If you’re wondering how Donald Trump, businessman and reality television icon with no experience as an elected official, won the 2016 Presidential election: Take a look at the speech he gave last night.
To get it out of the way, I’m not a reporter; I’m an opinion writer. And as such I want to spend some time exploring not only the content but the structure of this speech as we discuss it. There’s an episode of The West Wing in Season 2 called Somebody’s Going to Emergency; Somebody’s Going to Jail in which the ultra progressive Toby Ziegler explains speechwriting to a DC cop tasked with protecting him at a protest. I highly suggest you watch it; it’s about a minute. Don’t worry; we’ll wait for you.
Toby explains the science of listener attention, a toolkit to build a rhythm in listening to bring your audience around to your argument. Things like the repetition of phrases, alliteration, paired opposites and something I call sandwich drop-ins are all pretty common tools in rhetoric, and (if the reporting is to be believed, speech writers are notoriously gun-shy about taking credit) Stephen Miller used these tools to great effect in tonight’s speech.