There is no denying that although Trump may be scrutinized for his absurd comments and claims about anything and everything, he is one of the most persuasive politicians of our time. In an article, Joe Romm claims that Donald Trump is, “one of the most effective practitioners of persuasive rhetoric the political world has seen in a long time.” He even goes further to state that Trump is a “branding and marketing genius.” You may love him, you may hate him, but you cannot say that he has not been effective for the audience he is trying to reach. Donald Trump’s most effective and persuasive rhetoric involves The United States of America and its absolute downfall in every aspect of society. In regards to trade, America is a great, big, giant, loser. At a rally, Trump stated, “I like free trade, but free trade is not free trade, it’s dump trade because we lose with China, we lose with Mexico, we lose with Japan and Vietnam and every single country that we deal with. We lose with Canada.” Donald Trump is a smart man and he knows exactly what he is doing when he makes these extravagant claims. His audience is a group of people sick of the political process and sick of political correctness. They have been desperate for a politician to tell it like it is and here came their knight in shining armor, Donald J Trump.
How Effective Is Persuasion?
Good or bad, Trump is infamous for always saying what is on his mind and this is one of his most powerful rhetorical strategies. Yes, it has been his downfall to a large population of people, but for his audience it works. It works and it has been so effective because if Trump understands anything about appealing to an audience it is that, his figure of speech is the key to being effective and persuasive. His supporters rave about him, not because they support every single one of his policies, but because he stands for what they all want. A person who will tell them exactly how it is instead of being spoon fed political correctness. Trump has branded himself by being over the top and the black sheep of the political process and his supporters are eating it up. He has gotten all the way to the Presidency by effectively using rhetorical and persuasive strategies and like him or hate it, you have to admire his tactic.
Utilizing the Fear Strategy
It may not come as a surprise, but emotions run our lives. Every day we are impacted by information through our emotions. There has been no one in the 2016 Presidential election who has taken ahold of this and used it to their advantage more than Donald Trump. The candidate has made it way to the general election by arising emotions among millions of voters. In regards to trade, Donald Trump uses language and communicates in a way that will promote fear among his audience. Fear is an incredibly powerful emotion and is effective in many ways. Donald Trump has distinguished himself among his opponents by scaring his audience into voting for him because many are afraid of the life he has painted if he is not elected. Without Donald Trump as the next president more and more jobs will flee the United States and cripple the economy. According to Trump, “We are losing jobs to other countries at a higher rate than ever,” and who is the only solution to fix this insurmountable problem? Donald Trump, of course. Clinton has called him out on his panic promoting rhetoric stating, “His approach is based on fear, not strength.”
A World Without Donald Trump as Our President
Regardless if Clinton’s accusations are correct, no one can define Trump’s rhetoric is effective for his intended audience. He knows how to reel his audience in and how to keep them right where he wants them. For the past year and half Trump has been running a “campaign of fear” according to a New York Times article. His fear striking rhetoric encourages his audience to believe that he is the only viable option because without him, our country could face a World War III. It is outrageous and far-fetched to everyone except his audience. To his audience it is the future if Trump is not elected next Tuesday.
Donald Trump has been effective in many ways for the right wing party, but one of the most prominent communication strategies he has used throughout his campaign is how simply he speaks. A study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University found Trump’s grammar to be “just below sixth grade level.” Throughout his campaign voters have seen Donald Trump reject the status quo of American politics. Trump is popular for telling it how it is and he does so in a very straightforward and elementary way. Regarding trade, Trump has stated, “They’re using our country as a piggy bank to rebuild China.” Comparing the US economy to a “piggy bank” is just one example of how Trump uses a small vocabulary in order to get his point across. It is in one sense simple and at the same time direct. Chelsea Coe at Wired magazine wrote, “To his supporters, Trump’s style is refreshingly direct.” Voters are tired of hearing candidates using big words and communicating about topics in ways that are hard to understand and full of political jargon. Trump has recognized this among his audience and used it to his advantage.
In the primaries, Trump got his fellow Republican candidates to follow in his lead. Ted Cruz began his campaign speeches at a tenth grade reading level and by February he had fallen to just above an eight-grade level. Speaking at a low reading level means you are able to communicate with a larger audience. About forty percent of Americans have only basic reading skills, which means candidates have to compensate with a simpler way of getting their points across. At a rally, Trump spoke on America and its trade policies commenting that, “our economy isn’t growing at all.” I do not know how much plainer he could have put it. It is such a simple sentence a first grader could even understand it and that is how Trump grabs ahold of his audience. He does not tip toe around topics, but speaks about them directly and without flooding his positions with big words and political jargon to make him sound smarter. Its effectiveness is prevalent among his supporters who do not think he is speaking in a condescending way, but rather the opposite, “He’s…talking to us not like we’re stupid.” Like him or hate him, Donald Trump knows how to communicate with his audience, which may include some twelve year olds.
