Monday, December 7, 2015

Trump's Divisive Rhetoric

I believe that the worst human vice is our habit of dividing the world into us and them and insisting that we are good and they are bad. According to an analysis of Donald Trump's rhetoric carried out by the Times, this is the centerpiece of his appeal:
The most striking hallmark was Mr. Trump’s constant repetition of divisive phrases, harsh words and violent imagery that American presidents rarely use, based on a quantitative comparison of his remarks and the news conferences of recent presidents, Democratic and Republican. He has a particular habit of saying “you” and “we” as he inveighs against a dangerous “them” or unnamed other — usually outsiders like illegal immigrants (“they’re pouring in”), Syrian migrants (“young, strong men”) and Mexicans, but also leaders of both political parties.

At an event in Raleigh, N.C., on Friday evening, his voice scratchy and hoarse, Mr. Trump was asked by a 12-year-old girl from Virginia, “I’m scared — what are you going to do to protect this country?”

“You know what, darling? You’re not going to be scared anymore. They’re going to be scared. You’re not going to be scared,” Mr. Trump said, before describing the Sept. 11 terrorists as “animals” who sent their families back to the Middle East. “We never went after them. We never did anything. We have to attack much stronger. We have to be more vigilant. We have to be much tougher. We have to be much smarter, or it’s never, ever going to end.”
This is the appeal to the worst.

Another part of Trump's schtick is copied from other Republicans, his constant undermining of any notion of neutral truth:
Mr. Trump uses rhetoric to erode people’s trust in facts, numbers, nuance, government and the news media, according to specialists in political rhetoric. “Nobody knows,” he likes to declare, where illegal immigrants are coming from or the rate of increase of health care premiums under the Affordable Care Act, even though government agencies collect and publish this information. He insists that Mr. Obama wants to accept 250,000 Syrian migrants, even though no such plan exists, and repeats discredited rumors that thousands of Muslims were cheering in New Jersey during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
I continue to think that Trump's future is defeat and retirement, but I do worry about the steady attacks being mounted from many angles on the notion of truths we all have to accept. When combined with Us v. Them hostility, this might be the making of a future political disaster.

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