Brock U. Prof Examines Political Rhetoric In U.S. Presidential Campaigns

‘(Trump) is able to say; “Look, I’m for you guys. I’ve been greedy in the past, but now I’m going to be greedy for you people; the game is rigged against you … so I’m here to help you because I understand the way the world works,’” – Stefan Dolgert, professor of political science, Brock University

News from Brock University in Niagara, Ontario

Posted June 20th, 2016 on Niagara At Large

St. Catharines, Ontario In this era of political correctness, how is it that U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump is able to get away with such highly inflammatory speech against Muslims, Mexicans and others whom he identifies as threatening?

Donald Trump revin' them up at one of his rallies

Donald Trump revin’ them up at one of his rallies

According to Brock University Professor of Political Science Stefan Dolgert, the answer may lie in the French word “resentiment,” which the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines as “deep-seated resentment, frustration, and hostility accompanied by a sense of being powerless to express these feelings directly.”

Combine that with effective story-telling, and you have a powerful tool that is among the oldest in the book for politicians, says Dolgert.

Dolgert has written a paper — The Praise of Ressentiment: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Donald Trump — published Monday, June 20 in the journal New Political Science.

In it, he examines how and why past successful political campaigns have used “cultivated ressentiment” to connect with potential voters.

“They looked for narratives where they could point the finger at a group of people and say, they are the ones to blame,” says Dolgert.

“This allows movements to take advantage of the anger and woundedness that people feel. You give these people a simple story, where they can attach their own woes to some external enemy.”

Trump’s “target group” consists largely of white, working-class males in “blue collar America,” who typically do not have a university education, as well as with voters who identify with that demographic, says Dolgert.

“For this group, it has been really difficult for them to gain back much of what they lost in the 2008 recession and its aftermath,” says Dolgert.

There are times that Trump blames the wealthy — usually from countries outside the U.S. — as being responsible for a certain amount of peoples’ angst.

“He’s got this nationalist lens, he’s able to say, ‘Look, I’m for you guys. I’ve been greedy in the past, but now I’m going to be greedy for you people; the game is rigged against you, the average person, so I’m here to help you because I understand the way the world works,’” says Dolgert.

Dolgert argues that those on the political left waste too much energy trying to “correct” or “fact check” rhetoric from politicians such as Trump.

Rather, he says, those on the left should create a “ressentiment” narrative of their own of who or what is to blame for peoples’ difficulties.

Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders did this by pointing the finger at big banks and the wealthy who avoid paying taxes by channeling money through their offshore accounts, a situation recently hitting the headlines through the “Panama Papers” revelations.

“You are not going to be able to radically change peoples’ perspectives as they head to the polls,” says Dolgert.

“What you can do is motivate them to come over to your side if you give them a better story about why they are suffering.”

Read more about Dolgert’s paper in The Brock News.

Professor of Political Science Stefan Dolgert can be reached directly at sdolgert@brocku.ca  .

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“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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