southern Theatres
  33. Sprouts Farmers Market
  34. Square
  35. Sterling Jewelers (Kay, Jared, Shaw & others)
  36. T.G.I. Friday's (and all Carlson Companies)
  37. The New York Times Company
  38. Toy's R Us / Babies R Us
  39. US Bank
  40. Value City Furniture
  41. Waffle House
  42. Walgreens
  43. Whole Foods Market

Thursday, December 03, 2015

ANS -- Former CEO found guilty of conspiracy in West Virginia mine explosion

Here is a small article about something finally going the way of justice.  
Just out of curiosity, did you hear about this anywhere else?
Sorry about the rough formatting -- it wouldn't cooperate.  

Former CEO found guilty of conspiracy in West Virginia mine explosion

Jury finds former coal executive Don Blankenship guilty of a conspiracy to commit safety violations that resulted in an April 2010 explosion that killed 29

Massey Energy mine explosion West Virginia Don Blankenship
 The Massey Energy Co CEO, Don Blankenship, speaks to reporters in Montcoal, West Virginia, in 2010. Photograph: Haraz N Ghanbari/AP

Thursday 3 December 2015 14.13 ESTLast modified on Thursday 3 December 201517.31 EST

Don Blankenship, the "outlaw" former coal executive and enemy of environmentalists, has been found guilty of a conspiracy over events that led to a deadly mine explosion in West Virginia.

Nine days of jury deliberation, which was put on hold over the Thanksgiving, have resulted in Blankenship being found guilty of a conspiracy to commit safety violations at the mine. But he has been acquitted of charges that he made false statements and committed securities fraud.

An explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in April 2010 killed 29 miners. A jury deliberated over the fate of Blankenship for six weeks, hearing testimony from 27 witnesses and sifting through more than 500 pieces of evidence.

Blankenship, 65, is the former chief executive of Massey Energy, a coal company that was acquired by Alpha Natural Resources in 2011.

A protester holds a sign behind Don L Blankenship during a Senate hearing on mine safety 20 May 2010 in Washington, DC.
 A protester holds a sign behind Don L Blankenship during a Senate hearing on mine safety in 2010. Photograph: Scott J Ferrell/CQ-Roll Call,Inc

He was charged with three criminal counts over his role in dodging federal mine safety laws at the Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County. He was also accused of committing fraud through a statement sent to shareholders following the mine explosion. He denied all of the charges from the outset.

Federal regulators said a series of unsafe practices led to the explosion, with US attorney Booth Goodwin telling court that "Don Blankenship ran a massive criminal conspiracy". Goodwin said an internal memo shows that Blankenship was aware of measures to make the mines safe but chose to not do so. Blankenship, according to Goodwin, was an "outlaw" who pushed miners to continue extracting coal in hazardous conditions.

Bill Taylor, Blankenship's defence attorney, said the federal government had provided "no witnesses, no proof" to back up its charges. Taylor had moved for a mistrial, arguing that the long distance travel required of jurors and the looming Thanksgiving holiday increased the likelihood of a rushed decision. Judge Irene Berger rejected the request.

Democratic senator for West Virginia Joe Manchin said he was pleased with the verdict.

"With this verdict, the state of West Virginia has set precedents and signaled that we will not allow the prioritization of production and profits over the safety of our workers," he said.

"While nothing can ever bring back the 29 beloved souls who we lost on that tragic day, I hope that today brings some closure and peace to the families of the miners."

The makers of Blood on the Mountain, a new documentary about environmental and economic injustice in West Virginia, also welcomed the outcome.

"This verdict has finally held a coal company executive criminally responsible for his crimes against his own workers for his own greed," said Mari-Lynn Evans, the film's director and producer.

"This guilty verdict affirms our faith in justice, and it will have a tremendous a tremendous and lasting impact on how the coal industry does business. For West Virginians, this verdict affirms that the lives of our coal miners is more important than the cost of a mule."

