Ronald Trump versus Hillary Mondale?

To understand why Donald Trump probably won the first TV debate, it is necessary to revisit comments I made several days ago about the existence of two American English languages and those who speak them.

I contended that one of those languages is spoken by an American "establishment" that includes well educated and self-styled "sophisticated" men and women with political views across the board – left, center, and right.  This is a social aristocracy that is, as it is very American, not inherited by money or class, but culturally transmitted by education, occupation, and personal preference.  The other language, which employs the same vocabulary and syntax, is spoken by a large number of men and women usually (but not always) with less education, often lower-paying work, and their own set of cultural preferences.  Each group is aware of the other, but there is relatively little interaction between them other than when they must transact perfunctory business, services, and other daily contact with each other.

Hillary Clinton is the 2016 representative of the former, although those who are conservative and others who are more radical do not necessarily like her or plan to vote for her.  Donald Trump is the representative of the latter, although those who are liberal or very conservative do not necessarily like him or plan to vote for him. Moreover, while Mrs. Clinton was born into her group, Mr. Trump was not born into his.

Donald Trump was born into wealth, privilege, private education, and high culture.  But his business life, which has absorbed him most of his adult life, has brought him into constant and close contact with those who worked for him in the construction business.  According to those who know him best, Mr. Trump was not a distant, uninvolved boss.  Rather, like so many who are very successful, he mixed freely with his workers and, very importantly, listened to what they told him.  As a result, he not only learned their language, but also gained an understanding of what was important to them.

It is their language he has been speaking in the 2016 campaign and their concerns he has tried to address – and that is why, in my opinion, the so-called educated and cultured class, even those who are traditionally Republican and conservative, have failed to understand his success in the 2016 nomination campaign.  They are tone-deaf to the language of those who speak the "other" American English.

Mr. Trump's debate performance was uneven, restrained, occasionally bombastic, but always on a substantive message of hopeful change – and he spoke in the language of non-establishment Americans.  Mrs. Clinton's debate performance was well prepared, self-assured, and aggressive (all positives) – but she spoke in the language of the establishment.

Ronald Reagan was a movie star governor who spoke in a non-establishment language.  Not only Democrats, but many Republicans did not take him seriously.  Walter Mondale was a career politician who was smart, witty, and well informed, and he spoke the establishment language with almost perfect pitch.  He seemed clearly to out-debate Mr. Reagan in their first debate, and he openly declared that he was going to raise taxes and increase the role of government if he became president.  Large numbers of working-class Democrats then voted for Mr. Reagan, who won in an historic landslide.

Of the campaign messages, which is most hopeful and appealing: "Make America Great Again," "I'm With Her," or "Vote For Neither"?

This presidential race continues to surprise and confound.  Only the voters can bring it closure.

To understand why Donald Trump probably won the first TV debate, it is necessary to revisit comments I made several days ago about the existence of two American English languages and those who speak them.

I contended that one of those languages is spoken by an American "establishment" that includes well educated and self-styled "sophisticated" men and women with political views across the board – left, center, and right.  This is a social aristocracy that is, as it is very American, not inherited by money or class, but culturally transmitted by education, occupation, and personal preference.  The other language, which employs the same vocabulary and syntax, is spoken by a large number of men and women usually (but not always) with less education, often lower-paying work, and their own set of cultural preferences.  Each group is aware of the other, but there is relatively little interaction between them other than when they must transact perfunctory business, services, and other daily contact with each other.

Hillary Clinton is the 2016 representative of the former, although those who are conservative and others who are more radical do not necessarily like her or plan to vote for her.  Donald Trump is the representative of the latter, although those who are liberal or very conservative do not necessarily like him or plan to vote for him. Moreover, while Mrs. Clinton was born into her group, Mr. Trump was not born into his.

Donald Trump was born into wealth, privilege, private education, and high culture.  But his business life, which has absorbed him most of his adult life, has brought him into constant and close contact with those who worked for him in the construction business.  According to those who know him best, Mr. Trump was not a distant, uninvolved boss.  Rather, like so many who are very successful, he mixed freely with his workers and, very importantly, listened to what they told him.  As a result, he not only learned their language, but also gained an understanding of what was important to them.

It is their language he has been speaking in the 2016 campaign and their concerns he has tried to address – and that is why, in my opinion, the so-called educated and cultured class, even those who are traditionally Republican and conservative, have failed to understand his success in the 2016 nomination campaign.  They are tone-deaf to the language of those who speak the "other" American English.

Mr. Trump's debate performance was uneven, restrained, occasionally bombastic, but always on a substantive message of hopeful change – and he spoke in the language of non-establishment Americans.  Mrs. Clinton's debate performance was well prepared, self-assured, and aggressive (all positives) – but she spoke in the language of the establishment.

Ronald Reagan was a movie star governor who spoke in a non-establishment language.  Not only Democrats, but many Republicans did not take him seriously.  Walter Mondale was a career politician who was smart, witty, and well informed, and he spoke the establishment language with almost perfect pitch.  He seemed clearly to out-debate Mr. Reagan in their first debate, and he openly declared that he was going to raise taxes and increase the role of government if he became president.  Large numbers of working-class Democrats then voted for Mr. Reagan, who won in an historic landslide.

Of the campaign messages, which is most hopeful and appealing: "Make America Great Again," "I'm With Her," or "Vote For Neither"?

This presidential race continues to surprise and confound.  Only the voters can bring it closure.