Signifying Politics

I watch national news programs on Sunday mornings. This past Sunday morning, I thought they had changed the name and timeframe of Saturday Night Live.

Donald-trump-ndigo-chicagoDonald Trump has changed the political game. No more polite diplomacy politics. It is on, it is hard, it is real and there are no rules any more. “Drop it like it’s hot” is the order of the day.

In the Black community, an eternal popular past time is the art of signifying. This is a verbal word game where you poke fun at a person or a family member of an opponent with ridicule.

It is creative and it is exaggeration of a minute point that is exploited, as in – “Your mother is so fat she can’t climb the stairs.” “You are so poor you can’t afford cornflakes.” “Your mama’s cooking is so bad, the dog won’t eat it.” Then the next person comes back to top what had been said to their opponent.

I don’t know if this practice is particular to Black culture or if there is such a game in other cultures. The late Oscar Brown, Jr. in a song called “Signifying Monkey” memorialized this Black cultural trait in song.

Well now, signifying has turned into the state of our politics today. And Donald Trump is the master of the game, just as he is the master of the media. His words punch, tear, ridicule. He is a jokester as he jabs his opponents.

This is absolutely the strategy he used to force Jeb Bush out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Trump took a politically pedigreed guy and reduced him to being childish and in a fight that he was so behind in that he had to get mommy and big brother on the campaign trail to try to garner support. But the family move didn’t work for Jeb.

The pundits and the experts have missed Mr. Trump. They are playing politics while he is playing leadership. At this time I am convinced he will be the campaign trail nominee; how it works out in the Electoral College for the actual nomination is another story and a challenge to Republicans.

Trump will embarrass the Republican Party as he absolutely turns it on its head. The candidates reveal that Trump could never be the “nominee” because he is not a “real conservative.” They desperately miss the point. He is reality. He is now. Damn conservatism. Who cares?

Common Language

hillary-ndigo-chicagoDonald Trump is speaking the language of the common man on the street who is worried about making ends meet and wonders what has happened to his country. He is speaking to those who are fearful of the foreigners taking their jobs.

He is speaking to the workingman worried about his pension. He is speaking to the small businessperson worried if he can stay alive. He is speaking beer/bar language that the guys talk about for real. He says what you say when you talk back to the television. And he leads the discussion, whether he is on the set or not.

Everyone is reacting to Trump. People are tired of the facts, figures, policies, and most of all, the promises that make for good speeches, but are well forgotten when that promising candidate is actually elected to office.

Nobody wants to hear about the Senate floor speeches or about the bill as we try to meet payment on the first of the month on real bills. This is Trump’s business, this is Trump’s real speech, and this is his real conversation.

It is not necessarily polite or diplomatic, but it is where people live. That’s why people are filling up stadiums to hear him. He addresses the heckler, not with a pat answer but with what you really want to say – put him out.

The seasoned experienced politicians don’t quite get Trump. His style has brought forth genuineness. He is having an authentic conversation with the American public that says, “I am a proven leader and I will roll up my sleeves to get the job done for real.” He is believable.

Revolution or Traditional Politics?

On the other hand, we have the Democrats, whose presidential nomination is up for grabs. Bernie Sanders is calling for a revolution by the people. He is calling for the youth to rebel and fight the power structure for their causes and make the politicos succumb to their will.

Sanders has appealed and cross-overed to the millennials. His candidacy depends on large numbers going to the voting polls. This generation relies too much on social media and has produced a hashtag movement.

Bernie-sanders-ndigo-chicagoThere are still basics in politics that are essential, like knocking on the doors, shaking hands, and going to the polls to cast your ballot. Bernie is suggesting socialism in a capitalistic economic structure.

Can you imagine Dr. King calling for The March on Washington via social media and not utilizing local community organizers to say sign up here and tell us when the buses and trains leave?

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is using basic traditional politics, appealing to those who vote. Her model is the precinct captain and she is calling in the chips from a community she and her husband have made friends with over the years.

The traditional Civil Rights Baby Boomer generation is her core vote. These are experienced vote getters who themselves or their parents fought for the right to vote. This is the generation that takes voting so seriously that a politic and a movement were formed around it.

This is the group that held sit-ins, marches and whatever else they had to do for the right to vote at the polls. This is the generation that said we will die and go to our graves before we are slaves, meaning that we will die for the right to vote. And many did.

What Country Does Mississippi Belong To?

When I was a child, I saw on TV people in the South being bitten by dogs and knocked down with water hoses and jailed for attempting to vote. I thought the South was another country.

I once got into a terrific argument with a teacher as she was teaching civics, telling us about people in the South having to take a test to register to vote.

We were learning the Constitution of the United States and I was quite confused between reading the book and looking at TV news. The Southern Poll Test asked questions like how many bubbles were in a bar of soap, or how many jellybeans were in a jar, the teacher told us.

I am sorry, but I didn’t get it; I thought the South was another country. My father said it was indeed another country. My mother had to come to school. The principal, the teacher, and my mother explained to me what was essentially the ways of basic racism.

Every time I hear a Black person say they will not vote, I remember this incident. I have never ever not voted, thinking of what some went through for us to have the right. My point, for this Civil Rights Baby Boomer, is that voting is serious.

It also means something to this generation that Hillary Clinton can be the first woman to rule the United States, even though there is a generational divide in the Black community over whether that should occur.

But here is the concern. At this point, I think Trump will be the Republican nominee and I think Hillary will be the Democratic nominee. What will the debate look like between the two of them? We will see old guard politics versus new non-traditional politics.

Hillary will have to be very careful with her public image to always come off as a lady, but at the same time, demonstrate that she can take care of herself in a tough situation. Trump will take pot shots at her and won’t care whether he is considered a gentleman or not.

The American public, young and old, Black and White, suburban and urban, will have to decide which one will make the better leader.

I am hoping that we the people will last through the political campaigning until the general election on November 8, 2016 and beyond. No matter who wins.

Hermene Hartman

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  • Leadership is basically influence in a nutshell.

    Donald Trump has come along and like the article states, he’s given people something to think about and talk about. But if only he could use his “powers” for the greater good. Mr. Trump has used his leadership skills (influence) to turn the world of politricks on its ears.

    If ever there was a time that we as a country needed to pray for our leaders, it’s right now.

  • The article was truly to the point, very precise. Trump is a piece of work I must say he pulls no punches and Ms Hartman captured it all !!
    It will be very interesting to see the final outcome.

  • Looking at the debates is like looking at Saturday Night Live. Wild Wild West is in play. Thanks for writing.

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