Hyperbole: hy·per·bo·le; hīˈpərbəlē/ ; noun; exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.
My graduate education centered around communication, specifically rhetoric. Outside of the political definition (i.e. “Stop all the rhetoric!”), you can think of rhetoric as a set of filters – like on a camera lens – that help us interpret any piece of communication. These filters are the sender, receiver, purpose, and medium. This isn’t a complicated science since all of us perform multiple, nano-second rhetorical analyses throughout the day. For instance, try limiting your efforts in wishing your wife a happy anniversary to a text message, and see how she “interprets” that message. I am only here today because, on this issue, I cannot speak from experience.
Applying these filters to the 2016 presidential race, I’ve noticed a pattern in Donald Trump. When you hear his words or read his tweets, you’ll notice a nearly universal use of high octane verbiage, including swear words. While he doesn’t shout, and in fact seems to maintain an even speaking cadence and pitch regardless of venue, his word choice and descriptions are almost always full tilt.
From last July, Rush Limbaugh described a time he saw Trump on the golf course:
So he stops. He comes over, grabs me, and introduces me to the guy. He says, “Hey, if you ever need anything from Macy’s, this is the guy! This is the guy! This is the best guy in the world. This guy owns retail. There’s no smarter guy in retail than this guy.” I don’t remember the name, but I remember meeting the guy. And then Trump said, “This guy’s the richest man in Italy! Richest man in Italy.”
Read his tweets. Winner/loser, super/pathetic, best/worst, richest/poorest — Donald Trump communicates in strict dichotomies that leave virtually no room for “meh.”
No doubt Trump supporters would agree with me, and applaud it. He’s full bore in everything he does and despite many business failures, no one could argue how successful he is. It’s difficult to imagine an aspect of life where this character trait isn’t helpful. The problem, however, is when everything is full tilt, nothing is.
As a result, American voters are being sung to sleep with a hyperbolic lullaby that hangs pretty in the air but doesn’t provide anything to grab onto. It’s like when young writers and speakers totally, literally, really, hugely, yugely, enormously, tremendously, stupendously use adverbs. The audience is making all sorts of judgments about the speaker but not caring much about the message — provided one exists. On substance, this is where I think we’re coming up short with Trump.
I feel the need to say this: I am not criticizing Trump supporters. We everyday Americans – all of us — are at near revolutionary anger (sometimes heavy words work). We’re fed up with bureaucrats whose only care is the next electoral victory, but not our safety or liberty. While we continue this long march to take back what’s ours, let’s remember why we’re mad: Our elected representatives have not been adhering to the constitution since before Woodrow Wilson. They’re spending money we don’t have, and imposing rules on every aspect of our lives that hinder our success and leadership throughout the world. If they’re not doing these things, they’re not stopping the people who are. And every two years they promise to stop the cliff jump, knowing well they have no intention of keeping their promise. We need a president, and a new Congress and Supreme Court, to live their lives as they govern ours by the words in the constitution.
You could say Trump will do just that. He might. But right now Trump supporters have nothing but inspirational rallies and tough words on which to base their faith. There is no evidence he will do what he promises. Worse, the record we do have for Trump shows clear support for things everyday Americans find loathsome: Picking his Leftist, abortion-supporting sister for Supreme Court, eminent domain for individual gain, universal health care (how else do we “take care of everybody”?), financial and public support of abortion, and financial and public support of detestable politicians like Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and yes, Mitch McConnell.
Nothing’s over until it’s over. No one is inevitable. Right now our choices are Trump with at best an unknown record and worst a Democrat, Rubio with a decent but compromised record from the Gang of Eight Amnesty, and Cruz who has a verified and better record of fighting for us.
Please, beware the lullaby.