In the last article, we talked about how Trump views the world through people, and introduced the idea that Trump is the ultimate populist. This time we discuss how Trump uses words.
Some decades ago in my high-tech career, I was on the staff of an industry veteran who was extremely careful, and I would add excruciatingly careful, with his spoken words. In business discussions, he would choose his words so slowly and deliberately, that sometimes he would pause mid-sentence for more than a minute, while we all held our breath, waiting for the next spoken phrase that could have decisive implications. He treated his every sentence as if it were being chiseled in stone onto the surface of the long table around which we were seated. We used to wonder if his mother tongue was not English, but Contract.
That ain’t Trump! Everyone would agree that he speaks freely and off-the-cuff, but is Trump as far to one extreme, as my high-tech boss was in the other?
Trump as a Painter
I propose that we need to think of Trump’s words like this: as if they are paint. As he speaks he paints, and since he almost never stops speaking, he never stops painting. Words are to Trump like paint on his canvas. On parts of this canvas the paint may have somewhat dried, but wet or not, if at any time he feels he needs to move in a different direction on a topic, he simply paints over what he previously said. I believe we will come to understand in the next few years that Trump will never paint himself into a corner because he doesn’t mind walking on wet paint. He will just repaint his footprints on the way out of the room.
Trump will never paint himself into a corner because he doesn’t mind walking on wet paint.
Is this lying? When it is done with foresight, it is at least deceptive. But I have known some individuals that like Trump, others who see the world “as a collection of people to be influenced,” who could change their minds on the fly as easily as Trump seems to, and for them it wasn’t at all premeditated! One industry leader I worked for, was a very charming “people person” who could change his thinking so easily, that his staff used to say that working for him was like riding water skis behind a speeding motor boat.
Does Trump Lie?
I personally believe Trump lied outright to the American people when he covered up the talk of his extra-marital exploits with women by saying: “That was locker-room banter. Those were just words.”
After he won the election, I still found myself grieving over the impact of this particular lying on our nation. On the one hand, the Bible says that God will not be mocked, and that a man reaps what he sows. Yet, Trump moved on from that issue and emerged elected and unscathed. I asked God “What is going on here?” and then I found the answer in that week’s Torah portion. Abram had a very embarrassing secret go public in Egypt: his beautiful “sister” was really his wife. Abram got out of that situation, not just unscathed, but with great wealth from Egypt! Why did God give Abram a pass? Because God had a bigger story in mind! Abram got a pass then, but eventually he would reap a great and lasting sorrow from that lie. What sorrow? From that Egyptian wealth came Hagar, and from Hagar came Ishmael. Abraham would be required by God to send his own son away without an inheritance, and the world is still reaping the consequences of that embittered Ishmael.
Yes, we can be sure that a price will be paid over time for this lie. In time, Trump will pay a price. But, by largely sweeping this whole thing under the rug, trying to simply avoid talking about the sins of lying and womanizing, I am afraid that the church may find itself paying a price one day too.
Trump used incendiary words on the campaign trail. Is this man actually racist? Is he a fascist at heart? I say: No! It was a “painting strategy” to build a base of support. It has been widely observed that Trump analyzed his loss in the 2012 primary, and decided to change tactics for 2016. His intuitive understanding of people helped him exploit the fact that 70% of the populace didn’t like the direction the nation was heading. He redefined the political boundaries around this massive discontent. He was ridiculed at first, but today, Donald Trump is credited with creating a new populist movement, a feat not repeated since Reagan did it in the 1980s!
But while Reagan found it possible to build a populist movement around a positive uplifting message, Trump innovated his way past a dozen viable contenders, by reaching beyond discontent and appealing to an even more deeply seeded base emotion: resentment. Can everyone reading this join me in a collective shout of a word in unison: “Ouch!!!”
Why did Trump specifically target resentment, while his contenders stayed with the safer target of discontent? Although she didn’t realize it at the time, University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Kathy Cramer would lay out for us the root causes of Trump’s success in her book The Politics of Resentment. Her months of crisscrossing Wisconsin and interviewing rural voters revealed three simple conclusions: rural voters resented the fact that, compared with the big cities, (1) they were not getting their fair share of decision making power, (2) they were not getting their fair share of government resources, and (3) they were not getting respect.
Trump honed in on that feeling of resentment and played to it in everyone by attacking anyone and anything that the people resented. He wasn’t very precise or calculated in those attacks, working more on instinct. But he was largely effective and found an emotion that could cross over party lines and enlarge his support. In the cases where he chose to attack the wrong person, like a decorated war hero or a Hispanic judge, he would justify himself as best he could while he repainted his way right out of that “room” looking for the next resentment target.
What about Enabling Racism?
If Trump raised up a populist movement empowered by not just discontent, but resentment too, as well, were Trump’s words at least enabling racism?.
I do not see Trump as having specifically enabled racism, any more than football teams play football in order to tear up the grass on the field. Teams play to win the game, not to protect the field from harm. So while Trump’s words were not specifically enabling racism, a large part of his word strategy was based on sowing discontent and raising resentment. Proverbs 6:19 in NIV says that one of the six things the Lord hates is: “A person who stirs up conflict [or strife] in the community.” If the Lord hates it, it must enable something. Words have side effects.
Trump is a master painter when it comes to words. His words draw people in, and we are captivated, almost transfixed by what stream of paint will come flying out onto his canvas next. There is no need to wait, even a few seconds between full paragraphs. He paints at video game speed. Imagine, then, how much progress could be made if his words began to turn the country towards the character qualities and ideals that bring the country together that would help “Make America Great Again.” I don’t think such a painting, coming from the master word painter, Donald Trump, would be boring at all.
This article series has suggested two main insights about Trump so far:
- Trump is at heart, a people person: the ultimate populist.
- Trump uses words like paint: captivating us with the colors, but we must remember that the picture he paints can change at any moment.
Our third article will reveal what I believe to be Trump’s most likable quality — one that needs to be feared by the Far Left — and one that gives us the key to understanding his plan as President.