The Right Wing

Why Republicans Don't Get Challenged Enough for Making Weak Arguments

Rhetoric expert Jay Heinrichs breaks down how political party affiliation affects persuasion tactics.

Photo Credit: North Charleston (Ryan Johnson) / Flickr

"John F. Kennedy and the Democrats who followed him all speak in terms of figures of speech," Jay Heinrichs, rhetoric expert and author of "Thank You For Arguing," told Salon's D. Watkins on "Salon Talks."

"Thank You For Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion" is the third edition and updated version of Heinrichs bestselling book. It's described as "a master class in the art of persuasion" in which Heinrichs serves as a guide to the "ancient art of rhetoric."

One notable inclusion to the work this time around is the oratory secrets of President Donald Trump. In the interview, Heinrichs divulges the critical rhetoric disparities between Republicans and Democrats, and the way Trump uses the tools of rhetoric and persuasion to retain power.

Heinrichs says while Democrats rely on figures of speech, Republicans "tend to sound simpler, more direct," he said. "But they're actually using sneakier tools of rhetoric called tropes. Tropes are ways to mess up your head with a new idea of reality." An example is a metaphor.

As someone who's studied partisan speech, Heinrichs said, people often underestimate the strategy within speech-writing from someone like Trump. "Seemingly plainspoken speech often contains these really deep, sophisticated tropes that mess with people's mind," he said.

"The problem is he's using a kind of rhetoric that brings groups of people close together within only that one group," Heinrichs added. "That's the rhetoric he employs, in part, because he understands the way for him to be in power is to appeal intensively to a small minority of Americans and that's the rhetoric he uses to accomplish that."

Watch our full "Salon Talks" conversation on Facebook.

Tune into Salon's live shows, "Salon Talks" and "Salon Stage," daily at noon ET / 9 a.m. PT and 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT, streaming live on Salon and on Facebook.

Rachel Leah reports for Salon. 

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