Inauguration Day Entrance (January 20, 2017)
(With a “Power to the People” Salute)
All-too-familiar hand gestures
Introduction: Synopsis of Trump’s speaking style and impact from Vox.com by a number of linguistic experts.
Geoffrey Pullum, a linguist at the University of Edinburgh, argues that there’s more going on than just a conversational with Trump. His unorganized sentences and short snippets might suggest something about how his mind works, saying: “His speech suggests a man with scattered thoughts, a short span of attention, and a lack of intellectual discipline and analytical skills. For example, more sophisticated thinkers and speakers (including many past presidents) are able to use “hypotaxis” — that is, embedding of clauses within clauses. Trump can’t seem to do that.”
Pullum further explains: “When you say something like, 'While Congress shows no interest in doing X, I feel that the American people believe it is essential,' the clause “it is essential is inside the clause the American people believe it is essential” which is inside the clause “I feel that the American people believe it is essential,” and so on. You get no such organized thoughts from Trump. His is bursts of noun phrases, self-interruptions, sudden departures from the theme, flashes of memory, and odd side remarks. That is disordered language of a person with a concentration problem.”
From George Lakoff, a linguist at UC Berkeley: “The thing about being a New Yorker is it is polite if you finish their sentences for them. It’s a natural part of conversation. This may be why Trump’s sentences often seem, in transcript form, to trail off with no ending because knows his audience can finish his sentences for him.”
Lakoff goes on to say another explanation for why Trump’s style of speaking is so appealing to many – that is his most famous-catchphrases are actually versions of time-tested speech mechanisms that salespeople use. They’re powerful because they help shape our unconscious.
Lakoff further says: “Trump’s frequent use of “Many people are saying…” or “Believe me” — he often uses right after saying something that is baseless or untrue. This tends to sound more trustworthy to listeners than just outright stating the baseless claim, since Trump implies that he has direct experience with what he’s talking about. At a base level, people are more inclined to believe something that seems to have been shared. And, when Trump kept calling Clinton “crooked Hillary” or referring to terrorists as “radical Muslims,” he strengthened the association through repetition.”
Mark Liberman a University of Pennsylvania linguist says: “Trump calls his supporters folks, to show he is one of them (though many politicians employ this trick). Trump doesn’t repeat phrases and adjectives because he is stalling for time and for the most part, he’s providing emphasis and strengthening the association.”
Liberman concludes: “Trump’s style has proven to be successful. He beat out a highly competitive field of lifelong Republicans and a seasoned politician like Hillary Clinton. He's confident enough to address large crowds conversationally and ad-lib on stage. That said, his rise can’t be attributed purely to his speaking style. It certainly has a lot to do with what he is actually saying. "If the content were different, I think it would come across as rambling and flabby and ineffective.”
Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a Calvin College historian concludes this way: In other words, when Trump’s audience finishes his sentences for him, the blanks are filled with sentiments that resonate: fears of joblessness, worries about the United States losing its status as a major world power, concerns about foreign terrorist organizations. Trump validates their insecurities and justifies their anger. He connects on an emotional level.” For listeners who identify with Trump, there is little they need to do but claim what they’re entitled to. No need for sacrifice, for compromise, for complexity. He taps into fear and insecurity, but then enables his audience to express that fear through anger. And anger gives the illusion of empowerment.”
Pullum concludes: “That doesn’t mean it will translate to effective leadership, however. As much as the American people look for authenticity and spontaneity in a president, which Trump seems to have mastered, they are also known to value discipline. Leadership is hard: It needs discipline, concentration, and an ability to ignore what's irrelevant or needless or personal or silly. There is no sign of it from Trump. This man talks honestly enough that you can see what he's like: He's an undisciplined narcissist who craves power but doesn't have the intellectual capacity to exercise it wisely.”
My summary for what it’s worth: No matter what the pundits, pollsters, politicians, or linguists say, it’s comes down to the people (as voters) and what they say or believe when they cast their vote. That’s all that matters in the end.
Fact — he won with the only vote that counts: The Electoral College vote. Yes, he lost the popular vote, but by all indicators he is still popular with those who voted for him (popular vote numbers aside).
There are so many factors that possibly impacted for the way people voted for him: Like raw hatred and name-calling of those he ran against. His clever and shrewd showmanship. He seems like he's in the center of a new TV show. He is an excellent, but not always right, pitchman, even as Marco Rubio once called him: “A con-artist” or like former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said “I know a con-man one when I see one.”
Trump is polished in that regard and he has been decades even with a crappy legal record (e.g., Trump University fraud case) or his many huge business failures. He keeps at it.
Now he has the biggest stage and show with the biggest audience and biggest payday: The world stage with billions watching him. He loves it; he thrives on it; and he needs it like food, water, and air. All that and a steady string of tweets to stay connected with “common folk” who love him and one of which he is not and never has been.
But, as I’ve said before based a sum of it all it is clearer to me that is really “The Art of the Con.” Perhaps a good title for the many books to be written about him and surely there will be many. Why is he in this situation? Simple I believe: To promote and keep is name and marketing value anywhere possible in the spotlight.
History I believe will prove me and those like me correct – I only hope it won’t be too late and that we never repeat this shameful act again.