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Fwd: see below

Dear ANS group  -- This is forwarded from one of our readers.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: <
Date: Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 8:17 AM
Subject: see below

France Vows To Take In 30,000 Syrian Refugees, Makes Republicans Look Like Cowards

Author: November 18, 2015 11:35 aIt has long been said that the true definition of courage isn't the absence of fear, but rather the ability to take action in the face of fear. In the wake of a horrific terror attack in the heart of Paris, France's actions are about as courageous as could ever be asked of its people.

Despite the fear-mongering and the pressure from right-wing elements in both France and the United States, France's president Francois Hollande renewed his vow to take in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and urged Parisians not to allow a few terrorists to stop them from living their lives to the fullest.

"30,000 refugees will be welcomed over the next two years. Our country has the duty to respect this commitment," explaining that they will undergo vigorous security checks.

Hollande noted that "some people say the tragic events of the last few days have sown doubts in their minds," but called it a "humanitarian duty" to help those people … but one that will go hand in hand with "our duty to protect our people"We have to reinforce our borders while remaining true to our values," he said.

The French people have been remarkably brave throughout the harrowing ordeal. It's the right-wing elements in America, thousands of miles away, that have truly succumbed to the fear. In state after state, Republican governors announced that they would be attempting to block any Syrian refugees from being resettled there. In Congress, the GOP quickly drafted up legislation that would – depending on who was writing it – ban all refugees or ban all refugees but the Christian ones.

All of this was done directly in the face of the evidence emerging from the Paris investigation. In fact, no Syrian refugee has thus far been named as one of the terrorists. They principally came from the EU itself. A Syrian passport made to look like a refugees turned out to be a fake – possibly planted by ISIS to sow confusion.

Refugees more generally have a remarkably low chance of being future assailants. Out of the 784,000 Muslims taken in by the United States since 9/11, one has been arrested for being involved in terrorism. The facts are clear: refugees do not pose a threat. They are rigorously screened, interviewed, and checked. You wouldn't know any of this if you simply listened to what Republican leaders are saying. Chris Christie recently swore he would block even "5-year-old orphans" from coming into his state, because he didn't want to take the "risk." Ted Cruz, whose father was a refugee from Cuba, is actively trying to ban non-Christians from being allowed into the United States. A Tennessee politician is now working on deporting the Syrians already living in his state and "politely take them back."

Thankfully, President Obama and many Democratic governors have stood firm against this growing xenophobic rhetoric. Like Hollande, Obama has vowed to uphold the United States' moral duty by helping averting the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Middle East. At a recent press conference, he called out Republicans for their not-so-brave stances in the face of unfortunate victims of strife.

"At first they were too scared of the press being too tough on them in the debates. Now they are scared of 3-year-old orphans. That doesn't seem so tough to me."

If they ever want to get serious about being tough, Hollande just gave them an perfect example of how to do it.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

ANS -- Simply Red: The Con-Man Behind the Rightwing's Starbucks Cup Freak-Out

Here's an article about who is behind the supposed right wing outrage about Starbucks' all red Christmas cup not being Christian enough (they left off the snowflakes and Santas!).  It's about a con man.  Interesting.  

Wednesday Nov 11, 2015  1:50 PM PST
Feuerstein: Conning for Jesus

When I read that the latest persecution of the rightwing Christian involved Starbucks changing their cups to red for the holiday season, I thought that the War on Christmas had officially hit rock bottom.

The MSM jumped all over the story about a video from a "pastor" saying the red cups Starbucks is using for the holiday season aren't Christmas enough and that Starbucks literally "hates Jesus". Video goes viral and rightwing is outraged.  This whole thing is beyond stupid, even for them. 

Are you guys REALLY upset over the color of a cardboard cup?  If the color red upsets you so much, wouldn't you logically be more upset with every other franchise out there that isn't even bothering to change their damn cup color for the holidays?  Ya know, because it's freaking expensive and stupid!?  Besides, all of the past Starbucks holiday cup designs have been pretty darn secular—so why are you pissed now?

