[KB] Burkean identification and Trump

wessr at oregonstate.edu wessr at oregonstate.edu
Thu Oct 27 13:53:45 EDT 2016


Regarding the current "frame of acceptance" (ATH) and whether, as you  
say, "A `breaking of a frame' of reference might be in the offing," a  
few comments:

In my view, Reagan put this "frame" in place and it has two  
cornerstones: (1) "supply-side economics" (as they called it in the  
1980s), which consists of lowering taxes for "job creators" and  
removing as many regulations as possible; (2) so-called "free trade,"  
which led to the trade agreements, beginning in Bill Clinton's first  
year. By themselves, these two were not enough to win elections, so  
they were clustered (a la Burkean clustering) with other motives. In  
Reagan's day, this started with a war against welfare (i.e., blacks).  
Other motives were added to the cluster over time.

That's the "frame." What has Trump done to it?

If anything, he has "mainstreamed" the motives clustered with (1) and  
(2). This is a large part of his appeal but the mainstreaming may  
weaken this cluster insofar as it works better sub rosa. Republicans  
may reevalutate their dependency on it.

Trump reinforces (1). His tax plan is the one thing he has presented  
in detail consistently from the beginning. He also pledges to  
eliminate as many regulations as possible. These are things I'm sure  
he would do. He strengthens this part of the frame insofar as he  
persuades people that business is more trustworthy than government.

His talk about trade shakes up (2) but about that he has no details.  
The closest thing to a detail I can recall is the idea of having trade  
deals with individual countries. This is part of his appeal but the  
question is whether it is simply a ploy to get votes. If he were  
convincing on this point he would be attracting supporters of Sanders,  
which doesn't seem to be helping.

In sum, the "frame" seems far from breaking.

Sanders is the only one who convincingly attacks (1) and (2). He may  
be able to use his new leverage to advantage. He could help Clinton  
with her tax plan, which would put a kink in (1).

All in all, though, I don't see the "frame" going away anytime soon.


