“Trump’s rollicking speeches and manic Twitter feed conjured new slogans and insults.”

From a story by David Smith in theguardian.com headlined “Alternative facts, witch-hunt, bigly: the Trump era in 32 words and phrases”:

Donald Trump not only changed much about campaigning, governing and the ways of Washington, even the language of American politics has altered during the Republican’s tenure. Trump’s rollicking rally speeches and manic Twitter feed conjured new slogans and insults or revived incendiary words with long histories; his allies, opponents and chroniclers searched for new phrases to describe the indescribable. Here is a glossary of some of them:

alternative facts
Coined by Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor, during a Meet the Press interview in January 2017 to defend press secretary Sean Spicer’s false assertion that Trump drew the biggest inauguration crowd ever. Together these formed the original sin of the Trump presidency, culminating in his coronavirus and election denialism.

Legend has it that Trump first deployed this word during the first presidential debate against Hillary Clinton in 2016. “I’m going to cut taxes bigly, and you’re going to raise taxes bigly,” he said, or at least that was how some people heard it. Others reckoned he must have said “big league”. But the word “bigly” does appear in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

China virus
Trump complained that Covid-19 had multiple names but more often than not settled on the racist terms “China virus” and “kung flu”, putting Asian Americans at risk of hostility and persecution. He insisted: “Asian Americans are VERY angry at what China has done to our Country, and the World.” But even Conway rejected the term “China virus” as “wrong” and “highly offensive”.

deep state
Trump pushed the conspiracy theory that bureaucrats within the political system effectively run a secret government that plots against democratically elected officials. Others came to see civil servants, judges and national security personnel as a bulwark of democracy. “Thank God for the deep state,” John McLaughlin, a former deputy and acting director of the CIA, remarked last year.

fake news
The term was popularised by BuzzFeed News media editor Craig Silverman to describe unverified claims and online rumours. But in January 2017, Trump, then president-elect, told CNN’s Jim Acosta at a press conference: “You are fake news.” From that moment on, he coopted and weaponised the phrase to dismiss media reports he did not like.

A conflation of Jared Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, both senior advisers to the president, both lightning rods for scorn and ridicule. Hopes that, as supposed New York liberals, they would restrain Trump’s worst impulses were dashed over and over. “They are the Faustian poster couple of the Trump presidency,” wrote Frank Bruni in the New York Times.

Short for “Make America great again”, a slogan borrowed from Ronald Reagan that Trump made his own at rallies, on hats and on endless other merchandise. The “Maga nation” became a way to describe a country within a country, one that was seething with anger, nativist populism and contempt for liberals and fact-based reality.

Another familiar Trump refrain, as in “Governor Cuomo has completely lost control. Sad!”, “Biden will also raise your taxes like never before. Sad!” and “These are “Organized Groups” that have nothing to do with George Floyd. Sad!” History will surely judge he did more for exclamation marks that any other president.

This word became a football in the Trump-fuelled culture wars. People have legitimate reasons to feel “triggered” by examples of racism or other abuses. But rightwing trolls seized on terms like “triggered” and “woke” to mock liberals as “snowflakes”. Donald Trump Jr penned a book called Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us.

Arguably the most overused word of the past five years. A CNN book chronicling the 2016 campaign was entitled Unprecedented: The Election That Changed Everything; just last week, on 15 December, Biden accused Trump of an “unprecedented assault on democracy”. Weary journalists were left scrambling for synonyms.

The phrase, which conjures images of women being put on trial and thrown into water amid hysteria reminiscent of Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible,became a staple of Trump’s defence against the Russia investigation and Ukraine-related impeachment. Casting himself as a perpetual victim, more than one tweet simply yelled: “Witch-hunt!”


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