[KB] Burkean identification and Trump

wessr at oregonstate.edu wessr at oregonstate.edu
Fri Oct 21 18:01:01 EDT 2016


Burkeans,

Burke's concept of identification may illuminate and be illuminated by  
the Trump campaign. A few observations (no doubt there are others):

It may be far easier to prevent identification from solidifying than  
to break it once it occurs. Trump's core supporters now appear to  
believe anything he says, no matter how outlandish.

Late in the primaries, I saw a TV report of Cruz walking into a small  
crowd of Trump supporters to try to change their minds. A few of them  
starting chanting "lyin Ted," mimicking Trump. Such mimicking says  
something about how identification could lead to groups of  
"trump-shirts" roaming the streets to enforce Trump's will.

Identification could be viewed as a good thing that can go bad, as in  
Burke's recounting of a "bad filling of a good need" (PLF 218). But  
maybe it would be better to view identification as an analytic rather  
than an honorific concept to require always taking the extra step to  
explain what makes an identification good or bad.

Bob

Quoting Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com>:

> All,
>
> 	One of Burke’s examples of the “unifying term” as deflector from  
> gross inequality of sacrifice, privilege, rewards, and motivations  
> was the WWII profiteer who would speak of how “we’re all in this  
> conflict together.” The implicitly unifying identifier “we” in that  
> context so strikingly illustrates the use of “ambiguity” in  
> rhetorical appeal. It put executives at Ford and GM, and GIs being  
> blown apart in Europe and the Pacific, on the same footing.. Up to a  
> point, necessarily vague abstractions of a public-spirited cast  
> legitimately serve to keep societies and polities from coming apart  
> at the seams. Up to a point.
>
> 	What’s happened this political season is the result of a sharp  
> fraying or tarring of that social fabric.  The success of both  
> Sanders and Trump vouchsafes that disintegration. Forty years of  
> globalization of USAmerican jobs and once-middle-class incomes, to  
> the conspicuous advantage of wealthy owners and executives, who now  
> manufacture more cheaply and sell world-wide, and obvious  
> disadvantage to working class citizens, high school level or lower,  
> has come home to roost. Trump has become the mouthpiece for these  
> ignored and neglected Americans, their plight studiously finessed  
> with the rhetoric of “re-education” for the new technologies, or  
> assurances that “Americans can compete with anybody.” (True, of  
> course, at one dollar an hour.) A wild man like Donald Trump could  
> not likely survive in a less volatile economic situation. He is so  
> cleverly exploiting this one: “I will be your voice!”
>
> 	On our private Burkean discussion list, I said long ago that Trump  
> is functioning like a Rorschach Test. He’s the indistinct picture of  
> rage onto which people can project a multitude of grievances. He’s a  
> walking negative: Whatever it is we are doing now that’s taken away  
> our American Dream, “Trump, thank heaven, isn’t that!” All those  
> Clinton adds with Trump spouting invectives?---who are they really  
> helping?
>
>
> 	Ed
>
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