As the competition for the White House approaches its inevitable conclusion, there is a detail that has escaped our attention, a detail that needs explanation, a detail that is vital for our understanding of the human condition. Trump may be loud and offensive, he may even be a bigot, but he’s no fool.
Remember six months ago, when the Donald had been written off as a chancer, a buffoon by the Press, the Washington political elite and the world’s political commentators? So what happened to make Trump the front-runner in a race where there are now only two runners?
In part, both the politicians and the Press (on both sides of the Atlantic) didn’t just underestimate Trump, they did not understand the ordinary American people. Trump did understand the American people and set about telling them what he knew they wanted to hear.
Trump is already famous – far more famous than Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders. He is also his own man – he doesn’t owe anyone anything and he’s in nobody’s pocket. He has financed his own campaign and writes his own speeches. Trump understands that the American people are bored with the same old same old political rhetoric.
Trump understands that the American people are in fear for their jobs and he understands that a growing number of Americans are less concerned with a new Cold War than they are with real or imagined terrorist attacks on mainland USA. A growing number of Americas see Vladimir Putin as the man they wish they had, and many believe Trump is that man. Trump’s promise that he’s willing to meet with Putin and deal with him sits more comfortably with Americans than the thought of entering into a new Cold War. Trump is a savvy businessman – he’ll do the sort of deal with Russia that Nixon and Reagan couldn’t.
The Donald, unencumbered by political allegiance and obligation has been able to write his own script… and this is where it becomes interesting.
Trump is like Dubya – “we’re gonna round ’em up; we’re gonna smoke ’em out” – in his speeches. Americans understand that ‘learnin’ embiggens the mind’, but they also love a simple message, and Trump has delivered simple messages by the truckload in the form of a very basic, easy to understand and un-wordy form of language that even the slack-jawed yokels of the middle America can understand.
Trump may appal his critics, but he enthrals his supporters with direct no-nonsense Trumpspeak more familiar in this country to readers of The Sun, who also have a reading age of 10. Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of Trump’s favourite words is ‘Trump’.
To recap, Trump uses short words arranged in short phrases and sentences. He says what he means and means what he says, at least until he changes his mind, which he often does mid interview. That way, Trump is able to deliver something for everyone.
Trump’s speeches are devoid of the clever verbal flourishes beloved of most of the political class. His point is always crystal clear – ‘get tough with China; get Mexico to pay for the wall’ – all instantly understandable. He’s the only presidential hopeful since Ronald Reagan who doesn’t beat about the bush, except perhaps Bush himself.
Trump bestows gravitas on his punchy prose by beginning sentences with equally punchy Americanisms such as ‘Lemme tell you’ or You know what?’ and he tails them with one carefully chosen word designed to drive his point home, delivered like a knock-out punch – “Mexico! China!”
He also employs an unsubtle no-holds-barred subtext – the verbal equivalent of iconic gesturing – to add weight, using words like ‘really; great; very.’ His invective style knows no bounds – words like ‘dummy; idiot; moron’ make frequent appearances. And his shameless plugging of his own name, Trump, is a cunningly crafted way of keeping the Trump brand uppermost in the public consciousness.
His opponents seem timid and amateurish in light of his ability to consistently grab the headlines. And that’s how he’s done it; that’s how he’s moved from side-show-phoney to the man most likely to be president. The Donald is in possession of a gift of self-promotion his opponents have no idea about. Trump is “going to win bigly,” and yes, he really did say that.
For tens of millions of Americans, Trump is the answer to their prayers; Trump is the man who speaks their language, a pre-grade school faux English delivered with a disarming and innocent bluntness. His is the plainspoken vernacular of the dissatisfied, disillusioned and resentful, which after eight years of a lame-duck presidency, is just what dissatisfied, disillusioned and resentful Americans can identify with. Trump knows the value of the support of the common man, and he knows how to get it. Big words don’t impress the voter. Little words are just as good at painting pictures in the imagination and create just the same emotional highs and lows as the most flowery poetry, and in this respect, Trump is the true artist – and he knows it.
Copyright Andrew Newton. All rights reserved. 20 May 2016