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Magical Thinking
Reading Time: 5 minutes

You might wonder why I’m thinking about magic so much. What if you let yourself think about magic for a moment? Your mind can make all kinds of connections. It’s as if your mind takes you on a journey inside when you think about magic. When you hear “magic,” you instantly feel like a kid, don’t you? Perhaps you can remember when magic was as real to you as your favorite pillow or a treasured blanket.

Remember when you read the Magic Letter yesterday? Try to remember where you were when you read that post and how the letter made you feel. You really should read the Magic Letter if you haven’t already. You can always come back to this later.

Welcome back.

You might feel you want to leave a comment on this post. Just say how you felt after you read the Magic Letter. Or maybe just tell me that you performed the magic trick. Did you make a wish for someone? You might want to tell me who. Or maybe you want to tell me what you wished for. You don’t have to tell me both, but you might feel better about yourself and your wish if you write a comment about one or the other. Commenting makes you feel like a good reader, doesn’t it?

I want you to now focus on that magic letter and pretend the person you wished for just got their wish. Look at the joy on this face. See the surprise in these eyes. Focus on the muscles in your face as you smile a little. That’s right. It’s natural to share their happiness. It’s as if you’re watching someone open a birthday present you made for them.

And now you know the power of magic. This was all magic and still is.

When you made your wish for someone, you felt better. It’s natural. It’s how you’re wired. Whether your wish did anything for the other person had no bearing on your feeling good. That’s magical thinking.

Magical thinking helps us feel better, which is why kids do it all the time. All the time. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Great Pumpkin come from magical thinking. And good things happen because of magical thinking. Good memories and great moments for the magical thinkers.

But magical thinking doesn’t mean a jolly fat man drives a team of reindeer all around the world delivering toys to kids. Magical thinking can make Santa Claus real to the mind, but magical thinking doesn’t make Santa a real person in the real world. Which is why most of us outgrow Santa Claus even though we never outgrow magical thinking.

And here’s where this all makes sense. But first a little about the science of magical thinking.

The field of psychology has a definition for magical thinking which you experienced when you read the Magic Letter:

a belief that merely thinking about an event in the external world can cause it to occur. It is regarded as a form of regression to an early phase of development. It may be part of ideas of reference, considered normal in those instances, or may reach delusional proportions when the individual maintains a firm conviction about the belief, despite evidence to the contrary. It may be seen in schizophrenia

You might find yourself feeling disillusioned, now. If the Magic Letter made you feel good, you might think I pulled a mean trick on you.

Please don’t. You shouldn’t feel that way because  the Magic Letter caused you to have healthy feelings of goodwill to others. And your goodwill to others reflected back on you, making you feel better. You can always feel better by thinking about someone and making a wish for them. It works. For you.

The Magic Letter evokes healthy magical thinking.

If you thought your goodwill could produce changes in the real world for other people, you put your best big toe across the line toward delusional thinking. But don’t be too worried. It’s natural to approach that line, especially since I tempted you to think delusionally. I did, I admit. I wanted you to feel the power of magical thinking for a moment. But I’m a fairly responsible person, so I’m now pulling you back from delusional thinking. I won’t let you cross the line completely into schizophrenia. I’m ethical that way.

Are we good? Good.

Now, this might make you sad, but some people have crossed the line and stayed crossed. Not because of the Magic Letter, but because of Donald Trump.

There are people calling themselves NeverTrump, and they embrace magical thinking in the bad way. The NeverTrump people maintain a firm conviction of the belief despite evidence to the contrary. Like schizophrenics.

NeverTrump has crossed the line, and they aren’t coming back.

I’m not a psychologist, and I don’t completely understand what NeverTrump people say. But their thinking goes something like this:

They wish Donald Trump weren’t the Republican nominee for President. They don’t like Hillary Clinton, either. And they firmly believe that a third party candidate will somehow win the election.

NeverTrump has crossed the line, and they aren’t coming back.

These NeverTrumpers have inspired an unknown guy named McMullin to run for President. NeverTrump admits that McMullin will get on the ballot in  only about nine or ten states. Yet NeverTrump believes McMullin will beat people who are on the ballot in all 50 states and DC.

They get really angry, these NeverTrumpers, if anyone asks them how this McMullin can win. Despite their anger, they explain a careful plot that requires millions of chance occurrences to occur in precise order and fashion. And these NeverTrumpers will tell you those millions of freak chances will occur just as they need them to occur because they’ve wished them to occur. Just like the Magic Letter.

NeverTrump has crossed the line, and they aren’t coming back.

The NeverTrump has memorized the Constitution, so they know that the House of Representatives picks the President if no one gets 270 electoral votes. They also know that the House must pick a President from the top three electoral vote-getters in the general election. And even though McMullin is on only nine or ten ballots, NeverTrump believes McMullin will get more electoral votes than two candidates who will be on 50 (or almost 50) state ballots.

The evidence is against NeverTrump. For example, McMullin is a Mormon, so they hope he’ll win in Utah. But Trump has a 15-point lead in Utah. Still, they think McMullin will win Utah.

NeverTrump has crossed the line, and they aren’t coming back.

According to Nate Silver’s forecasting, there’s about a 99 percent chance Trump and Clinton will combine to win all of the electoral votes. Every last one. If they tie at 270 each, the House will have to choose between the two of them. And even if McMullin were to win one or two electoral votes and become the third option for Congress, everyone suspects that picking McMullin would lead to civil unrest. You can imagine how people would revolt if Congress awarded the office to someone who lost by over 200 points.

So how could McMullin (or the other minor party candidates) get at least one electoral vote? Well, they’d have to win a plurality of votes in a state or they’d have to win a plurality of votes in a congressional district in either Maine or Nebraska.

It’s unlikely McMullin will be on the ballot in Maine or Nebraska, so he’ll have to win a state.

His best bet is Utah where Trump has a 15-point lead over Hillary Clinton. (I can’t find McMullin’s name on any polls.)

In short, the evidence says a McMullin win in 2016 is extremely unlikely. Let’s call the chances 0.000016.

Yet, NeverTrump believes it’s likely that McMullin will win. Some think it’s certain.

That’s the power of magical thinking taken to the delusional. NeverTrumpers get to believe that merely thinking about President McMullin will make him real. Like the Great Pumpkin.

It’s kind of sad when you think about. Really sad. Not just for the NeverTrumpers, but for the innocent conservatives who believe what the famous NeverTrumpers tell them. (I’m looking at you, Bill Kristol.) These innocents are like Sally Brown. They’re going to miss Halloween because the NeverTrump Linuses made them believe in the Great Pumpkin.

The next time I read the Magic Letter, I’m going to wish NeverTrump would get treatment for their Magical Thinking condition. I’ll feel better about myself, but I know they won’t get treatment.


Also published on Medium.

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