Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Follow-up: Trump's demagoguery fuels divisive tribalism in American politics and life

The New York Times performed an analysis of 95,000 words culled from Trump's speeches. That analysis revealed patterns common to other demagogues. Sample snippets follow.

The New York Times analyzed every public utterance by Mr. Trump over the past week from rallies, speeches, interviews and news conferences to explore the leading candidate’s hold on the Republican electorate for the past five months. The transcriptions yielded 95,000 words and several powerful patterns, demonstrating how Mr. Trump has built one of the most surprising political movements in decades and, historians say, echoing the appeals of some demagogues of the past century.

“ ‘We vs. them’ creates a threatening dynamic, where ‘they’ are evil or crazy or ignorant and ‘we’ need a candidate who sees the threat and can alleviate it,” said Matt Motyl, a political psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago who is studying how the 2016 presidential candidates speak. “He appeals to the masses and makes them feel powerful again: ‘We’ need to build a wall on the Mexican border — not ‘I,’ but ‘we.’ ”

And 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. ...

This pattern of elevating emotional appeals over rational ones is a rhetorical style that historians, psychologists and political scientists placed in the tradition of political figures like Barry Goldwater, George Wallace, Joseph McCarthy, Huey Long and Pat Buchanan, who used fiery language to try to win favor with struggling or scared Americans. Several historians watched Mr. Trump’s speeches last week, at the request of The Times, and observed techniques — like vilifying groups of people and stoking the insecurities of his audiences — that they associate with Wallace and McCarthy.

“His entire campaign is run like a demagogue’s — his language of division, his cult of personality, his manner of categorizing and maligning people with a broad brush,” said Jennifer Mercieca, an expert in American political discourse at Texas A&M University. “If you’re an illegal immigrant, you’re a loser. If you’re captured in war, like John McCain, you’re a loser. If you have a disability, you’re a loser. It’s rhetoric like Wallace’s — it’s not a kind or generous rhetoric.”

AZBlueMeanie reviews the results and indicts the Republican voters.

Trump continues to lead the GOP field with a double digit lead in Iowa CNN/ORC poll (12/7/15), and nationally USA Today/Suffolk (12/8/15), over another demagogue from the Christian Right, Ted “Calgary” Cruz. Michael Dougherty writes at The Week, “[I]t is hard to predict Cruz’s path forward, because it is difficult to think of a major party candidate more hated by his own party, Donald Trump notwithstanding.” Why even those who agree with Cruz don’t like him.

This is a damning indictment of Republican Party primary voters.

Those voters have been primed for someone like Trump for years and years by Republican politicians and their media shills. The result is a deep divide that used to be exclusively political that now runs through the fabric of American society, a divide created and deepened by Republican rhetoric. See my post on this below.

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