Reporters Patrick Healy and Maggie Haberman made Sunday's New York Times front page with a deep and deeply fear-mongering analysis of “demagogue” Donald Trump’s stump speeches: "95,000 Words, Many of Them Ominous, From Trump’s Tongue."
But things that two Times reporters find “ominous” may not scare a normal reader -- such as pointing out that the radical Islamist terror group ISIS chops off the heads of their victims.
“Something bad is happening,” Donald J. Trump warned New Hampshire voters Tuesday night, casting suspicions on Muslims and mosques. “Something really dangerous is going on.”
On Thursday evening, his message was equally ominous, as he suggested a link between the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., and President Obama’s failure to say “radical Islamic terrorism.”
“There is something going on with him that we don’t know about,” Mr. Trump said of the president, drawing applause from the crowd in Washington.
The dark power of words has become the defining feature of Mr. Trump’s bid for the White House to a degree rarely seen in modern politics, as he forgoes the usual campaign trappings -- policy, endorsements, commercials, donations -- and instead relies on potent language to connect with, and often stoke, the fears and grievances of Americans.
The New York Times analyzed every public utterance by Mr. Trump over the past week from rallies, speeches, interviews and news conferences to explore the leading candidate’s hold on the Republican electorate for the past five months. The transcriptions yielded 95,000 words and several powerful patterns, demonstrating how Mr. Trump has built one of the most surprising political movements in decades and, historians say, echoing the appeals of some demagogues of the past century.
While many candidates appeal to the passions and patriotism of their crowds, Mr. Trump appears unrivaled in his ability to forge bonds with a sizable segment of Americans over anxieties about a changing nation, economic insecurities, ferocious enemies and emboldened minorities (like the first black president, whose heritage and intelligence he has all but encouraged supporters to malign).
For the Times, an accurate description of what the terrorist group ISIS does to its victims is somehow contributing to a “specter of violence.”
The specter of violence looms over much of his speech, which is infused with words like kill, destroy and fight. For a man who speaks off the cuff, he always remembers to bring up the Islamic State’s “chopping off heads.” And he has expressed enthusiasm for torturing enemies beyond waterboarding. Last month, after several men hit a Black Lives Matter protester at one of his rallies, Mr. Trump said, “Maybe he should have been roughed up.”
The reporters don’t appreciate Trump’s attacks on the media either.
And Mr. Trump uses rhetoric to erode people’s trust in facts, numbers, nuance, government and the news media, according to specialists in political rhetoric. “Nobody knows,” he likes to declare, where illegal immigrants are coming from or the rate of increase of health care premiums under the Affordable Care Act, even though government agencies collect and publish this information....
This pattern of elevating emotional appeals over rational ones is a rhetorical style that historians, psychologists and political scientists placed in the tradition of political figures like Goldwater, George Wallace, Joseph McCarthy, Huey Long and Pat Buchanan, who used fiery language to try to win favor with struggling or scared Americans....
The article quoted several “experts” of “American political discourse” (aka liberal professors) to take their turns bashing Trump as a demagogue.
Historically, demagogues have flourished when they tapped into the grievances of citizens and then identified and maligned outside foes, as McCarthy did with attacking Communists, Wallace with pro-integration northerners and Mr. Buchanan with cultural liberals. These politicians used emotional language -- be it “segregation forever” or accusatory questions over the Communist Party -- to persuade Americans to pin their anxieties about national security, jobs, racial diversity and social trends on enemy forces.
It is the sort of trust-me-and-only-me rhetoric that, according to historians, demagogues have used to insist that they have unique qualities that can lead the country through turmoil. Mr. Trump often makes that point when he criticizes his Republican rivals, though he also pretends that he is not criticizing them.
The Times really went all out to smear Trump as a historic demagogue, even putting together a helpful video featuring “Demagogues of the Past.”
Donald J. Trump is not the first politician to be accused of being a demagogue. Here are archival clips of some of the men who have shared that label.
The package consisted of Sen. Joe McCarthy (dutifully labeled a Republican), segregationist Democrat Gov. George Wallace (but not labeled as such by the Times), even traditionalist conservative commentator Pat Buchanan.