The Rhetorical Style of Donald Trump

By stancutler,

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Why Donald Trump Wins Primary Elections
The State Primary elections are like reality TV shows, serialized competitions between “real” people to determine who is the fittest, the best at playing whatever game the TV producers have invented to represent the struggles of ordinary life. Donald Trump is a gift to the news business, a skillful pitchman who attracts attention because he has a captivating style of presentation and offers the prospect of victory over all of America’s enemies. The Donald’s success in the Republican State Primary elections is attributable to his understanding of levels of voter psychology that are so deep that most people can’t articulate them. For those who vote for him, he is a worthy champion for white Christian Americans who feel that they’ve been losing control of their nation to domestic minorities and foreign villains.
We are wired for drama. Watching TV is like attending to a tribal elder retelling tales of glory around our village fire. To the conglomerated media companies, of which CNN and Fox are divisions within much larger enterprises, it’s all “content”. Drama, news and sports compel attention because they are adversarial: good vs. evil, us vs. them, strong vs. weak, skilled vs. inept, and so on. In this conception, State Primary Elections are highly salable content with a competitive structure and compelling characters whom we perceive as heroes or villains, else the stories make no sense to us.
Certainly there are democratic reasons for the evolution of the State Primary system of selecting candidates. Undeniably, the process serves a vital need to identify politicians who can be effective leaders of our Federal Government. But it’s important to remember that the current Primary system evolved as part of a media ecology, symbiotically integrated with the development of electronic communications technologies and conglomerated companies with the financial resources required to develop and use them. The State Primary system is, therefore, a commercial domain. Our democracy is now at least as responsive to market forces as it is to democratic principles. For me, a romantic who deeply loves democracy, this is tragic. I want to elect statesmen, not hustlers.
Donald Trump is a hustler. If you can bring yourself to watch him, notice how he uses language in his pitch.
• Triples: Professional persuaders know that if you say something three times it is more compelling than saying it once, twice, or four times. It’s called “the rule of three” and is taught to sales professionals on the first day of class.
• Pronouns: Trump speaks directly to the audience, continually addressing them as you, we, us (you know this… that’s all we want… we all know this is true)
• Switching – introduces new “issues” in rapid succession, attuned to short attention spans, redirecting interest before the audience can ponder the logic of the previous topic
• No shades of gray: Extreme descriptions (“great” “fabulous” “awful” “horrible” “stupid” “brilliant”, “liar”, “no good dirty rotten”)
• Short stories. Trump expressively explains every “issue” as the story of a person (like us) competing with “them”.
• Dramatic, urgent, tone of voice,
• High stakes: Pride in America The Exceptional – EVERYTHING we hold dear is threatened
• Instinct – He has extraordinary talent, highly evolved traits of a born persuader
• Cognitive Dissonance: Repetitive establishment of dissonance (triggering a bad feeling) quickly followed by the balm, cognitive consonance, a way to make the bad feeling go away – Donald Trump (and whatever he happens to be selling)
• Promissory: Rest assured, I guarantee, I promise
• Sincerity: He has the confidence of a megalomaniac. Somebody as great as him can’t be wrong. He absolutely believes in whatever he’s saying.
• Ends, not means. He’s uninterested in the details of acheivement, knowing that the prize is more attractive than the effort
Frighteningly, Donald Trump is a successful media entrepreneur. His television reality show, The Apprentice, is proof. He boasts about his ratings as if audience share is ipso facto proof of his worth, of his virtue. He is the unique product of the the media ecology, a creature of the Television Age. He has perfectly exploited the opportunities suited to his talents. He has not governed, a very different challenge than the real estate business and the ratings game. If he becomes President of The United States …

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