Politics

The Most Important Word in Donald Trump's RNC Speech

July 22nd 2016

By:
Lucy Tiven

On Thursday evening, Donald Trump accepted the Republican party presidential nomination in a lengthy speech that included all of his most familiar campaign planks: repealing trade agreements, restoring law and order to a crime-riddled nation, and building a massive border wall.

In fact checking the speech, The Washington Post's lenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee wrote that Trump relied on "statistics that are ripe for manipulation, citing misleading numbers on the economy, for example, through selective use of years, data and sources."

But Trump's speech was about more than just "facts," it was also abut rhetoric, and good deal of it was aimed at his Democratic rival, Former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton.

Though Trump condemned Clinton on taxes, foreign policy, and other issues, his strongest anti-Clinton argument addressed her campaign slogan.

"My opponent asks her supporters to recite a three-word loyalty pledge," Trump said. "It reads: 'I’m With Her'. I choose to recite a different pledge. My pledge reads: “I’M WITH YOU – THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.”
I am your voice."

The speech seemed to depart from Trump's usual negative attacks and cries of "Crooked Hillary," and is significant in both its tone and syntax.

Already hailed as a populist hero by his supporters, Trump turned Clinton's tagline on its head to reinforce the message that he cares about real issues facing voters — or "everyday Americans," as they are often termed by politicians (including Clinton). Trump's language managed to elevate his professed dedication to common folk and characterize Clinton as a career politician tied to the Washington and financial elites.

In other words, he basically called her "Crooked Hillary" without dropping a petty nickname.

The candidate then segued into a positive message about the future under a Trump presidency, emphasizing his populist ethos with repeated invocations of the pronoun "you."

"So to every parent who dreams for their child," Trump continued. "And every child who dreams for their future, I say these words to you tonight: I’m With You, and I will fight for you, and I will win for you."

This address is radically different than the Trump talk we have come to expect ("Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism," "I'll find the best people," "I will build a great, great wall..."). It also coyly answers some of Clinton's recent attacks on Trump, which have depicted his inflammatory rhetoric as harmful to children and the future.

Trump also embraced the "we."

On Thursday, New York Magazine's Science of Us delved into the psychology of party unity, and reported that studies indicate that conservatives overestimate how much other people share their worldview and value that sense of similarity. Trump's acceptance speech placed the "we" at center stage: though he veered off script a little, the word "we" appeared 85 times in the transcript obtained by POLITICO.

It's also worth noting that Trump has habitually referred to himself in the third person throughout his campaign — perhaps signaling that he is aware of psychological research that says doing so helps them perform tasks more successfully.

However, for at least a brief moment on Thursday night, Trump shed the self-aggrandizing style and attempted to assure American's "I'm with you."