The 45th President of the United States has spent the last four years in office promoting the rhetoric that has invalidated educated communication. The impact that Donald Trump’s language has had on the political arena and the administration itself makes it clear that the once highly regarded tact and precision that was associated with the American presidency can no longer be held as the standard. As a result, the political system in the United States and abroad is now operating in a mode of communication that is significantly unsophisticated when considering the amount of responsibility and respect it is meant to command. Trump’s one term in the White House has managed to dismantle the confidence that the U.S. once maintained as a world power and replaced it with a narrative that is at best distracting, and at worst may have caused irreparable harm to the institutions that allowed him to rise.
Political rhetoric throughout recent decades has moved towards simplified communication in order to appeal to voters and cast off what some consider to be an unnecessary exaltedness. Using simple language allows for a broad range of comprehension from the general public. This is a tactic, which even highly articulate past Presidents such as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton have utilized during their most notable speeches. The problem with Trump’s oratory lies with the fact that it has not evolved to reflect the increased complexity of representing the American people. Whereas the immense responsibility of the President of the United States would have encouraged any other first-term President to adapt to a higher level of communication, Trump has failed to convey any sense of formality that has been demanded of every other respected political figure in living memory. Consequently, people and politicians alike across the globe have been left astonished to watch the apparent decline of American intellectualism.
There is a natural progression in the development of political communication that has occurred first with newspapers, then radio, television, and social media, which have allowed for more familiarity with the public. Television became a huge catalyst in transforming political dialogue into a more direct conversation with the President, which can be illustrated in the 1960 televised debate between Kennedy and Nixon. In the last decade, Twitter has taken over as the main form of communication between the President and the public. Political language has changed significantly following the 2016 election in the United States, and this transformation has impacted everything from speeches, rallies, and debates on the campaign trail to national policy making and international diplomacy. Trump’s talking and tweeting alone has resulted in regular international confusion and outrage. For example, in 2018 he circulated numerous tweets regarding NATO spending and questioned the legitimacy of the alliance, which then required press secretary Sarah Sanders to elaborate on his statements regarding the Presidents’ intentions towards the alliance.
In the last four years, American politicians have left behind the value of syntax and pushed forth an expectation for bluntness that has revolutionized the standards of political oratory and communication towards the general public. Whereas Obama once stood on national television in tears to address the country after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, Trump responds to questions about the rising death toll due to the COVID-19 pandemic with “It is what it is.” Instead of rhetoric that represents the ideals of such a complex demographic as the United States, political language has deteriorated to a point that few could have anticipated. Where other Presidents would convey a message that represents the people, Trump’s oratory has only highlighted his negligence towards many Americans.
The way that the President of the United States is perceived in turn affects the way that the country is perceived, and after four years of Trump, many European countries view the U.S. as neglecting its responsibility as a world power. The impression of the United States in other countries is at an all-time low both in the overall perception of the U.S. as a country and confidence in the President. Trumps’ confidence rating, for example, in Germany is at only 13%, and other key allies such as France, Spain, and the UK follow closely behind. Under the impact of the current administration, political communication has become harsh, unrefined and oftentimes fueled with populist ideals and false statements. Therefore, it should come as no surprise from an outsider’s perspective that the United States is no longer a country that could be considered as dependable, which was once a significant benefit of being an ally to the U.S. The low level of foreign confidence in the U.S. and the President proves that foreign policy in America is unreliable.
Although Trump has just become the sixth President to serve only one term, the effects of his presidency will be much longer lasting than that of his predecessors like Jimmy Carter or George H.W. Bush; this is simply due to the impact his rhetoric has had on the political discourse in America as well as around the globe. Donald Trump and his administration have significantly lowered the standard of what used to be expected of an American politician. Out of sheer political necessity, the Republican Party will continue to employ this kind of rhetoric. The consequent desensitization of the American public will prove challenging for Biden as he attempts to return to a sense of traditionalism in political language. Rhetoric is one of the most powerful tools that a politician possesses. Great statesmen in history like Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama have proven that powerful rhetoric makes the difference between success or failure. The eloquence of a politician was essential in convincing the reasoning of the state on the international stage. Trumps’ four years in the White House have reaffirmed that polarized language begets a polarized country. The anticipated return to the orthodoxy of political articulacy from the Biden administration will be one of the preliminary steps to restore the United States to the international standard it was once held to.
Edited by Sandra Edelbacher; Photo credit: Gerd Altmann, Pixabay