It wasn't until I finally read one of the articles that I came across the name of the man who spawned this latest freak-out:  Joshua Feuerstein.  In none of the countless articles does the  MSM bother to discuss who this clown is.   So allow me:

Joshua Feuerstein is a self-described evangelist and "social-media personality".  I recognized his name because he is the same asshat who harassed one of my local bakeries (and illegally recorded the phone call) because they refused to fill a fake order for an anti-gay cake.  His followers bombarded their Facebook site with Ben Carson-like yarns of their supposed "bad experiences" with the bakery.  Astoundingly, all of these reviews happened immediately after the date Joshua posted his hate-filled video.  The bakery had to temporarily close in response to the harassment, which included death threats. 

In response, I asked people in this community to fight back.  You did. The bakery raised needed cash to offset their losses, got a lot of Likes on their Facebook page to offset Joshua's minions, and a boatload of new customers.  (The owner also made this 5-tier delicious smack down.)

As despicable as this guy was, I took him at his word that he was just a preacher with an obvious persecution complex.  However, I have since learned that Feuerstein is much worse than that: he's a con artist.

First off, he is an entitled brat who, according to this video, apparently lives quite well sponging off of his mega-rich parents.  Yet he is not above e-begging his duped followers to raise money for a $20,000 camera that he claimed he absolutely had to have to make YouTube videos.  His followers, unable to think of anything better to donate to, gladly gave him the money and Joshua utterly ****** thanked them. Yet his videos since he has raised the funds, from the bakery harassment video to his latest red cup diatribe, seem to have been shot on a cellphone.  Peoplerightfully asked where the camera was that he promised to buy.  He was even confronted directly and admitted he didn't buy it after all.  Meanwhile, his social media is filled with pictures of outrageously expensive shoes, jewlery and watches.  I mean VERY Expensive Watches.

On his site, you can buy T-shirts, DVDs, and even apparently become a monthly "partner" where he asks that you give him 50 dollars a month so he can supposedly stop people from committing suicide.  I have no idea what kind of suicide prevention requires a monthly installment plan, but then again, I'm not a con-man.

None of the articles I've seen mention any of this, but instead take his nonsensical rant at face value and allow him a ton of exposure as some sort of representative of the discord among Christians today.  It is not real.  I don't buy for a second that a man like him was driven bonkers over a stupid red cup.  What he saw was an opportunity to gin up the faux outrage machine and grow his pool of poor suckers, while the media obliged without the slightest insight into his past. 

I get very sick of the media's complicity. In my own neighborhood last year, news channels swarmed at Carillon Elementary where a child was supposedly told she was not allowed to pray.  Most of the media reported it breathlessly as such.  The man who "broke the story" was Todd Starnes.   No one witnessed the incident.  The man whose child this happened to?  Marcos Perez, who was in charge of promoting Todd Starnes'  latest book that coincidentally was on the imaginary assault on Christianity.

To be sure, there is a very real threat to Christianity.  Yet it is not atheists, homosexuals, Muslims, or even red paper cups that threaten Christianity. 

It is shysters.

People with no soul who prey on Christian followers and rob them financially and spiritually not only hurt their flock, but give all religion a bad name by making it unpalatable for so many who see things like this and equate those seeking strength through faith as paranoid and stupid. 

Want to know why religion is on the decline, Joshua?  Look in the mirror.  No man of faith would ever want to face the afterlife after scamming susceptible followers in Jesus' name.  I sure as hell wouldn't want to be in your shoes, and not just because they are so damn ugly.

Thursday, Nov 12, 2015 · 2:38:17 PM +00:00 · SemDem

The backlash Joshua is getting isn't an attack on Christianity, as he would have you believe, but a defense of it.  There is a facebook page called Exposing Joshua Fraudstein that doesn't have many nice things to say about him. Here I learned there is a real charity for Christians who face real persecution called Voice of the Martyrs.  However, may we recommend that you donate directly to them, as opposed to raising money off their name and saying you will give them money.

