Thursday, December 24, 2015

Politifact Puts Trump in Perspective

In its Lie of the Year post fact-check website puts the Trump campaign in perspective.

Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, sees a couple of forces that have been at play for years when it comes to Trump: the desensitization to inflammatory rhetoric, the assault on science and expertise, and the increasing reliance on partisan media.

"Trump came into an environment that was ripe for bombastic, inflammatory, outrageous statements without having to suffer the consequences," Ornstein said.

Amos Kiewe, a professor of communications at Syracuse University, has written books about the rhetoric of Ronald Reagan and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He said Trump relies on bluster to make points. "In a roundabout-way, it reminds me of rule No. 7 of persuasion," Kiewe said. "If the facts are on your side, then hammer the fact; if the opinions are on your side then, hammer the opinions; and if neither the facts nor the opinions are on your side, then hammer the table."

As of Monday, Trump was in first place among Republican-leaning voters with 34 percent support, according to Real Clear Politics’ national polling average. Experts speculate that this is because Trump’s supporters, like their candidate, don’t mind the hyperbole.

While that lead is outwardly impressive in 2015, it remains to be seen what will happen in 2016, when voters actually cast their ballots.

Ornstein noted that even if 30 to 40 percent of Republican-leaning voters support Trump, that’s still a fraction of the overall electorate. And outside his party, Trump’s misstatements may come back to haunt him.

"Clearly a lot of voters still care about the truth. What we don’t know at this point is what share that is. But I have to remain a skeptic that (Trump) can win the general election," Ornstein said. "In the general election, the loose connection that he, or many other candidates, have to the truth becomes a problem."

Trump seems aware of this, as he writes in The Art of the Deal:

"You can't con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don't deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on."

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