Image Cover of Saturday Evening Post
A couple of stock cultural characters
(This Norman Rockwell illustration borrowed without the express permission of The Saturday Evening Post)

Even we watched the presidential debate last night. I appreciated the gentleman who asked “All the rhetoric aside, what’s one thing you like or respect about the other?” How inspired.

What I mainly noticed was the difference between the two candidates in vocabulary and rhetorical style.

Clinton talks in bullet points and lists; she uses long sentences, that contain substantive information; she uses big words, and subordinate clauses; she uses lots of what writing teachers call “specific evidence.” “I’m proud of my past 30 years in public service. During those years I a) accomplished thing 1 for x thousand children by taking particular policy step 1, b) accomplished thing 2 for y thousand children by taking particular policy step 2, c) accomplished thing 3 by taking specific action 3, etc.” “I would not commit ground troops to Syria because I don’t think American forces should be required to hold territory which they would have to do in that case. We need to establish a no-fly zone and safe zones, and enforce them with help from coalition partners in the area, who we need to stop alienating with anti-Muslim rhetoric. And we should arm the Kurds [!!], because they are our natural allies in the region.” In other words, she talks like the teacher’s pet. Or like I like to think I would if I actually knew anything about policy.

Trump uses short, simple sentences, with very simple words; he uses value language; he makes assertions; he keeps things general. “She has poor judgment.” “It’s a disaster.” “They’re bad. I’m good.” “The inner cities are very very bad for African Americans. They have 45% poverty.” He talks like a sixth grader. Or like the average “Live Wire” caller – that’s the anonymous “say what’s on your mind” column in our local paper.

This cannot be a coincidence.