Politiscripts, by Richard Roth

Political discourse consists of scripted, symbolic speech acts. The ends justify the memes and the memes justify the ends. Words become actions and actions become words.

Politiscripts, by Richard Roth

Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in The Wall Street Journal and other GOP language factories and fever swamps, April 30-May 4, 2018

Trump is genuine

rhetorical claim: we can believe Trump because he is genuine–he tells it like it is and doesn’t filter or lie, like the Fake News Media. Americans want action, and he’s giving it to them–draining the swamp.

rhetorical effect: as asserted by Michael Hayden, in the so-called “post truth era”:

Political partisanship in America has become what David Brooks calls “totalistic.” Partisan identity, as he writes, fills “the void left when their other attachments wither away — religious, ethnic, communal and familial.” Beliefs are now so tied to these identities that data is not particularly useful to argue a point.

Intelligence work — at least as practiced in the Western liberal tradition — reflects these threatened Enlightenment values: gathering, evaluating and analyzing information, and then disseminating conclusions for use, study or refutation.

How the erosion of Enlightenment values threatens good intelligence was obvious in the Trump administration’s ill-conceived and poorly carried out executive order that looked to the world like a Muslim ban….

These are truly uncharted waters for the country. We have in the past argued over the values to be applied to objective reality, or occasionally over what constituted objective reality, but never the existence or relevance of objective reality itself.

In this post-truth world, intelligence agencies are in the bunker with some unlikely mates: journalism, academia, the courts, law enforcement and science — all of which, like intelligence gathering, are evidence-based. Intelligence shares a broader duty with these other truth-tellers to preserve the commitment and ability of our society to base important decisions on our best judgment of what constitutes objective reality.

The historian Timothy Snyder stresses the importance of reality and truth in his cautionary pamphlet, “On Tyranny.” “To abandon facts,” he writes, “is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power because there is no basis upon which to do so.” He then chillingly observes, “Post-truth is pre-fascism.”


we’ll see what happens

rhetorical claim: Trump’s fluid, transactional rhetoric keeps possibilities open while also making veiled threats–“we’ll see what happens.”

rhetorical effect: Leaves everything as open-ended and vague as possible for as long as possible to avoid accountability. As explained by Kathleen Hall Jamieson:

The occasions in which he’s made specific promises, like ‘we’ll build a wall and Mexico would pay for it,’ he has had trouble delivering. Instead of forecasting and being accountable for the forecast, he’s opening the possibility that there are a range of possibilities not anticipated for which he does not want to be held accountable.”

…In Trumpese, many people are saying” means “I wish many people were saying this because I want you to believe they are.” “People don’t know” likely means “I just found out,” and “believe me,” on some level, may signal “I have real doubts.”


fighting and winning for the hardworking taxpayer

rhetorical claim: Donald Trump continues to fight and win for the hardworking American taxpayer against government overreach, fake news, trial lawyers, unions, and so-called “green” environmentalists.

rhetorical effect: fighting and winning for corporate interests; eroding wage standards, benefits, and workplace rights of workers, especially in the private sector; eliminating public services and the social safety net programs; eliminating workplace safety regulation; eliminating the regulation of clean air and clean water, and making sure the tax cuts go mostly to the wealthy. The “hard-working taxpayer” is generally not “winning”. For example, so far:

    • 9: Percent of the 500 major companies that make up the S&P 500 index that have paid employees cash bonuses since the passage of the Republican tax plan.
    • 109Billions of dollars in dividends paid to shareholders following the passage of the Republican tax plan, setting a new record for dividend payments.
    • 84: Percent of all stocks owned by the wealthiest 10% of households.


As argued by Gordon Lafer in The One Percent Solution:

The vast majority of American employees go to work every day for a private company, with no union protections. For these workers, it is not a union contract but state and local laws that shape working conditions and frame the balance of power between employers and employees. Corporate rhetoric around these laws sounds different from that aimed at public servants—rather than attacking overpaid employees, they stress the need for flexibility, the danger of government mandates, and the power of unrestrained entrepreneurialism to lift all boats. But the aim of these arguments is ultimately the same: to restrict, weaken, or abolish laws governing wages, benefits, or working conditions; to preempt, defund, or dismantle every legal or organizational mechanism through which workers may challenge employer prerogatives; and to block, wherever possible, citizens’ ability to exercise democratic control over corporate behavior.



