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Democracy is dying tweet by tweet in Trump era

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21.06.2019

In the late 1800s, Georges Seurat and Paul Signac developed an innovative painting technique that came to be known as pointillism. The technique involves placing thousands of individual dots of color on a canvas, which when viewed from a distance, form a cohesive image. When viewed up close, however, all one can see is individual, brightly colored dots of paint.

Trump’s rhetoric is like a pointillist painting. Each tweet (along with the occasional TV sound bite) is an individual, brightly colored dot of paint. Unfortunately, the dots themselves are so colorful (read: an affront to the rule of law and/or basic human decency), so numerous, and so frequent that it is often difficult to discern larger patterns and to make out the full picture, which paints the destruction of democracy by attacking our most cherished and fundamental norms, principles, and institutions.

I am acutely aware of the fact that the preceding sentence ‘sounds’ alarmist and hyperbolic. This, I have found, is the chief challenge in writing about Trump’s rhetoric ... commentary about Trump’s discourse, much like a Trump tweet itself, often sounds like an exaggeration. But it only sounds like an exaggeration because of the way Trump packages his rhetoric, namely in the form of 280-character dabs of paint.

Because Trump tweets and speaks in micro-messages, it is easy for his defenders to dismiss their significance (no matter how tortured those defenses may be; remember “alternative facts”), not........

© USA TODAY