Friday, November 27, 2015

ANS -- I asked psychologists to analyze Trump supporters. This is what I learned.

Here's another article about the psychology of conservatives.  It's interesting.  Someone needs to compile all the real info on this and get deeper into it.  In the meantime, this is worth reading. 

I asked psychologists to analyze Trump supporters. This is what I learned.

(Rachel Orr, The Washington Post)

CALL him whatever names you like. A clown. A Know Nothing. A political greenhorn who can barely complete a sentence. A nativist, a racist and -- worse -- a New York liberal with a comb-over

You can call him a blowhard if you want, but -- to the consternation of the conservative elite and to the surprise of just about everybody else inside the Beltway -- Donald Trump won't blow off.

The press mocked his rambling, hour-long speech at the launch of his campaign, in which he disparaged Mexican immigrants as "rapists." Few thought he could remain popular after saying that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), imprisoned for more than five years in Vietnam after his plane was shot down, was "not a war hero." Political scientists forecast that Trump would fade.

But as the summer of Trump lingers into autumn, the real estate magnate remains the front-runner in the Republican presidential primary. The political establishment is flummoxed, and at least one of its members has concluded that Trump's supporters are just insane.

"What he did was, he fired up the crazies," McCain said after Trump held a rally in Phoenix.

From a psychological perspective, though, the people backing Trump are perfectly normal. Interviews with psychologists and other experts suggest one explanation for the candidate's success -- and for the collective failure to anticipate it: The political elite hasn't confronted a few fundamental, universal and uncomfortable facts about the human mind.

We like people who talk big.

We like people who tell us that our problems are simple and easy to solve, even when they aren't.

And we don't like people who don't look like us.

Most people share these characteristics to some degree, but they seem to be especially prevalent among Trump's base. Trump's appeal certainly has other sources, too, such as the nostalgia he so skillfully evokes, his financial independence from special interests, and the crucial fact that he had his own reality TV show. Some Republicans like Trump's anti-establishment approach. And many support Trump because of his substantive positions -- his views on immigration, his antipathy toward China, his defense of Social Security, or his opposition to tax deductions for wealthy bankers.

But given the gap between public support for Trump and elite opinion, it may be worth thinking about the ingrained predilections for confidence, simplicity and familiarity that are just a few of the reasons that psychologists gave when asked to explain exactly how Trump got yuge.

"Really, we're not giving people enough credit," argues John Hibbing, a psychologist at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. "We have to take this seriously. You can look down your nose if you want to, but these people aren't going away."

We like big talkers

"If you're running for president, you should not be allowed to use a teleprompter," Trump likes to say. He doesn't on the stump. As a result, his typical speech is a congeries of tangents and digressions.

Even if Trump showed any strong inclination to speak in complete and eloquent sentences, though, his wildly cheering crowds wouldn't let him finish one.

Trump doesn't give the kinds of speeches that political consultants are used to hearing. He certainly doesn't deliver lines that are carefully formulated for applause and for prime-time sound bites. His style has been called a "word salad."

Still, he is an effective speaker, psychologists say. In fact, decades of research show that charisma has more to do with a person's demeanor than what he or she is saying, says Stanford University's Jeffrey Pfeffer.

In one series of well-known experiments conducted by the psychologists Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal, subjects were able to predict how students in a college classroom would evaluate their teachers at the end of the term, based on 30 seconds or less of soundless footage of the instructor. The subjects in the study couldn't hear the words coming out of the instructor's mouth, but what mattered for the students was gesture and affect, not substance.   

Voters listening to politicians on television are just like the students in those classrooms, says Pfeffer, a psychologist who studies leadership.

"Most of the electorate would not pass a test on what anybody's positions are on anything," he said. "Nobody cares." Conservative voters, for instance, seem not to mind Trump's favorable comments on national health insurance andeminent domain.