paycheck protection

rhetorical claim: tyrannous labor unions can no longer force workers to support politically correct causes they oppose. Their paychecks will be protected from forced payment of union dues.

rhetorical effect: paralyzes union political campaigns, thus severely limiting workers’ rights and freedom of speech.



rhetorical claim: Starbuck’s protestors are decoys and dupes of the racial grievance industry.

rhetorical effect: charges of racism are themselves suspected of being inherently racist; concepts of racial equality are reduced to being hypocritical con games, played by suckers only. Racism is said to not only not exist, but to be an excuse for laziness and fraud. Grievances are commodified and reduced to being an “industry.”


shareholder value maximization

rhetorical claim: government is a parasite on economic growth, and the only measure of value should be shareholder value maximization.

rhetorical effect: As explained by Martin Wolf:

That it is hard to see much wider economic benefit from the massive increase in the relative size and influence of finance over the past half century seems self-evident. Today, many western economies are, after all, burdened by high levels of private debt, high inequality and low rate of productivity growth. If this is success, what might failure look like?


the Employment Protection Agency

the Employment Prevention Agency

environmental originalism

environmental stewardship

self-implementing regulation

stakeholders who care about outcomes

fuel diversity

cooperative federalism

rhetorical claim: the EPA’s confiscatory war on industry is over–no more regulatory overreach.We need a return to environmental originalism, in which the government practices environmental stewardship. not prohibition.  Regulations will be self-implementing and immune to wasteful lawsuits. The EPA is no longer what Trump called the Employment Prevention Agency; instead, it’s now the Employment Protection Industry. Power plants will now be allowed to implement their own compliance programs without the intervention of a permitting authority.

rhetorical effect: protecting jobs, not the environment; allowing unlimited mining and development on public lands; ending regulation of polluters.


stakeholders who care about outcomes: often portrayed as “farmers and ranchers,” this label always applies to fossil fuel companies.

fuel diversity: cuts in alternative and green energy, thus the opposite of energy diversity policies

cooperative federalism: leaving environmental and workplace safety, policy and monitoring entirely up to the states, which are typically either reluctant to act due to political connections or lack the funds to act.



rhetorical claim: federal workers who are members of the Democrat Deep State engage in a form of collusion they sometimes call ethics or the rule of law.

rhetorical effect: codes of ethics get reduced to being “collusion,” a sort of conspiracy based not on a moral bedrock but on partisanship.


Deep State attempted coup

rhetorical claim: the Deep State’s attempted coup is being played out by Robert Mueller, and should be resisted.  According to the website American Greatness,

If you look at the categories of questions Mueller allegedly wishes to pose to Trump, you will notice they focus on exactly those areas of inquiry made possible by Obama and his henchmen through the NSA rule change. Among them are Michael Flynn and his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. A second group of questions has to do with the firing of Comey, the man who orchestrated the entire “special counsel” by writing memos and then leaking them to the New York Times through his friend, Columbia law professor Dan Richman—who just so happens to be on Comey’s legal team now. If you want to see real collusion in action, look no farther than the sanctimonious Comey and his rum crew.

By now, it’s clear that Mueller never had any intention of investigating Russian “collusion,” aside from issuing some meaningless indictments of persons over whom he has no legal authority. Rather—as the enemedia breathlessly hopes!—the inquiry has morphed into an “obstruction of justice” investigation into the firing of Mueller’s pal, Comey. And now we arrive at the heart of the matter.

The title of Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, gives the game away: higher than what? The Left is always nattering on about an “arc of history” that bends toward “justice,” but an educated populace should be able to see right through this classic example of Marxist cant. The purpose of such a meaningless phrase is to get you to believe that there is some authority—not God, God forbid!—“higher” than the laws of the United States, and that a true patriot’s allegiance belongs not to the Constitution but to some “higher” power.

Since the 1960s, that power has been the abstract (which is to say, unconstitutional) authority of the federal courts, principally the Supreme Court. To make this case—that the Court is the final judge of the constitutionality of just about everything—they’ve leveraged Marbury v. Madison and convinced the American public through a dazzling exercise in circular reasoning, that because the Court itself has said it is the arbiter of all things constitutional, it is therefore, under the Constitution, the arbiter of all things constitutional.

rhetorical effect: paranoid conspiracy theory run amuck–and even the Supreme Court is in on it. Defends the notion that the President is not subject to obstruction of justice charges because he represents and dispenses justice, and is only responsible to his interpretation of the Constitution. Turns the President into a dictator.





Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in The Wall Street Journal and other GOP language factories and fever swamps, Feb 14-17, 2018



totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind

rhetorical claim: Trump  is “totally opposed” to domestic violence of any kind, finds charges against Porter “shocking,” says that Porter was fired in the normal way once the charges were known, and also condemns the lack of due process when it comes to verifying women’s accusations.

rhetorical effect: Establishes the absurd logic that domestic violence is not to be tolerated, but neither are women’s claims of domestic violence. As Jennifer Rubin put it,

What was more revealing was that he did not say any of the following:

  • I won’t tolerate any abuser in my administration.
  • We must encourage women to come forward and believe them when they do.
  • I believe Rob Porter’s ex-wives.
  • We should not have people with a history of spousal abuse in high government positions.

Nope, he didn’t express any of these sentiments, which in any other administration would never be questioned. Trump, however, has a troubling past: He bragged on the “Access Hollywood” recording about abusing women; more than a dozen women have accused him of either harassment or assault; and he endorsed accused child molester Roy Moore in a Senate race. It’s a topic he wants no part of. And we should seriously consider that he does not think abusers should be banned from his administration, that he does think most women are liars, does not think Porter’s ex-wives are telling the truth, and does not think there is anything wrong with putting men with a history of spousal abuse in sensitive positions. After all, in the most unfiltered conduit for his views — his Twitter account — he’s never expressed the views. Instead he’s bemoaned the lack of due process for abusers.


aspirational economics

the personal creation of wealth

rhetorical claim: liberals  choose redistributionist economics over aspirational economics because they frown upon the personal creation of wealth. In the name of social justice and government, they conduct paternalistic class war that is irrelevant to people’s real needs. Aspiration is being subsumed by ideology.

rhetorical effect: arguing for “aspiration” as an absolute justifies development schemes, total deregulation (leading to more drilling and mining for example), privatization, and a social Darwinism (tough luck if you don’t succeed==no excuses allowed). These terms are all part of the income defense industry.


getting to keep more of your hard-earned dollars

rhetorical claim: tax cuts will allow Americans to keep more of their hard-earned dollars.

rhetorical effect: vilifies inheritance; justifies huge tax cuts for the wealthy; masks income disparity and inequality by valorizing wages, no matter how meager or stagnant; equates government with confiscation, and pits all government against workers.



rhetorical claim: fairness matters when it comes to confiscatory taxes, government mandates and onerous government regulation. The Tea Party was all about making America fair again by leveling the playing field so all Americans have the opportunity to create personal wealth (see above).

rhetorical effect: for the 1% to keep winning, they need to brand themselves as the 99%, the friend of the working man. Fairness matters in terms of perception, not reality.


human well-being

rhetorical claim: the great American hope is that you can advance on your own merits, not be propped up by the welfare state or the government. Human well-being above all means the opportunity for an earned success,

rhetorical effect: the big lie of the anti-government, free market ideologues: that the average American has a chance in a totally rigged economic system. Just follow the money every time to unmask this rhetorical master trope.


bipartisan deal

rhetorical claim: President Trump will veto anything that does not advance all of his demands: a wall on the border and an end to the diversity visa lottery system and family- based migration, which would mean deep cuts to legal immigration. This position constitutes “the mainstream, middle ground on immigration.” GOP senators are making similar claims. John Cornyn (Tex.) says the president shouldn’t budge, because his proposal is “enormously generous,” while Democrats are being “heartless” toward the dreamers by failing to accept it. Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.) insists that Trump’s proposal is a “sweet bipartisan deal,” and that if Dems reject it, Republicans are “looking pretty good from a PR standpoint.”

rhetorical effect: moves the so-called middle ground far to the right, then calls it the middle. Greg Sargent best dissects this absurd notion of a compromise:

The idea that the tradeoff Republicans want represents the middle-ground, mainstream position in this debate is absurd on its face: a recent Quinnipiac University poll found that only 17 percent of Americans favor cuts to legal immigration, while 81 percent favor legalizing the dreamers. But beyond this, the basic facts of this situation illustrate the absurdity of the GOP position:

