When you compare the better known lines of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, they may sound similar. But they aren’t.
We have eight full years of Obama’s and only a year of Trumps, so this assessment is subject to change, but so far I’ve noted different tones in the deliverance of many words, based largely, I think, on the composition of the intended audiences to whom the words are directed and the “secret supplications of the heart” delivering them.
Take the word “America”. I do believe in the past year Donald Trump has actually used this word more than Barack Obama has over eight years, but that aside, inflections alone give away buried beliefs about its meaning. Trump clearly likes America, and always has. Ronald Reagan had that ability, “America” always having a “Hallelujah” quality in its resonance. “America” was up there with “Merry Christmas” in its cheer.
Obama clearly doesn’t believe, or at least is embarrassed to use, the term “America” with this kind of optimism. To him, America is a tough job, to manage not celebrate, Obama perhaps seeing himself as the director of a half-way house and America its sole occupant. Problem-children are ushered in one door, but hopefully, with hard work, diligence and plenty of federal dollars, at least some rehabilitated-children can go out the other door. The African-American welfare plantation is but one of the wings of that half-way house. They even have a wing for unborn children.
But for the staff, it’s hard, sobering job, at least on stage, in front of the public. Behind the curtain it’s quite the high-life, as we’re coming to find out. That’s the swamp that needs to be drained.
With such opposite visions of America, you can see why Barack Obama and Donald Trump have always been talking to entirely different sets of ears. “Love of country” is a dirty phrase in one world, an anchor of hope in another. Even the term “jobs” mean different things. There are private sector jobs for the occupants of that half-way house, and which have been disappearing for years, those that remain being doled out through a mish-mash of middle men, (corporate and state) all with strings attached, and the government jobs to the staff (aka “screws”) that manages that half-way house. Two kinds of jobs, two sets of ears. Obama had been talking t0o one, Trump to another.
Trump’s listeners prevailed.
Because the people, you know, “the people”, have been listening more and more since the Clinton first go-round in the 90s, Obama has had to adapt to using words with double meanings, so to be aimed at his friendly ears, but meant also to deflect the suspicious ears of the rest of America. Code-speak.
Go back and listen to any public statement by Barack Obama and take note of the way he winks with his tongue to the intended ears in the rooms. You would never have noticed it until you heard Donald Trump say “America”, for it is unambiguous in its meaning, universal in its tone, a rising trumpet fanfare of enthusiasm instead of the dour look of resignation. There is no code, only ears to hear it and rejoice and ears to hear it and reject it.
Going forward the next four years, this is where the battle lines will be drawn.