Image Cover of Saturday Evening Post

A couple of stock cultural characters
(This Norman Rockwell illustration borrowed without the express permission of The Saturday Evening Post)

Even we watched the presidential debate last night. I appreciated the gentleman who asked “All the rhetoric aside, what’s one thing you like or respect about the other?” How inspired.

What I mainly noticed was the difference between the two candidates in vocabulary and rhetorical style.

Clinton talks in bullet points and lists; she uses long sentences, that contain substantive information; she uses big words, and subordinate clauses; she uses lots of what writing teachers call “specific evidence.” “I’m proud of my past 30 years in public service. During those years I a) accomplished thing 1 for x thousand children by taking particular policy step 1, b) accomplished thing 2 for y thousand children by taking particular policy step 2, c) accomplished thing 3 by taking specific action 3, etc.” “I would not commit ground troops to Syria because I don’t think American forces should be required to hold territory which they would have to do in that case. We need to establish a no-fly zone and safe zones, and enforce them with help from coalition partners in the area, who we need to stop alienating with anti-Muslim rhetoric. And we should arm the Kurds [!!], because they are our natural allies in the region.” In other words, she talks like the teacher’s pet. Or like I like to think I would if I actually knew anything about policy.

Trump uses short, simple sentences, with very simple words; he uses value language; he makes assertions; he keeps things general. “She has poor judgment.” “It’s a disaster.” “They’re bad. I’m good.” “The inner cities are very very bad for African Americans. They have 45% poverty.” He talks like a sixth grader. Or like the average “Live Wire” caller – that’s the anonymous “say what’s on your mind” column in our local paper.

This cannot be a coincidence.

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About HAT

Heather Thiessen (HAT) is a happily married 60-ish, Bible-reading, Presbyterian Church Sunday School teaching and choir singing, small fuel efficient car driving, still pretty much 2nd wave feminist and generally out lesbian Hoosier mom. (There are no monochrome states.) From time to time she teaches religious studies to students at a small liberal arts college in Louisville, Kentucky.
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