What can win over voters is what Pfeffer called "narcissism."

"They're responding to dynamism, to force, to movement, to smiling, to facial expressions that convey authority," he said. Trump "does it with more force. He does it with more energy. Energy is contagious."

Arie Kruglanski, a psychologist at the University of Maryland, compares Trump's campaign to President Obama's in 2008. The two men have different styles, but both have animated their supporters with confident claims about the future.

"It's the audacity of those promises in those circumstances that really carries a lot of weight," Kruglanski said, "and it's the emotional, as opposed to the kind of deliberative, rational appeal that carries the day."

Both conservative and liberal voters can be susceptible to this kind of thinking. In other ways, though, psychologists believe that conservative and liberal minds work differently, which could help explain Trump's success with Republicans.

We want answers

The world can feel like a complicated place. There may be no good answers to the problems we confront individually and as a society. It is hard to know whom or what to believe. Things are changing, and the future might be different in unpredictable ways. For many people, this uncertainty is deeply unpleasant.

"People are just inclined to say, 'Okay, to hell with it. I'm not going to figure it out,' " Kruglanski said.

That desire is especially strong among social conservatives, research shows. They want answers, more so than other people.

One way that psychologists measure these preferences is by giving people a questionnaire that poses statements such as, "It's annoying to listen to someone who cannot seem to make up his or her mind," "I dislike it when a person's statement could mean many different things" and "In most social conflicts, I can easily see which side is right and which is wrong."

Conservative subjects are more likely to agree with these statements, whether psychologists give this test in the United StatesGermanyItalyBelgium orPoland.

Over the years, conservative commentators have objected to this characterization of their beliefs. They argue that conservatism isn't a psychological condition, but a set of ideas with a rich intellectual history, developed across generations through rational deliberation.

For their part, psychologists have responded that they aren't dismissing conservativism as irrational. After all, just because people are predisposed to believe something doesn't make them wrong. Saying someone is more likely to find an argument persuasive because of their psychology doesn't invalidate the argument. As psychologists see it, the desire for simplicity is just a fact about the way people think — one that several decades of research has now confirmed.

Hibbing of the University of Nebraska says this need for clarity is important to understanding Trump's support.

"People like the idea that deep down, the world is simple; that they can grasp it and that politicians can't," Hibbing said. "That's certainly a message that I think Trump is radiating."

Hibbing believes there may be a genetic reason for the differences between liberal and conservative minds, but the explanation is more of a hypothesis than a conclusion.

At Hibbing's laboratory, he and his colleagues study how conservative and liberal subjects react to unpleasant images, such as insects and injuries. They use cameras to track the motion of their subjects' eyes and place electrodes on their skin. Other researchers study the contractions of facial muscles and electrical activity in the brain.

These experiments show that conservative subjects react differently from liberal ones. They sweat more heavily when shown a picture of a dangerous animal. Their pupils focus on disgusting images, and they don't look away.

It's evidence that we don't develop political affiliations just by rationally evaluating competing philosophies and ideologies. Our opinions also have origins beneath the level of conscious thought, in our bodies and our brains.

In that sense, the desire for simplicity could be physical. And Trump has a way of responding to complicated questions as though the answers were so obvious, he is dumbfounded that no one else has figured them out yet.

A recent interview with Bloomberg News reveals this approach.

After nearly allowing himself to be drawn into a debate about whether women should be able to have abortions early in their pregnancies, he brushed the question aside.

"I'm pro-life, but with the caveats. It's: Life of the mother (very important), incest and rape," Trump said.

"Say a woman is pregnant, and it's not in any of those exception categories and she chooses to have an abortion," Bloomberg's Mark Halperin said.

"It depends when," said Trump, interrupting him.

"Let's say, early in her pregnancy," Halperin said.

Trump did not answer the question about timing. Perhaps he realized he was about to enmesh himself in nuance.

"Mark, it's very simple," he said. "Pro-life."

