I have studied rhetoric more than most. In its simplest form, speakers are more persuasive when they accomplish success in three areas: Logos (knowledge of the subject), ethos (genuinely honorable and live what they speak) and pathos (passionate belief in what they are saying). In order to persuade, a speaker must accomplish all three. For a politician in America, the danger they face is that America is divided on a world view level. As a result, when you speak persuasively to one world view, you are alienating the other. For example, the words typically used in a progressive secular environment are homophobic, Islamaphobic, xenophobic, misogynistic, racist and sexist. These “big words” provide a feeling of logos for those who are convinced that America is full of the underprivileged. However, these same words are deplorable for those who believe that there has never been a nation in history that provided a greater opportunity for anyone to pursue their dreams than America today. Further, with those who share the progressive secular view their politician’s ethos is viewed favorably because he/she champions the cause of the victim. While for those who do not share their progressive ideas, they only see email scandal’s and lies. Which brings us to pathos, the greatest example is the “basket of deplorables” comment. Hillary is merely speaking to a base of supporters with passion. But the problem is, while passionate speech, that vilifies the other side, invigorates your supporters, it also angers those who are not supporters. Thus, a greater division is created. Donald Trump is doing the same thing, but I am not as convinced that he understands much about rhetoric and its effects. However, I think he is only naturally doing what he has learned from other politicians. As a result, we have two candidates who are creating a Jerry Springer atmosphere, and America keeps growing the gap of division.
The lesson that I must learn from this, and I wish our politicians would learn, is that it is better to speak passionately, smartly and rightly about WHAT you are for, instead of WHO you are against. Our current political environment seeks to gain favor by setting up our foes as deplorable. As a result, America as a whole is losing.