The Discourse Divide

Politics has become so contentious that violence is increasingly becoming a part of our political debate. But how did it come to this? Surely, it can’t all be blamed on Donald Trump.

It is undeniable that Trump has used incendiary rhetoric while campaigning. His controversial comments have been widely reported and criticized by most main stream media outlets.

However, instead of damaging his campaign, his comments have only increased his poll numbers. He once bragged, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Controversial comments like this typically capsize campaigns, so how could courting controversy increase Donald Trump’s support?

To better understand this, it is important to consider the discourse divide between the liberal left and conservative right.

When I say discourse divide, I am referring to the way that the country’s political discourse has increasingly become less of a debate between the two political parties and more like two separate conversations simultaneously being conducted within the rigid confines of those political parties.

Even when discussing the same issue, liberals and conservatives use terms which don’t seem to line up with one another. Take the abortion debate for example, by using the terms pro-life and pro-choice, the issue becomes convoluted. Would anyone say that they are anti-life or anti-choice? Of course not. And is life the opposite of choice? Of course not.

This type of political messaging has caused the base of each party to become more ideological and less compromising. And political messaging has become an industry.

The carefully crafted rhetoric used by politicians has become so focus group oriented that it seems more like manipulation than messaging.

Consultants like Frank Luntz have,”forever redefined the way public policy issues will be framed,” as his website points out, “It’s not what you say. It’s what they hear.”

So what do people hear when Donald Trump makes controversial comments? They hear what they want to hear.

The Washington Post has accused Trump of using racially coded language. Perhaps that’s why he has earned the endorsement of several white supremacist groups. But his supporters insist that he is not a racist.

His controversial comments have gained him a lot of support, but there is an anti-Trump movement within the Republican Party.

I think that the discourse divide is almost like a wedge has been driven between the two political parties and Donald Trump snuck in through the gap.

So is this damaging the country? Appellate judge Charles W. Pickering once said, “A healthy democracy requires a decent society; it requires that we are honorable, generous, tolerant and respectful.” So, the answer is yes. Yes, it is.




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