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

> Burkophiles,
>           If weconcentrate too heavily on Trump?s personality  
> defects, as evidenced in hisnarcissism and rhetorical tics (yes, he  
> compulsively dwells on any slight ortangential criticism, puts his  
> ?dominance ritual? front and center, before allelse), we may miss  
> the larger Burkean import on what?s happening thispresidential  
> cycle. We?re very much in the midst of a ?breaking of a frame,? asI  
> see it, and as Burke articulates and anatomizes such a political  
> rending in ATH. I?m attaching an outline of apossible study of  
> Trump?s generic tokens, particularly as displayed in  
> hisprimary-season discourse.
>          Trump?spredictable, sectarian burlesque (that?s the ?frame  
> amplification? that goeswith the political dislocations we?re now  
> witnessing, Burke and ?New? social-movementtheorists say) has turned  
> darker in the general campaign. Some stages ofTrump?s fevered drama  
> now manifest tragic dimensions, as in Burke?s notion of  
> ?factionaltragedy? (see the long footnote on pp. 188-90). When a  
> candidate twice hints atthe possible desirability that his opponent  
> be assassinated, and incessantlycalls for her imprisonment (Trump  
> made the threat to Clinton?s face in thedebates), the discourse has  
> gotten beyond the public division/privatereconciliation that can  
> transpire in Buckley-style burlesque. If I were to givesuch a study  
> a title, I might call it ?Burlesque, Tragedy, and a  
> (Potentially)?Yuuuge? Breaking of a Frame: Trump?s Rhetoric as  
> ?Early Warning.??
>           The?Early Warning? motif comes from ?All the Rage: Sanders  
> and Trump Represent TwoDifferent Sides of American Populism---And  
> the Uprising They Sparked CouldTopple the Established Political  
> Order,? by John Judis, New Republic (Judis? book on the matter is to  
> be published thismonth). On the timeliness of Trump as potent  
> restorationist leader, see, also,William Greider?s prescient article  
> in TheNation, ?My Post-Debate Blues [first one], or, How a Rude  
> Egomaniac HasEffectively Channeled Working Class Anger?; ?Trump?s  
> Rhetoric of WhiteNostalgia,? by Ronald Brownstein in TheAtlantic;  
> ?The Anti-Establishment Surge Won?t Disappear after theElection,? by  
> Robert Reich, syndicate column in my local newspaper; ?How  
> theRhetoric of Donald Trump Is (Sort of) Changing American  
> Politics,? by EricFershtman, Seneca Review; ?What Fuelsthe Backlash  
> on Trade,? by Peter S. Goodman, NYTimes.com; and, in particular, the  
> Politico-Harvard poll that shows that 85 percent of Republican  
> (!)voters say that free trade has hurt their communities, and ?GOP  
> SenatorsSuccumb to Trump?s War on Trade,? by Seung Min Kim,  
> Politico.com. Note, of course, also, the chagrin of  
> establishmentRepublicans at the hijacking of their party by the  
> Trumpster.
>           The?frame? it is a-breakin?. The great lacuna and weakness  
> in Clinton?s candidacyis her vulnerability on the likes of NAFTA and  
> the admission of China into theworld trade organization, and her  
> retreat from the ?inequality? theme thathighlighted her pre-primary  
> rhetoric. Her big break is, she?s running againstan opponent whose  
> personality, personal history, and patent unsuitability forsuch high  
> office overmatch her deficits.
>           JohnJudis? ?Early Warning? has been sounded, as per  
> political theory. It has beenamplified by the genre (or genres) of  
> Trump?s rhetoric that has taken hold.
>           Beduly warned.
>           Ed
>           P. S. I'll attach in a subsequent post.   
>     On Tuesday, October 25, 2016 12:43 AM, Jim Moore  
> <jimmijcat at hotmail.com> wrote:
>  #yiv5309112385 #yiv5309112385 -- .yiv5309112385EmailQuote  
> {margin-left:1pt;padding-left:4pt;border-left:#800000 2px  
> solid;}#yiv5309112385 #yiv5309112385 #yiv5309112385 --p  
> {margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;}#yiv5309112385 All,
> I'm no expert, but didn't Burke articulate this conceptwith the  
> notion of DIVISION being the always presentcorollary of  
> IDENTIFICATION.  When I say, "I'm aCanadian, eh," I'm also saying,  
> "I'm not Guatemalan,or Russian or Czech or a U.S. citizen . . ." or  
> any numberof possibly contraries.  Similarly, if one says "I'm  
> notfor Trump" it doesn't necessarily say, "I'm with HRC,"but it  
> might say, in the context of this election, "Mydivision from Trump  
> is greater than my divisionfrom HRC," whose initials are bound to go  
> do in historylike JFK's and FDR's, by the way.
> Peace and tear down walls,
> Jim From: KB <kb-bounces at kbjournal.org> on behalf of  
> wessr at oregonstate.edu <wessr at oregonstate.edu>
> Sent: October 24, 2016 6:47:05 PM
> To: Phillip Tompkins; kb at kbjournal.org
> Subject: Re: [KB] Burkean identification and Trump Phil, thanks for  
> your examples. They provide an interesting contrast.
> While tribal identifications with teams can produce oppositions 
> leading to hostility, they can also coexist with an identification at 
> the level of good sportsmanship that transcends such opposition. Win 
> or lose, you can shake hands with your opponent, the way hockey 
> players do when they line up at the end of a playoff series, each 
> player on each team shaking the hand of every player on the other team.
> Such coexistence of two levels is not possible for the Nazi, who can't 
> transcend to a level cutting across the opposition without giving up 
> his Nazi identification. An interesting text to explore from this 
> Burkean standpoint is Irvin Yalom's THE SPINOZA PROBLEM. As you may 
> know, this is a historical novel about a real Nazi who loved Goethe, 
> then was dismayed to discover that Goethe loved Spinoza, which 
> prompted this Nazi to explore what was for him a great mystery: how 
> could Goethe love a Jew?
> Bob
> Quoting Phillip Tompkins <tompkinp at Colorado.EDU>:
>> I agree with this analysis.  I think of identification not only as a 
>> rhetorical term but also as a value-free social scientific 
>> construct.  Last night I watched the Chicago Cubs win the National 
>> League title for the first time since 1945.  The people in Chicago 
>> were out of their minds.  But there were also some Dodger fans.  Who 
>> are the good guys?
>>       No doubt the Nazi Party faithful had a powerful sense of 
>> identification--with that component of superiority that allowed them 
>> to kill off the lesser groups like the Jews, who in turn identified 
>> with their religion, culture and customs.  Identifying against 
>> someone or something, howerver, is powerful in our current election. 
>>   We identify with the least offensive candidate.
>> Phil Tompkins
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: KB [mailto:kb-bounces at kbjournal.org] On Behalf Of  
>> wessr at oregonstate.edu
>> Sent: Friday, October 21, 2016 4:01 PM
>> To: Edward C Appel
>> Cc: kb at kbjournal.org
>> Subject: [KB] Burkean identification and Trump
>> 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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