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Friday, November 10, 2023

The Rhetorical Genius Of Donald Trump - It's Not What He Says, But What He Means

The progressive Left is still nonplussed at Donald Trump.  To them he is still a misogynist, xenophobic, sexist homophobe who always will be.  He is an inveterate, congenital liar, a braggart, a capitalist who built his fortune on the backs of the poor, and an unreconstructed egotist; and they simple cannot believe that he may well regain the White House. 

How is re-election possible, they say? How can such a moral reprobate, a man who no respect for the truth; a vile, devilish incarnation of evil, have even a remote chance to regain the White House?             

Put more simply, the progressive Left has made up its mind about Donald Trump, and nothing can change it.  Perhaps as importantly, they don't like to be made fun of, made a laughing stock, and paraded about with no clothes on.  It's one thing to be criticized, another to be laughed it.  Criticism as least is an acknowledgement of the possible rightness of one's argument; laughter is dismissing it out of hand, a bad joke, a lame excuse, a sorry, stumbling side show.  And Trump is a master of the zinger, one-liner, off-color joke at their expense. 

Of course Trump, as a son of Hollywood and Las Vegas, a performer, vaudevillian, and big tent revivalist in the old American tradition, doesn’t mean what he says.  He says what he means.  His is a political circus act with a semiotic foundation.  Crazy as a fox and as smart as a whip, he speaks a firestorm but is as rational – more rational in fact – than his opponents who speak in platitudes, shopworn nostrums, and old-fashioned appeals to righteousness.

No one but unreconstructed liberal elites take him at face value.  Everyone knew in 2016 that his call for expatriating all illegal immigrants was purposeful hyperbole, circus act exaggeration, and vaudeville at its very best.  Everyone but old Eastern progressives and young idealists understood that there could never be an impenetrable wall on our southern border. 

No one but academics who insulate themselves from the world in their Cambridge, Upper West Side, San Francisco, and Chicago redoubts think there will ever be mass deportations, electrified wire fences at Dulles Airport, and storm troopers on the Canadian border to keep immigrants out. Trump uses hyperbole to make a point.  Illegal immigration is a serious problem which has to be addressed, no longer with the tentative, hesitant gestures of the past, but forcefully.

Trump's Borscht Belt comedic insult of those ‘alternately sexed’ does not mean, as his opponents claim he would intern, punish, and neuter them Nazi style.  His words, loud and outrageous as they are, mean only to alert the electorate to the flaming idiocy of sexual diversity.  

His offhanded dismissal of the dysfunctionality of the ghetto and the unregenerate hypocrisy of Black Lives Matter championing racial rights instead of racial responsibility is not racist but indicative, time to call a spade a spade, to look objectively at corrosive social ills. 

The Left listens to his words and takes them at face value, but Trump is smarter, more savvy, and a genius at rhetoric, a Mark Antony, a Hamlet, a Demosthenes; and ironically the embodiment of Derrida and Lacan, deconstructionists who insist that the words of a text don't matter, only the hidden content, the pernicious and persistent catalogue of social injustice behind them.

Deconstructionism has had its day, although because of tenure there are many academics who will preach this secular animism until the day they die.  All texts are equivalent, they say.  There is no such thing as artistic genius, and the works of Shakespeare, Aeschylus, and Dostoevsky should be read only within the narrow context of  race, gender, and ethnicity.  Hamlet and Macbeth are nothing more than plays about political power, the corrupt nature of elites, and the alienation of the many to serve the powerful.

If one reads text carefully, deconstructionists say, one will discover the true meaning behind the words which are mere and artificial constructs of individuals who can but express political zeitgeist and the particular configurations of social, economic, and cultural conflict.

So where are these deconstructionists when it comes to parsing the stump performances of Donald Trump? Why are they so literal in their interpretation of his words?  How could they assume that his hot button rhetoric is anything more than getting sinners to walk up the aisle and accept Jesus as their personal savior? 
This myopia is not surprising, for despite progressives’ claims to objectivity, rationality, and on-the-one-hand-on-the-other tolerance and consideration of differing opinions, they intend no such thing.  Their canon of diversity, race-gender-ethnicity, and social liberalism is as enshrined as any.

Such political and philosophical absolutism ipso facto requires blinders.  In an a priori world where right and wrong are pre-determined and absolute there is no room for due consideration or rational debate.

Americans are not a nation of disciplined, rigorous rationality.  We fall for lovers and politicians equally.  But those who have staked their reputation on presumed rigorous contextual analysis and intellectual rigor; and who self-righteously pride themselves on coming to the right moral and ethical decisions by so doing, are only fooling themselves.  There is no such thing as 'the truth', only what resonates.  Politics like everything else is a matter of perception

Americans are all lay deconstructionists. We understand that what Trump says stands for something else and is not ex cathedra.  We get it.  We get him. He gets us.  We can read between the lines, and like the narrative we find there.

Most people hear what they want to hear, make up their minds early and quickly, and use information to confirm or consolidate their opinions.  Once they have concluded that a public figure is worth attention because of his commitment to their causes, principles, or ideals, they stop parsing his speeches, analyzing his white papers, and listening to his debates.  Donald Trump - and Ronald Reagan before him - understands this social phenomenon and knows that what a catty journalist called 'profound simplicity' actually captures the essence of political brilliance.   

There is no shame in reducing a campaign to principles, and then doing whatever and however to illustrate and demonstrate them. It is the Left that is paying no attention, locked as it is within its safe room of self-assurance.                       

It is very clear – except to progressive deniers – that Donald Trump was a revolutionary president, even more so than Ronald Reagan.  Reagan, it must be remembered, challenged the legacy of FDR, LBJ and the American liberal establishment when he said, “Government is not the solution.  Government is the problem”, and went on to challenge the received wisdom of liberal America.  He tossed liberal accommodation and concession aside when he stood up to the Soviet Union.  

Donald Trump was as radical as Reagan in his challenge of the culture of entitlement, diversity, and cloture of free speech.  The Trump presidency was welcome not only in political quarters where the final internment of liberal progressivism was applauded; but in intelligent quarters whose residents were happy to see the last remnants of dire, extremist, post-modernism buried along with it. They are even happier now.

The Trump presidency gave lie to many things – the arrogance of the liberal Left which has refused to acknowledge the realities of the white, working poor; the isolation of liberal academics who talk a great story about equality but who reject the legitimate claims of the middle class in favor of the oppressed and put-upon minorities; and the absolute myopia of progressives who refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of a conservative populist president.

And the next Trump presidency will be even more sanitizing, a final cleansing of the Augean stables, a dismantling of the attempts to redefine sexuality, glorify racial separatism, give away the store for made-for-corruption infrastructure schemes,  and search for ‘compromise’ with implacable enemies.

Don’t listen to what he says, but what he means.  The principles of Donald Trump are clear, unmistakably conservative, and unchanging.  His braggadocio, machismo, vaudevillian and Catskills hilarity are just for show.  He has always played fast and loose, a survivor in the bloodiest arena ever, New York real estate.  Who better to deal with Putin, Xi, Kim, and the ayatollahs?

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