And Trump just dismisses experts on security who say his plans to build a wall along remote stretches of the Mexican border would be extremely expensive, if not practically impossible.

The wall "is absolutely buildable and can be built for far less cost than people think," he said when asked about these criticisms. "It's not even a difficult project if you know what you're doing."

We put ourselves into groups

Following Obama's victory in his last election, the Republican National Committee produced a report calling on the party to do a better job of appealing to voters of color, especially Hispanic voters. More specifically, the Republican Party has long argued that if the economy is larger, everyone will be better off. Republican proponents of immigration reform often cite studies predicting substantial gains in economic performance.

Trump has done the reverse, appealing to people who could be especially averse to the presence of immigrants in their communities. The notion that improving the lives of immigrants would also help people living here already is profoundly counterintuitive, experts say, and that could be one reason that so many people find Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric so persuasive.

"Humans have a kind of tribal psychology," said Joseph Henrich, a biologist at Harvard University who studies the species's evolution.

In particular, humans tend to assume that if one group is getting more, another group must be getting less. We have a hard time understanding that two groups can both be getting more of something at the same time. Call it a cognitive blindspot, or a psychological illusion.

Henrich believes this zero-sum outlook could be a result of millennia of competition among our ancestors for limited resources such as land and mating partners. "You can find some degree of it in every human society," he said. "It varies dramatically across societies and populations, but it does pop up everywhere."

There is also evidence that this possibly ancient predisposition is shaping American politics today. Michael Norton, a psychologist at the Harvard Business School, has found that on average, whites now view discrimination against members of their own race as a larger problem than discrimination against blacks.

His explanation is that whites see competition between groups as zero sum. Whites assume that they must be worse off, since the legal and economic situation for blacks has improved. Research also suggests that white voters with stronger prejudices against African Americans are more likely to support the conservative GOP faction known as the tea party.

Norton speculates that antipathy toward Latino immigrants has the same psychological source.

"What Trump is tapping into is the mindset of a zero-sum game," Norton said, which he called an "intuitive" way of looking at the economy and society.

"It's hard to imagine that if we're eating a pizza, that adding more people would somehow give us more pizza. It takes a much-longer-term perspective," Norton said.

The presence of immigrants could also compound other psychological responses, such as how conservatives deal with uncertainty. Kruglanski of the University of Maryland and his colleagues found that in the Netherlands, residents were less comfortable with uncertainty the more Muslims lived in their neighborhoods.

While immigration is good for the economy on the whole, there is some evidence that it can reduce the wages of unskilled workers born in the country. Trump draws heavily on less educated, blue-collar white voters for his support. Some people in this group may be right to see immigration as a zero-sum game.

Economists fiercely debate this point, but in any case, their arguments probably have less influence over voters than do the facts of human psychology.

It's not just Trump, but human nature

Trump has lost several percentage points in the polls recently. Maybe the infatuation is wearing thin, or maybe not. Either way, his candidacy has already revealed something important about this country, about the Republican Party and, above all, about who we are as people.

To win the nomination, he will have to win over some voters who now support his rivals, which he might not be able to do. If Trump can't gain support, though, he may also not lose it, either. He is, in part, the product and the image of our species's unconscious and its unchanging predispositions.

Human nature, though, is not destiny -- or so argues Hibbing of the University of Nebraska. Our innate propensities can be overcome through persuasion and principled leadership in the long term, he said.

He compares the human mind to an ocean-going tanker. Changing the ship's direction takes time, and a map with the new course clearly marked. Instead of dismissing them as crazies, political leaders will have to acknowledge their constituents' biases against all that is complex, uncertain and unfamiliar.

"I don't think we can pretend that that's not who we are," Hibbing said.

Max Ehrenfreund writes for Wonkblog and compiles Wonkbook, a daily policy newsletter. You can subscribe here. Before joining The Washington Post, Ehrenfreund wrote for the Washington Monthly and The Sacramento Bee.