Trump and the Art of the Vague Superlative

Trump and the Art of the Vague Superlative February 5, 2019

In his pre-Super Bowl interview, Trump combined two of his favorite rhetorical techniques — the “many people are saying” tactic and the vague-to-the-point-of-meaningless superlative tactic. He was asked about those, including many Republicans, who think that he has worsened race relations in the country. His response:

“Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan initially cited a recent CBS poll that found 63 percent of respondents disapprove of Trump’s handling of race relations.

“What has happened is very interesting,” Trump said. “The economy is so good right now.”…

“So I think I’ve been given a lot of credit for that,” Trump said. “And in terms of race, a lot of people are saying, well, this is something very special what’s happening.”

First, let’s note his usual strategy of changing the subject to the unemployment rate. This seems to be the only response he has to questions of race, as though the fact that unemployment among African-Americans is going down along with every other demographic group — a trend that began long before he took office — somehow cancels out any accusations of racism. Then lets note the “a lot of people are saying” claim, without bothering to identify the mystery people allegedly saying that. And finally, the meaningless superlative — “something very special” is happening. The only surprising thing is that he didn’t use “beautiful” instead of “special.” That’s his usual go-to superlative. This is the kind of rhetoric you use when you have no real arguments to make.

Of course, in the real world, the only people who think Trump is doing “something very special” on race are white supremacists. He’s endorsed much of their agenda, including his incredibly bigoted dehumanization of immigrants.


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