Originally coined in 1900, the Teddy Roosevelt quote “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far” became the origin behind his now infamous Big Stick Diplomacy. It saddens me to think society as a whole has reached the point where it’s necessary to clarify that Roosevelt’s 100 year old diplomatic strategy was nothing more than a proverbial metaphor. Once again, at no point in time did Roosevelt intend for the literal application of this ideology.
Wouldn’t it be nice if today’s civilized world could wake up each morning, free from the daily burden of educating its peers on the differences between figurative and literal speech? The power behind political ideology in a democratic state rests within the ability of its people to discern the difference between the two, which is why it should come as no surprise 20 years from now when political scientists of that era identify the 2016 election cycle as the death of political ideology as we know it. Cause of death? Strategic targeting of political naïveté.
Consider the primary voter demographic to hand Trump the Electoral College:
• Inconsistent (or non-existent) voting history
• Blue collar family
• Low financial security
• Proficiency in civics & general politics is novice at best
The entire purpose of a presidential campaign is to attract support for policy platforms when elected into office, yet Trump somehow made it into office without even so much as a single detailed plan to back up his campaign promises. He made it into office without providing one detail as to how he would repeal and replace the ACA, how he would pay for it, or how it would impact those who rely on it. He promised a border wall with claims that Mexico would pay for it, and he received votes without ever being forced to explain that Mexico would not literally be writing a check. He promised extreme vetting via a Muslim ban, and he received votes despite it being a gross violation of the Constitution. He packaged himself as a politically incorrect skeptic of our corrupt government, to a group of politically incorrect skeptics of our corrupt government.
Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States because he specifically targeted those who were least likely to realize they were targets, and least likely to notice a lack in substance or legality behind his empty promises. The proverbial metaphor to ‘Make America Great Again’ has become a literal lifeline to those who put him in office, but to this day Trump has yet to record a single explanation as to how he defines the term ‘Great’.
Imagine if Roosevelt were president today and introduced Big Stick Diplomacy under our current political climate. To how many registered voters would you need to explain that our military has no intention of whispering our dominance into ISIS strongholds, while holding a downed tree limb from last week’s thunderstorm? More importantly, would they refer to the figurative meaning behind the phrase as fake news?