The political struggle over the Mueller report illustrates the tortuous social life of a text—especially a text fraught with high political stakes for a sitting president. Special counsel regulations required Robert Mueller to communicate his “prosecution or declination decisions” in a report to the attorney general who would then provide a summary to Congress—ensuring the report would pass through several links of a twisty speech chain before reaching the public.
When it comes to policy arguments around complex issues like climate change, the messenger can be just as important as the message in mobilizing support for policy responses.
The United States and the world have now spent two years trying to figure out how to deal with an anti-social president. The task holds even more import over the next two years as Democrats and Never Trump Republicans consider how to challenge an incumbent president in 2020. Formulating an effective strategy should start by recognizing the ways Trumpian discourse adheres to prototypical “trolling” behavior and responding accordingly.
Trump’s immigration metaphors set a divisive tone from the top. His immigration metaphors do not constitute “plain speaking,” “strong language,” or “passionate debate,” nor can they be innocently excused as his “own style.” His language is textbook demagoguery, and his immigration metaphors help constitute our current sociopolitical moment.