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Trump as demagogue and false idol Contributed • April 6, 2019

Merriam Webster defines a demagogue as a “leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.” Demagoguery is then “an appeal to people that plays on their emotions and prejudices rather than on their rational side.” Demagoguery is a form of rhetoric which is “language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.”

As defined above, Trump is a demagogue. Recent historical examples are Hitler of 1930s Germany and Joseph McCarthy of 1950s America.

An idol is defined as “a representation or symbol of an object of worship”, or “a false God”.

But demagogues or idols have to have worshippers. Who are these receptive listeners?

In America, as in the 1930s Germany, that would be conservative white Christians. As in Germany in the 1930s, 1800s evangelical Christians here in America supported slavery, lynching and segregation. This psychological propensity for authoritarian, xenophobic, and misogynistic thinking still resides in the psyche of white Christian evangelicals and the GOP Republican Party of today. What Trump has done is basically hijack this repressed and subconscious hate, fear, and grievance, and on a daily basis, stoke and feed it.

To demagogue a crowd, or a group, one has to identify a common enemy, an “us” versus “them.” Trump uses dissatisfied white evangelical Christians as the “us” (good guys), and immigrants, liberals, blacks, and the media as “them” (bad guys). Anything and everything Trump says and tweets constantly repeats this basic principle: “us (good)” against “them” (bad). In Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

It is a well known fact that Trump lies all the time, big and small (over 8,000 in 2 years) and incessantly repeats and tweets his lies without shame.

What are other rhetorical tricks? Blaming others for all your faults and failures. Fear mongering by constantly referring to dirty Mexican hordes, terrorist Muslims, and murderous M13 gangs. Other tactics include personal insults and ridicule, physical intimidation and violence, media attacks, extreme oversimplifying, extreme posturing, scapegoating, all of which Trump uses on a daily basis via his Twitter account and Fox News.

Rational Americans have to stop him before he destroys us all.

James P. Chasse St Agatha

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