The REAL problem with Melania Trump’s speech

Cribbing

First, the fun stuff. Direct comparison of what she said,and what Michelle Obama had said eight years earlier, according to the BBC, which provides both text and overlapping videorecordings:

Trump: My parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise; that you treat people with respect.

Obama: And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.

Trump: And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow, because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.

Obama: and pass them on to the next generations. Because we want our children, and all children in this nation, to know that the only limit to the height of your achievement is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.

Let’s notice the words that got dropped: that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them. … Because we want our children, and all children in this nation …

Is there a message here?

Meanwhile, the BBC tells us, “Mr Trump himself described her speech as ‘absolutely incredible’.” I concur.

But that’s not the real problem.

Nor does the problem here lie in the huge gap, in both speeches, between the promise of unlimited opportunity and the brutal realities of economic and social inequality.

The real problem is that when the people of the world’s most  powerful nation are preparing to elect its most powerful executive,  we have speeches like this in the first place. It may well be that Michelle Obama wrote her own speech; surely no one over the age of 10 imagines that Melania Trump wrote hers. Nor does either speech address, even tangentially, the massive responsibilities that fall upon a US President. And yet, as far as the delegates in Cleveland were concerned, and millions of supportive viewers, the speech was a triumph. For a time, at least. It was helped them believe in a kinder, gentler Donald Trump, simultaneously Strong enough to Protect Us, but humane enough to want to offer limitless opportunities to America’s children.

And we tolerate such speeches, and seriously debate their merits, even though we know that (in Melania Trump’s case, at least) they were concocted by a cabal of policy strategists and admen simply in order to produce a particular kind of emotional response.

The real problem, in other words, is the divorce of politics from reality.

About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on July 19, 2016, in Politics, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. A friend of mine (who is very inside the politics-for-the-sake-of-it bubble) recently openly congratulated Theresa May on her first PM speech. Not necessarily weird, he’s Labour but fairly right-Labour and a former Tory and thinks anyone who give Corbyn the time of day is insane.

    BUT… I did think it was weird to be so impressed by a *speech*. A speech is just words. It’s what they say and say only. And more likely, those are words written by a team of a dozen special advisers zinging one-liners at each other like they were getting together to write an episode of The Simpsons. Yet we have years of Theresa May’s voting record and recent weeks worth of her cabinet appointments to judge her on. You know, actions. So why congratulate a *speech*? That alone just seemed weird to me.

    So I think, more broadly than you’re saying here, political speeches only really exist for the political class to care about. They’re there to rally the troops, as it were. And perhaps they’re troops that don’t need rallied because they’re already in the bubble and on the right side. People just want to be told what they want to hear.

    So, yes, very much a problem that needs considered.

    Like

    • There’s a difference. A speech from a Prime Minister is a calculated political act, intended to arouse meaningful expectations. The fact that it is actually written by someone else, which it usually is, is irrelevant. And Theresa May does these calculations with great skill. But the kind of speech that Melania Trump was making was inherently politically meaningless. As irrelevant to what you’re supposed to be evaluating as the long-legged blonde model sitting on the hood in a car advert.

      Like

  2. Donald Trump and his raucous rabble, including Chris Christie, incite racial and other hatred. Perhaps they should be put on trial?

    Like

  3. surely no one over the age of 10 imagines that Melania Trump wrote hers

    LOL, yep.

    Like

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