  1. Trump is the one who ended protections for the dreamers to begin with.
  2. Trump then said he wanted Congress to come up with a bipartisan solution protecting them in a more permanent way.
  3. Trump has repeatedly said protecting the dreamers is the right thing to do. Whether he means this or not is beside the point; perhaps entirely because he doesn’t want to be blamed for driving them underground, he wants to be associated with an outcome in which they are protected.
  4. Dem and GOP senators produced a version of the deal Trump asked for, one in which the dreamers would be legalized in exchange for cutting diversity visas and nixing any possibility of legalization for the dreamers’ parents. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer even expressed openness to giving Trump money for his wall.
  5. Trump rejected those offers. Dems repeatedly asked administration officials what further concessions they might accept and got no answer. Now officials are threatening a veto if Trump doesn’t get everything he wants, and Republicans are describing this as the middle-ground position…Trump and most Republicans will very likely oppose the bills that give both sides some of what they want and continue to insist on basically giving Trump all of what he wants. This is not a balanced situation, particularly since Trump wants to be associated with protecting the dreamers anyway. It is true that many congressional Republicans don’t actually want to protect the dreamers and view doing this as a concession. But they are nonetheless going along with Trump in demanding far more in concessions than Democrats are. The Republicans’ position is that they won’t protect the dreamers unless Democrats give Trump all the border-security money and deep cuts to legal immigration he wants — while calling that a compromise.


good guys with guns

thoughts and prayers

rhetorical claim: the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. We offer thoughts and prayers to those who have lost a loved one in a mass shooting incident.

rhetorical effect: precludes or derails gun control debates with arguments over school safety training, mental health, terrorist threats, etc.–talk about anything else except banning assault rifles, background checks, unregulated gun show sales, etc. Calling for prayer makes mass shootings sound like acts of god.


gun confiscation

rhetorical claim: the liberal solution to gun violence is to seize all weapons in America.

rhetorical effect: confuses common-sense gun control, such as banning the sales of automatic weapons, enhanced background checks, etc.–with the most draconian solution of total gun seizure. Using the extreme example rules out any middle ground.


the crushing burden of debt

rhetorical claim: Under Obama, America suffered from a crushing and unacceptable burden of debt.

rhetorical effect: this ploy becomes a backdoor way of justifying cruel, draconian budget cuts. The GOP does to themselves what they accuse the Dems of doing in the first place, then blame the Dems and go ahead and do what they wanted to do all along.  The rhetorical kabuki dance works like this: 1) establish that the national debt is too high, 2) nevertheless pass a huge tax cut that is permanent for the plutocrats, temporary for everyone else, 3) after this tax cut creates a huge deficit, return to being a deficit hawk as a pretense to gut all social safety net programs, leaving only the wealthy, corporations and the military shielded. This is the essence of acting in bad faith — pretending to care about things it doesn’t, pretending to serve goals that were the opposite of its actual intentions. Republicans  never cared about deficits; they always wanted to dismantle Medicare, not defend it. They just happen not to be who they pretended to be.

Using this “crushing burden of debt” as an excuse, the GOP proposes the cruelest budget ever, as explained by The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Less than two months after signing massive tax cuts that largely benefit those at the top of the economic ladder, President Trump has put forward a 2019 budget that cuts basic assistance that millions of families struggling to get by need to help pay the rent, put food on the table, and get health care.  The cuts would affect a broad range of low- and moderate-income people, including parents, children, seniors, and people with disabilities.  Taken together, the cuts are far deeper than any ever enacted and would deepen poverty and hardship and swell the ranks of the uninsured.

These cuts fly in the face of the Administration’s rhetoric about expanding opportunity for those facing difficulties in today’s economy and helping more people work.The budget also scales back efforts to promote opportunity and upward mobility, such as by cutting both job training and programs that make college more affordable.  These cuts fly in the face of the Administration’s rhetoric about expanding opportunity for those facing difficulties in today’s economy and helping more people work.

The GOP budget cuts  health care, food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), housing and home energy assistance, income assistance for people with disabilities, funding to states for other supports for low-income families, grants and loans to make college more affordable, and non-defense discretionary programs as a whole.


balanced news coverage

rhetorical claim: Washington gridlock is the fault of both parties, so news coverage must be balanced by blaming both parties.

rhetorical effect: “balance” is the fig leaf covering over the fact that the GOP is lying about their means and aims (see “the crushing burden of debt,” above). “Balance” in this case actually means catastrophic imbalance and draconian cuts. “Fair and balanced” is of course the foundational lie at the heart of Fox News. “Balance” is not the same thing as telling the truth.


a cry for help

a searching review for compliance

rhetorical claim: Idaho should be permitted to technically break the law by allowing the offering of health insurance policies that do not ACA standards. This circumvention of draconian Obamacare standards is “a cry for help” by a state seeking more affordable coverage options for its residents. HHS Secretary Alex Azar says that the Idaho program would be subject to “searching review for compliance” with federal law. “We have a duty to enforce the law as Congress has written it,” Mr. Azar said. But he added that the federal government must proceed with “a great deal of deliberation and caution and care” in assessing the Idaho plan.

