Politics

Trump paints apocalyptic portrait of life under Biden

WASHINGTON (AP) — The suburbs wouldn’t be the suburbs anymore, the economy would sink into its worst depression ever and police departments would cease to exist. Even America’s older adults would be left to figure out how to get by without heat, air conditioning or electricity.

This is the apocalyptic version of American life that President Donald Trump argues would be the dire consequence of turning over the White House to Democrat Joe Biden.

“He’ll bury you in regulations, dismantle your police departments, dissolve our borders, confiscate your guns, terminate religious liberty, destroy your suburbs,” Trump said in one of many over-the-top pronouncements about Biden in the campaign’s final weeks. Trump typically makes his warning about the fate of suburbia as he showcases his own decision to end federal regulations that govern the placement of low-incoming housing in the suburbs.

Campaign rhetoric can often become heated and hyperbolic as candidates scrap for every last advantage before the votes are counted.

Experts say instilling fear in one’s opponent is usually the primary motivating factor behind such talk as candidates seek to give voters a reason to put a checkmark next to their name on the ballot.

“It’s pure fear and fear based on a particular kind of ignorance that only works if your hearers have that particular kind of ignorance,” Robin Lakoff, professor emerita of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, said of Trump’s claims about Biden.

Trump made fear — particularly the fear of immigrants — a major theme of his 2016 campaign. Now, he is giving voters a laundry list of mostly implausible reasons to fear a Biden presidency.

“This election is a choice between a TRUMP RECOVERY or a BIDEN DEPRESSION,” the president tweeted, echoing what he tells supporters at rallies. “It’s a choice between a TRUMP BOOM or a BIDEN LOCKDOWN. It’s a choice between our plan to Kill the virus – or Biden’s plan to kill the American Dream!”

Trump has criticized Biden for saying he’d follow the scientists, and the president claims the Democrat would shut the country down. In fact, Biden hasn’t said whether he’d endorse large-scale shutdowns of the nation’s economy, if things get drastically worse, like much of the country did in March.

Related: President Trump in 2020

23 PHOTOSPresident Donald Trump in 2020See GalleryPresident Donald Trump in 2020US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One prior to departure from Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, Wisconsin, June 25, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he walks on the South Lawn after arriving on Marine One at the White House, Thursday, June 25, 2020, in Washington. Trump is returning from Wisconsin. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)TOPSHOT – US President Donald Trump walks to board Air Force One prior to departure from Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, Wisconsin, June 25, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn after arriving on Marine One at the White House, Thursday, June 25, 2020, in Washington. Trump is returning from Wisconsin. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 16: President Donald J. Trump signs an executive order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities in the Rose Garden at the White House on Tuesday, June 16, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)US President Donald Trump gestures following a tour of Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisconsin, June 25, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)MARINETTE, WISCONSIN – JUNE 25: US President Donald Trump speaks to workers during a visit to the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard on June 25, 2020 in Marinette, Wisconsin. The company was recently awarded a $5.5 billion contract to build ships for the U.S. Navy.(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)TULSA, USA – JUNE 20:U.S. President Donald Trump meet his supporters at his ”Make America Great Again” rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States on June 20, 2020. (Photo by Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)TULSA, OK – JUNE 20: President Donald J. Trump speaks during a “Make America Great Again!” rally at the BOK Center on Saturday, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, OK. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 16: U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for an event in the Rose Garden on “Safe Policing for Safe Communities”, at the White House June 16, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump signed an executive order on police reform amid the growing calls after the death of George Floyd. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 16: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as members of law enforcement look on during an event in the Rose Garden on “Safe Policing for Safe Communities”, at the White House June 16, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump signed an executive order on police reform amid the growing calls after the death of George Floyd. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)US President Donald Trump signs an Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, June 16, 2020. (Photo by Saul LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 16: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden on “Safe Policing for Safe Communities”, at the White House June 16, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump will sign an executive order on police reform amid the growing calls after the death of George Floyd. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 15:U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable on “Fighting for America’s Seniors” at the Cabinet Room of the White House June 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump participated in the roundtable to discuss the administration’s efforts to “safeguard America’s senior citizens” from COVID-19.(Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 15:U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a roundtable on “Fighting for America’s Seniors” at the Cabinet Room of the White House June 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump participated in the roundtable to discuss the administration’s efforts to “safeguard America’s senior citizens” from COVID-19.(Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 15:U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a roundtable on “Fighting for America’s Seniors” at the Cabinet Room of the White House June 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump participated in the roundtable to discuss the administration’s efforts to “safeguard America’s senior citizens” from COVID-19.(Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)US President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable meeting on seniors in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, DC, June 15, 2020. – President Donald Trump holds a roundtable discussion with senior citizens called Fighting for Americas Seniors on Monday. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)US President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable meeting on seniors in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, DC, June 15, 2020. – President Donald Trump holds a roundtable discussion with senior citizens called Fighting for Americas Seniors on Monday. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)US President Donald Trump listens during a roundtable meeting on seniors in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, DC, June 15, 2020. – President Donald Trump holds a roundtable discussion with senior citizens called Fighting for Americas Seniors on Monday. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)President Donald Trump speaks during an event on police reform, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Tuesday, June 16, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable about America’s seniors, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)President Donald Trump listens during a roundtable about America’s seniors, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Sunday, June 14, 2020, after stepping off Marine One as he returns from his golf club in New Jersey. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)Up Next

