Donald Trump is not a great communicator. Great communicators like to communicate.
When the President answers the few questions he accepts at state events, his vernacular of childish, superlative vocabulary betrays crippling, omnipresent fear of personal inadequacy.
All the world leaders he meets with are “incredible” or “great friends,” people he “knows so well,” and, in the case of Kim Jong Un, a scandalous “lover.” Of course, all these terms contrast conspicuously with the President’s impulsively deconstructive foreign policies, while his unprecedented dealmaking, “easily-winnable” trade wars, and ability to keep us exhausted from all his winning have not quite lived up to the hype of his Dunning-Kruger confidence. He’s just lying to us and bluffing his way to the end of his four years.
Domestically, Trump has largely eschewed press conferences up until the coronavirus made his masturbatory rallies impossible. Instead, he prefers impromptu ramblings to press gaggles before prescheduled events, usually in front of the loud sound of his helicopter so he can skip questions he doesn’t want pretending he didn’t hear.
Trump’s rare televised interviews typically follow weeks of exceptionally terrible press for his various scandals and deeds of personal misconduct, and he uses them to either lie about the relevant controversies, or say something new so preposterous that he successfully changes the subject away from the previous infamy. And it all depends on what he hears Fox News anchors say during his infantile executive hours in front of the television.
When questioned by journalists, he rambles meanderingly around disjointed ideas, and sometimes even stumbles into unintentional self-incrimination, like when he admitted that he fired James Comey for not giving up on the FBI’s investigation into Russian collusion. That’s an illegal act he admitted to on television everyone saw. Trump’s other cable news greatest hits involved quite a bit of rather blatant witness intimidation during the duration of the Mueller Investigation. Even when Trump snags a softball Fox News interview, he spills out word vomit so disjointed and mentally nonlinear that it’s borderline impossible for editors to transcribe in reproduction for their readers to try to interpret for themselves.
Then comes the President’s political rallies. Actually talented presidential communicators have historically used such events to inspire civic unity and patriotic effort, or outline ambitious policy ideas. Trump tends to list his weekly grievances, and complains how mean everyone is to him. He smiles as his supporters carry out chants of “lock him/her up” when he tries out new insult nicknames for his political opponents, and he often thanks them for their reflexive personal loyalty. Sometimes he mocks people’s physical appearances and handicaps.
And it’s not really effective for him. The fermented sense of cultural paranoia and social persecution his egotistical political career puffs up for and depends on reflects more his electoral coalition’s ceiling rather than its floor, and his whiny rallies are failing to attract the suburban, female voters that polls suggest his campaign is losing catastrophically.
Frankly, the President’s mean-spirited, politics-by-circus schtick of Napoleonic narcissism is aesthetically undemocratic and meritocratically unAmerican, and it’s important to remember that his technicality victory via the Electoral College means he failed to convince a majority of American voters that he should be President.
Then comes Twitter, the medium of communication for which Trump regularly receives acclamation. Tweeting conveniences him with a character limit, and allows him to communicate to the American people from a safe space where no journalist or anyone else can personally react or follow up on the delusional things he writes. It’s the path of least resistance for him to say dumb shit. And in his tweets, he neglects to proofread these great communications so they have his trademark with poor spelling, irregular grammar, novel quotation punctuation, inexplicable capitalization, actual fake news retweets, logical paradoxes in attempts at legal self-defense, and a lot of whiny little bitching.
Trump repeats the same tired, factually incorrect tropes, like an all-caps “NO COLLUSION,” “Deranged Democrats,” and “Failing New York Times,” while lobbing petty insults at award-winning actresses, sports players, national icons, and anyone else who fails to contribute to the little dictator veneration he craves. All will be preserved forever on the Internet’s least challenging, least reflective medium as a disgrace to his office and our country. Covfefe is immortalized in the history books along with all his lies that it was totally intentional and we only couldn’t understand it because it was a code that he can’t tell us.
Trump’s only communicative success is in dividing the country for the political gain that comes with taking advantage of his supporters’ gullibility and xenophobia for shameless, guiltless demagoguery. Maybe he can incite them toward violence if the election proves unwinnable, but should we congratulate his communication skills like we feign being impressed for toddlers?
Maybe Donald Trump is a big doofus whose depraved, unquenchable thirst for gauche iconification has made him the perfect poster boy for an electorally declining political movement absorbed in an insular zeitgeist of xenophobia and ends-justify-the-means political villainy. Can we not save our compliments of communicatory greatness for people whose communications are worth listening to?
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