Dean L. Cameron, the director of the Idaho Department of Insurance, said in an interview on Thursday that insurers could start selling the new state-based health plans as early as April.

“We are trying to salvage the market,” Mr. Cameron said. “The young and healthy people of all ages have left the market. We are trying to bring them back. Our goal is to help Idaho families.”

Blue Cross of Idaho said this week that it would offer five such plans. “The Affordable Care Act marketplace has become unaffordable for Idaho’s middle-class uninsured,” the company said, and it told consumers that the new plans could cost “up to 50 percent less” than plans that comply with the federal law.

rhetorical effect: The only thing they’re “searching” for is a way out of ACA mandates. HHS’s “review” is a sham process that in the end will justify junk health care insurance. In a classic GOP inversion, law-breaking is reframed as a “cry for help” and an act of consumer protection.

no collusion

rhetorical claim: Vice President Mike Pence said that “it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those [Russian] efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election.”

Mr. Trump’s defenders, cite the word “unwitting” in the Mueller indictments— that the indictment used to describe certain “members, volunteers and supporters of the Trump campaign involved in local community outreach” who had interacted with the Russians.

In other words, as the White House put it in a statement on Friday, “NO COLLUSION.” The president repeated the claim himself in a tweet, grudgingly acknowledging Russia’s “anti-US campaign,” but emphasizing that it had started “long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!”

rhetorical effect: changes the subject because that’s not what intelligence officials concluded. “We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election,” said the report released shortly before Trump’s inauguration.

It’s true that, as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in an announcement, these particular indictments do not allege that any American knew about the influence campaign, nor that the campaign had changed the outcome of the election. But that’s quite different from saying that there was no collusion or impact on the election. As Mr. Rosenstein also said, the special counsel’s investigation is continuing, and there are many strands the public still knows little or nothing about.


Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in The Wall Street Journal and other GOP language factories and fever swamps, July 13-18, 2017

pal review

rhetorical claim: progressivism’s junk science rests on fake facts, which are reinforced by the buddy system in which pal review replaces truly objective peer review.

rhetorical effect: delegitimizes the scientific process and scholarly peer review standards, and politicizes all scientific findings as part of a conspiracy. Rendering scientific truths–especially inconvenient ones such as those concerning global warming–relative allows them to present their alt-facts as equally legitimate–a case of false equivalencies.


liberal moralizing

rhetorical claim: liberal moralizing tends to read as college-educated people in cities arguing that everyone should behave more like them. These condescending busybodies are too busy telling everyone else how to live to examine their own arrogance and cultural prejudices. Thus they have created a permanent cultural disconnect between themselves and Trump supporters. The government should let people be free to do what they want in their lives.

rhetorical effect: calling liberals busybodies and scolders has always been a classic ad hominem attack, intended to redirect the focus from the facts themselves (i.e., that eating too much red meat is bad for your health and for the environment) to the messengers of those facts.) In this way, the right wing dissociates itself from any liberals claims of fact, reducing them all to moral superiority. This rhetorical belittling and defusing precludes ever having to take any liberal claims of fact seriously.


the coming period of time

(aka, “we’ll get something done, eventually”)

rhetorical claim: Trump says he will reveal his modified thoughts on the Paris Accord in “the coming period of time.”

rhetorical effect: “The coming period of time” never comes with Trump, so this phrase obfuscates the fact that Trump has no intention of revisiting the US position on climate change, no plan for defeating ISIS, no plan for “getting Mexico to pay for the wall”, no “big, beautiful” health care bill, etc. In fact, whenever Trump uses this phrase, you can assume he is really confessing his unpreparedness and so is lying.



rhetorical claim: the real collusion has been between the Dems and foreign agents, who keep planting fake news stories or entrapping people like Donald Jr.

rhetorical effect: calling the whole thing a witch hunt or giant conspiracy against Trump or Stalinesque show trial  reinforces the paranoid vision of the Dems trying to overturn the election. By turning the tables and accusing the Dems of obstruction and collusion, Trump changes the subject and goes from defense to offense, clouding up what even counts as reality.


