COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 28, 2016 — On April 28, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump took his rousing message of political indignation to a full house at Costa Mesa’s 8,000-seat Pacific amphitheater: “In arguendo, ab extra, ab initio … animus contrahendi ad colligenda bona a fortiori bona fide.”
These incomprehensible, misquoted Latin words illustrate a point Rush Limbaugh made last week on his radio show: The problem with Donald Trump isn’t that no one in Washington understands him. It’s that they do. The rogue candidate has broken through the curtain of polite political code words to speak in the same plain English voters use.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders often does the same, eschewing correct politics for a more open and honest flame throwing message. The fact that voters on both sides are one match away from lighting their own flame throwers and pointing them at their government speaks volumes about the Trump and Sanders success stories to date.
Establishment Washington and its acolytes in state political parties across the country have managed over the years to solidify their cradle-to-grave ruling class positions by guarding the gates against outsiders. They have accomplished this with careful, obfuscatory rhetoric when addressing the electorate, and by passing rules favorable to insiders in off seasons, while voters are engaged in day-to-day living.
For instance, in August 2015, Colorado’s GOP voted to cancel the state’s traditional presidential preference poll after the national party changed its rules to require a state’s delegates to support the candidate who wins the caucuses. With that largely unnoticed change in rules, Colorado forfeited its role in the early nomination process. There was hell to pay when the state’s voters discovered the change this spring. But by then, it was too late; the fix was already in.
Washington speechwriters often study national polls to determine which words and phrases are polling well and which aren’t. It’s no accident that politicians speak in slogans that are familiar to us. They want us to approve from a distance what they are doing as they cut back-room deals that favor political expediency over voters’ best interests.
Many in the political class come to Washington for the express purpose of adding passage of a landmark bill to their resumes. Mastering effective messaging allows them the space and quiet approval to accomplish their goals. The smart ones leave town before the small print in the bill comes to light.
A good lie often beats the dull or complicated truth. Why rile up voters when a good, positive message will get you what you want? Consider PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year”: “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”
Other examples include, “After the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, 129 million people who could have otherwise been denied or faced discrimination now have access to coverage,” and “FACT: Nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans.”
In November, 2013, Obama turned downright lawyerly as he sought to clear up our misunderstanding of what he really meant to say, which was, “What we said was, you can keep (your plan) if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.”
Voters, save your watches, because with an election year now upon us, the usual hype promises to build to near epic proportions:
- Texas Senator Ted Cruz: “The reason Obama has not bombed ISIS’ oil fields is they’re concerned about global warming.”
- Obama again: “The KeystoneXL pipeline bypasses the United States.”
- Sen. Bernie Sanders: “Climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism.”
- Senator Hillary Clinton: “Ninety percent of my emails as Secretary of State were, according to the State Department, already in the system.”
- Jeb Bush: “Planned Parenthood is not actually doing women’s health issues. They are involved in something way different than that.”
But no one parses better than former president Bill Clinton. When speaking about his inappropriate relationship with a White House intern, he claimed that his statement, “there’s nothing going on between us” had been truthful because he had no ongoing relationship with her at the time he was questioned.
As he famously observed, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
Crafting poll-tested, winning narratives is the life blood of successful politicians, many of whom possess law credentials. As of 2015, fully 37 percent of the House of Representatives and 53 percent of the Senate were attorneys.
Books have been filled with stories of lawyers’ passing acquaintance with the truth, to wit, “A good lawyer is a great liar,” “A lawyer is a liar with a permit to practice,” or, “How can you tell when a lawyer is lying? When his lips are moving.”
Outsider, non-lawyer businessman Donald Trump, clearly no dummy, is applying for membership in a club filled with double-talkers. The knives are out against the man who would speak his own mind, who continues to insist on tipping political correctness on its head. But Trump has placed his faith not in the political class he means to join, but in the voters who he has sensed no longer have the stomach for the lawyer- politician.
Is the United States of Political Correctness prepared to handle truly free speech? Can the country handle the truth? Or will we accept the falsehoods and pretty little lies told to us by the insiders, those creative lawyer-politicians, bolstered by fawning courtiers in the mainstream media?
Col. Jessep: “I’ll answer the question! You want answers?”
Kaffee: “I think I’m entitled to.”
Col. Jessep: “You want answers?”
Kaffee : “I want the truth!”
Col. Jessep: “You can’t handle the truth!”
Will America finally shed her blinders of political correctness? Will we come away from our safe spaces, and into the light of honest debate and problem solving? Election year 2016, as unconventional as it may seem, has really brought us back to the future.
To a remembered ability to see a two-legged bird swimming in a pond and say, “If it quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck, well, by golly, it may be a duck!”