Donald Trump’s power of his rhetoric comes in the form of an enthymeme. An enthymeme is simply giving an argument and letting the audience fill in the blanks with whatever they believe Trump is meaning to say. The problem with this rhetorical strategy is many people interpret Donald Trump very differently and that results in many people filling in the blanks with different things. This downfall is also what makes it genius. Donald Trump does not have to provide an answer for half of his policies because he lets his audience answer for him. For example, his slogan: “Make America Great Again!” When was America great? How did it become anything less than great? When will it become great again? These are all questions that go unanswered by Donald Trump himself. You know who does answer these questions? The audience. Anyone could have an answer to these questions and the most amazing part is no one can tell the audience they are wrong because there is no solid, definitive answer. It is the most genius rhetorically strategy of either campaign because it has hooked an entire population of voters by giving them more questions than answers. He employs this strategy again when he promises to “make America wealthy again.” He takes his slogan and spins it to regard trade, but again, like his slogan, he leaves an entire audience of people with unanswered questions that he assumes we should answer for ourselves. When was America not wealthy? When were we wealthy? Last time I checked, the United States of America had, for the last one hundred years, the largest GPD.
Donald Trump’s use of the enthymeme does not stop here. In a speech in Monessen, Pennsylvania he vowed to “never, ever sign bad trade deals” and to “put America first again!” Trump’s magical enthymeme word is “again” implying that at one point in history America was great, America was wealthy, and America was put first, but now it is not. Trump is a master at the enthymeme because he understands his audience far beyond Clinton does. He knows what his audience will think about what he says before he says it and this gives him the power to put blanks in his policies where he wants his audience to fill in. With this communication strategy he is able to reach numerous amounts of people by appealing to them without having to directly say what he means.
Hillary Clinton is popular among voters as a person who shifts her view on a number of issues: gay marriage, the Iraq War, the keystone pipeline, and multiple trade deals. Clinton currently opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership yet when she was Secretary of State under the Obama Administration, she “praised the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a deal that ‘sets the gold standard in trade agreements.” At the Presidential debate, Trump accused her of flip-flopping only after he spoke out against the trade deal. Clinton has carefully acknowledged the subject by revealing she at one point agreed with the trade deal, but after closer reconsideration she stated, “it didn’t meet my standards.” When she was discussing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, she never bashed President Obama, but simply stated that, “it didn’t meet her standards.” This is a very calculated statement because instead of looking like an inconsistent flip flopper, she appears more attentive and thorough in regards to trade deals, when, in reality, she changed positions when she realized the deal was not popular among voters. Although Clinton may have a history of flip flopping positions, every time she shifts her opinion, she does so in a very calculated and articulate way.
Flip Flopping Record
That was not the first Hillary Clinton has switched her position on a trade deal. In 1993, Clinton praised her husband when he signed NAFTA into law, but during her 2008 presidential campaign, she referred to the deal as a “mistake.” However, instead of abruptly moving from one side to another, she cautiously tip toes her way from one opinion to another. For example, instead of outright calling NAFTA one of the worst trade deals our country has every made, she carefully states, “It did not deliver on what we had hoped it would.” Unlike her opponent, she never makes a decision without carefully calculating what and how she will communicate.
Arguably, one of the most captivating opinions Trump has proclaimed throughout his campaign is China’s ability to single-handedly destroy the American economy. Trump has made it very clear where he stands on trade deals such as NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and all the businesses that have moved from the United States to China. Donald Trump hates these deals so much that he has vowed to “rip up international trade deals and begin an attack on Chinese economic practices.” The most compelling part of his thoughts on trade is how violently he talks about it. At a rally in Ohio, Trump compared the the Trans-Pacific Partnership to rape, stating that the deal was a “rape of our country.” At the Republican Presidential debate he refers to his forty-five percent tax on Chinese goods as a threat not a tax. Throughout his campaign we have seen him use brutal language to describe many of his policies and while some see it as his downfall, the majority of his supporters see it as a part of his persona to not follow the status quo. But will his rejection of political correctness help him or hurt him in the long run? Many believe his violent language regarding China will only spur more conflict and support the belief that he is not stable enough for the presidency. Donald Trump’s success is primarily based on his ability to say what other politicians will not, but there is a line that needs to be drawn. There is a time to be presidential and that time is now. He has riled up the conservatives with his violent rhetoric, but now is his time to appeal to the moderate voters. The best way he can do that is by appearing as presidential as he can be, which does not include associating trade deals to rape.