Language has always played a crucial role in US politics. It was particularly evident during World War II and the subsequent Cold War when politicians obfuscated certain domestic events, such as the internment of Japanese-Americans, and rallied the population against the USSR. Nowadays, in the age of social media, language retains its power in the hands of presidents, who try to use it to their advantage, although not without flaws.
Donald Trump’s presidency was characterized by the excessive use of his personal Twitter account, through which he commented on various events and made political statements. Some were generally controversial, but the former President’s supporters seemed to agree with everything Trump said. For instance, he infamously called the Black Lives Matter movement “thugs” in one of his tweets (Ortutay and O’Brien). The negative language used to portray the protesters could have affected public perception regardless of what their actions meant. Trump also tended to call certain outlets “fake news media,” which diminished them among the support base (Colby). Overall, the ex-president used Twitter to appeal to his supporters and manipulated language to antagonize the opposing side.
However, the extent of Trump’s influence through language was limited. As mentioned, he mostly targeted the support base, which could have remained loyal regardless. Trump had the opportunity to appeal to the whole nation to ensure his second term, but the reach was not wide enough. Simultaneously, language is only as powerful as the person wielding it. Even if Trump had said something appealing to the opponents, they would have dismissed the statement on the grounds of his person. What prominent Trump supporters, such as Tomi Lahren, said might have also affected his perception even though he was not directly involved. Thus, language in politics is a double-edged sword: it can maintain the support base and simultaneously repel other people.
Language and politics are inseparable, as a politician has to apply the former as often as they make decisions. In the past, the entire country could be deceived by misleading words, but recently, the President chose to target only one population group, solidifying its support. However, his negligence of the opposing side only led to the growing resentment towards him and the loss of the second term. Trump’s example demonstrates language’s constructive potential in politics and its destructive ability.
Colby, Edward B. “Donald Trump’s Noteworthy Tweets as President.” Newsday, 2018. Web.
Ortutay, Barbara, and Matt O’Brien. “Twitter Obscures, Warns on Trump Tweet ‘Glorifying Violence.’” The Associated Press, 2020. Web.