Little remains of Trump without his audience

1 oktober 2020

The first presidential election “debate” between Joe Biden and President Donald Trump was characterized by interruptions, rudeness, hostilities and chaos. Anyone wishing to learn more about the positions and future visions of the candidates, for the world’s most important vacancy was disappointed. The only thing that became clear: without his cheering crowd, little is left of Trump than a whining toddler.

Wallace appeared in Biden’s favor

Whoever watched the debate last night needed persistence. Because of the many interruptions and reproaches, there was hardly any real debate. Rather, it was annoying and embarrassing to watch. Discussion leader Chris Wallace – who, incidentally, seemed to navigate in Biden’s favor throughout the evening – had the greatest difficulty in getting the conversation on the right track.

Trump did not impress as a speaker

This was not least because of Trump’s style of conversation: nagging, whining and extremely annoying. And without the humorous witticisms or catchy online content that we are used to from him. That was striking, to say the least. Because Trump’s success in recent years can be partly explained by his rhetorical abilities. Trump is known as a crafty speaker who knows what his public wants and knows how to mobilize them.

And there is the bottleneck. Because as a speaker Trump makes a great appeal to his ethos. According to the Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle, a great speaker must meet three conditions: ethos (credibility), pathos (the ability to speak to emotions), and logos (logical reasoning). Trump is particularly committed to ethos.

Trump constantly stresses his credibility

He constantly presents himself to his supporters as The Great Leader. He is constantly posing as an authority, emphasizing in almost every sense how wonderfully he has handled a problem. Also yesterday in the debate it was noticeable that he almost only speaks about himself and about his “great achievements” and how “great” other (experts) think of his approach or performance. He thereby continuously feeds his credibility for his role as a leader.

For his supporters, the belief in his ethos (in him as a person) is now so sacred that other conditions for discussion, such as logical arguments, are becoming less important. That’s why so many counter-arguments slide off his back so easily and his supporters don’t seem to matter. What matters to them is their belief in his person.

Logic is less strong

And that works out well, because his logic is less strong. This was also evident in the debate, where he continued to focus on his credibility, but without any real substantiation. However, without his steady supporters confirming and encouraging him in that role, there was suddenly only a thin layer left in front of the camera. Continuing to insist on credibility (I did… I was…) without little substantiation became like a whining and pushy child.

The structure of the debate – in which no cheers and claps were allowed – seemed to be in favor of Biden on that point.

He uses helplessness

Was he still doing something with the pathos, the emotion, in the debate? Yes he tried. Among other things, by emphasizing in the discussion about law and order the dangers in the suburbs if the democrats come to power. With this he focuses strongly on emotion and a dormant feeling of helplessness. Then he confronts himself as a leader who resolves everything.

What is striking in the story of the pathos (emotion) is that he does not come up with concrete examples of ordinary people. Where Obama came up with the example of Joe the plumber in 2008 to discuss tax policy, Trump mainly speaks about himself and what he does.

Biden is more direct

Biden also seemed to be making more efforts to address voters directly, by making a call directly into the camera. Again, Trump seemed to miss the presence of his cheering supporters, from which he no doubt normally draws his energy and enthusiasm.

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 Speaking Matters
     Rixt Albertsma


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