high quality person

rhetorical claim: Donald Jr. is totally innocent and transparent.  His meeting with the Russian lawyer was a real nothing burger. Like his father, he is the victim of the greatest witch hunt in history. He is a high-quality person.

rhetorical effect: as Gail Collins puts it, makes it sound as if  ” Junior was a washer-dryer on sale at the mall”. However, isn’t it  a “big deal” when senior representatives of an American presidential campaign meet with a purported representative of a hostile foreign power for the purpose of cooperating in that foreign power’s effort to influence an American presidential campaign? It’s an even bigger deal when news of that meeting emerges after an avalanche of denials and evasions. Desperate attempts to “save the narrative” of the whole Trump-Russia fiasco being nothing more than a fake fact are thus undermined. Since Junior has repeatedly lied about the meeting, his “high quality” doesn’t seem immediately apparent.


not a crime

rhetorical claim: meeting with a Russian is not a crime, and Junior’s initial statement about the meeting was a miscommunication. Trump’s enemies are desperate for something impeachable. But remember, there is no such thing as the crime of collusion. It’s not even a misdemeanor. And unless the Russian lawyer provided an illegal contribution, stolen property, etc., to the Trump campaign, there is no crime that will take this story where the media want it to go. But that doesn’t mean they will quit trying. There has been no crime.

rhetorical effect: This may be true in a narrow legal sense, but doesn’t wash ethically. As David French argues in The National Review,

The standard for impeachment, the commission of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” is not concerned with criminal offenses found in the penal statute books and suitable for courtroom prosecution. It relates instead to the president’s high fiduciary duty to the American people and allegiance to our system of government.

Alexander Hamilton put it best in Federalist No. 65. Impeachable offenses are those Which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself. The bickering over collusion “crimes” misses the point. If an unfit person holds the presidency, the danger to our society is that he will abuse the power that he wields. The imperative is to remove him from office. Whether, in addition to that, his misconduct also happens to violate penal statutes and be ripe for criminal prosecution is a side issue.



rhetorical claim: As OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, explains,

If the Trump administration has one overarching goal, it’s to Make America Great Again. But what does this mean? It means we are promoting MAGAnomics—and that means sustained 3% economic growth….

For merely suggesting that we can get back to that level, the administration has been criticized as unrealistic. That’s fine with us. We heard the same pessimism 40 years ago, when the country was mired in “stagflation” and “malaise.” But Ronald Reagan dared to challenge that thinking and steered us to a boom that many people thought unachievable. In the 7½ years following the end of the recession in 1982, real GDP grew at an annual rate of 4.4%. That is what a recovery looks like, and what the American economy is still capable of achieving.

The focus of MAGAnomics is simple: Grow the economy and with it the wealth of, and opportunity for, all Americans. It does that by focusing on fundamental principles that made the U.S. economy the greatest engine of prosperity in the history of the planet.

rhetorical effect: makes short-term,”economic growth” an excuse for lowering taxes for the wealthy, gutting all federal regulation, decimating the social safety net, and decimating the environment. American Greatness is thus defined down from liberty and justice for all to tax relief–a Darwinian rather than a Jeffersonian vision for America.


the fake news industrial complex

rhetorical claim: the fake Tump-Russia story is undermining democracy and part of the fake news industrial network, a better name than the “mainstream media”.

rhetorical effect: As Frank Bruni explains:

It’s possible that Trump’s fans will never blame him, because of one of his most self-serving and corrosive feats: the stirring of partisanship and distrust of institutions into the conviction that there’s no such thing as objective truth. There are only rival claims. There are always “alternative facts.” Charges of mere bias are the antiquated weapons of yesteryear; “fake news” is the new nullifier, and it’s a phrase so dear to him that his unprincipled acolytes are building on it. Last week a Trump adviser, Sebastian Gorka, lashed out at the “fake news industrial complex.” Trump reportedly swooned.

What happens to a democracy whose citizens not only lose common ground but also take a match to the idea of a common reality? Thanks in part to Trump, we may find out. He doesn’t care about civility or basic decency, and even if he did, he lacks the discipline to yoke his actions to any ideals. The Democratic strategist Doug Sosnik expressed it perfectly, telling me, “His presidency is what happens when you have road rage in the Oval Office.”