It’s now just twelve days since Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. I have been interested in the days since that momentous event to watch the rhetoric being used, not by the President so much, but rather by the various members of his nascent administration, as they have sought to begin implementing the various policies which the now President had annunciated during his candidature for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination and the subsequent general election campaign.
It would be entirely valid, I believe, to characterise that rhetoric as one of division, of ridicule, and of alienation.
It strikes me that much of rhetoric we have seen from members of the current US Administration – from the White House Press Secretary to various other counsellors to the President – has been directed towards those who have dared to publicly take a stance of opposing the policies and positions announced by the President or members of his Administration. And, further, that rhetoric has sought to demean, dismiss or otherwise attempt to alienate opponents simply on the basis that they have dared to publicly adopt a different stance.
There is no engagement with ideas, no rational debate of issues. There is just the rhetoric of division and dismissal, designed to ridicule those who choose, on the basis of reason and conviction, to oppose what they believe to be the unfair, illegal, or divisive policies put forward by the Trump Administration.
This rhetorical approach lays upon the slippery slope that leads to demagoguery. It is the kind of approach that one would expect to see not in the so-called bastion of democracy but in the kind of ideological dictatorship that infects other parts of the world. It is a rhetoric usage that leads easily to the establishment of a ‘them’ as opposed to an ‘us’, a class of enemies that need to feared, fought, and subsequently eliminated.
On the night of his election victory, the then President-elect pledged to work towards unity in the country, to govern for all the people of the United States (even those who didn’t vote for him).
Perhaps the President of the United States will remember that, and call members of his Administration to heal, and to refrain from engaging in the kind of rhetoric that seeks to divide, to ridicule, and to alienate.