See Gallery

“If you vote for Biden, it means no kids in school, no graduations, no weddings, no Thanksgiving, no Christmas and no Fourth of July together,” Trump said at a rally Wednesday in Goodyear, Arizona. “Other than that, you have a wonderful life.”

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, said Trump’s rhetoric is effective with people who are already disposed to believe such things about Biden. But to a person who is not in the audience, she said, such talk is a “sign of desperation.”

“The problem with the rhetoric is it’s an alienating rhetoric for people who hear it as extreme and improbable,” Jamieson said. It’s also problematic, she said, “because you expect a president of the United States to calibrate his rhetoric to reality in at least some plausible way.”

Last week in Florida, Trump sought to boost his standing among older Americans angered by his response to the coronavirus by portraying Biden as the one who would do them harm. Trump falsely said Biden’s energy plan “would mean that America’s seniors have no air conditioning during the summer, no heat during the winter and no electricity during peak hours.”

During a summer of unrest that followed the police killings of Black men, Trump sought to portray Biden as beholden to the “radical-left” forces Trump claimed were behind the protests. He also argued that Biden wouldn’t be able to keep such unrest from spreading to the suburbs.

David Zarefsky, who teaches courses about presidential rhetoric at Northwestern, said close examination shows the weakness in Trump’s argument about Biden and the suburbs.

“I think most people would not put it together as being a sound argument,” said Zarefsky, a past president of the Rhetoric Society of America.

Leading Democrats have deployed their own dire talk.

In July, Biden said Trump was the country’s first racist president, which glossed over the presidents before Trump who had held slaves.

“We’ve had racists, and they’ve existed. They’ve tried to get elected president,” Biden said. “He’s the first one that has.”

And in his Democratic National Convention speech, former President Barack Obama said four more years of the Republican in the White House would jeopardize American democracy.

“That’s what’s at stake right now. Our democracy,” Obama said.

Jamieson said that claim is different because it is grounded in the president’s own norm-busting behavior, such as his attacks on the Justice Department and on the press, or his unfounded challenges to voting by mail and the legitimacy of Tuesday’s election.

“Those who are making the argument about Trump are offering evidence from his rhetoric and actions,” she said, adding that the attacks on Biden are “not justified by what he’s said or done.”

Vanessa Beasley, a professor of communication studies at Vanderbilt University, said all presidents fall back on “us versus them” rhetoric during campaigns, but that once in office the rhetoric is tempered by the reality of having to govern for all.

She cited Obama as an example, noting the disappointment among some of his supporters after he was elected and the aspirational “hope and change” rhetoric that helped power his political rise gave way to more measured discourse.

“The difference with Trump,” she added, “is that he never stops the ‘us versus them.’”

Beasley added that hyperbolic rhetoric can be optimistic, citing President Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” campaign from the 1980s as a classic example.

“Hyperbole doesn’t always have to go to fear,” she said.

___

AP’s Advance Voting guide brings you the facts about voting early, by mail or absentee from each state: https://interactives.ap.org/advance-voting-2020/.

Source: Read Full Article