It's hard to escape prestige politics these days. You turn on the television, and one channel has another show with an unexpected Russian subplot, the next has another white male antihero, and it's clear from the casting that actors paid by foreign governments are taking away roles from well-qualified Americans. Since our president has made clear that the narrative shaped by his daily actions is far more important than the policies and decisions themselves, it is important to recognize the ingredients that make up this new art form being built by our leaders between every breaking news update.
Here follows an attempt to define the literary devices used by the White House to paint a reality slightly more agreeable than the one that currently exists.
aestheticism: an artistic movement that looks at the totality of the presidency and deems the beauty of its gold draperies as its greatest worth, or can see a framed picture of the 2016 popular vote as a sea of red, instead of a commentary on delusion.
alliteration: the act of attaching a word with the same first consonant sound as someone's name in order to telegraph belittling mockery for those not witty enough to come up with a slightly more involved insult.
Examples: Cryin' Chuck Schumer; Crooked Clinton would have been a good one, but the accepted usage is currently "Crooked Hillary."
allusion: the act of indirectly making racist comments to stoke fear or support from people whose only understanding of cities, crime, or immigration comes from the anecdotes shared by politicians. It can also be deployed in the act of subtly demeaning women by referencing their darkest secrets.
anthropomorphism: when an inanimate object that only cares about tax cuts or the Electoral College is briefly bestowed with emotional intelligence. ( See: pathetic fallacy)
antihero: a character in politics who has their own very noticeable and aggravating flaws — but manages to earn some moral respite by defeating Trump in an American Gladiators–style handshake battle.
antiphrasis: a fancy word for the act of appending " many people are saying" to the beginning of a sentence.
archaism: when a politician or pundit invokes old-fashioned ideas and language regarding centrism, economic anxiety, or the strength of our institutions.
archetype: a universal symbol defined by its ability to inspire D.C. residents to label it a " Jonah."
bildungsroman: the ongoing narrative of a small boy learning to be president. Typically, the act of growing up is signified by the protagonist finally deciding to bomb other countries, or being able to make it through an entire speech on prime-time television without mentioning the Electoral College. More subtly, the protagonist might tell his staffers that he's ready to graduate from picture books and read a normal briefing book, stop asking foreign leaders to explain basic concepts of international policy ( See: didactic), or stop inventing nicknames for his enemies ( See: alliteration). The bildungsroman usually ends with the protagonist realizing that their decisions can affect billions of people, perhaps humbling them a bit. (But not always.)
circumlocution: the act of not self-editing mentions of the Electoral College.
deus ex machina: a lazy mechanism that rescues a boring plot through the unexpected appearance of a memo, obscure financial holding, personnel announcement, or pee tape.
didactic: a genre of storytelling meant to instruct our president in how to do his job after it has already started. It is an exciting and new form of literature, and has been adapted into many forms. An audio presentation offered by a foreign leader has proved very informative, as has a minimalist sheet of paper with a chart on it. If you see a document that has the word " Trump" written on it at least once each paragraph, you are probably reading a didactic work, albeit an incredibly innovative one.
epic: The Art of the Deal, when reduced to verse in a tweetstorm.
epizeuxis: the reuse of the same adjectives and adverbs (such as "very" or "big league") over and over again in the same sentence or speech, made necessary by the fact that the protagonist only knows five such words.
exposition: the moment in an interview, conversation, or speech when the protagonist reveals the motivations and history defining his current actions by bringing up the Electoral College.
foreshadowing: a literary device in which every warning issued during the 2016 election comes true. Another related principle — Chekhov's fave — dictates that every single Trump tweet has an inverse relationship with reality, and he will one day commit every single error he ever complained about on social media.
Greek chorus: an anonymous cloud of eggs or random screenshots from Google Images that comments on every single Donald Trump tweet, standing in for the judgment of an entire nation.
hyperbole: the overblown exaggerations deployed by powerful self-promoters plagued by insecurities who don't acknowledge truth unless it has been appropriately varnished.
— "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."
— “We’re going to win. We’re going to win so much. We’re going to win at trade, we’re going to win at the border. We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning, you’re going to come to me and go ‘Please, please, we can’t win anymore.’ You’ve heard this one. You’ll say ‘Please, Mr. President, we beg you sir, we don’t want to win anymore. It’s too much. It’s not fair to everybody else.’ And I’m going to say ‘I’m sorry, but we’re going to keep winning, winning, winning, We’re going to make America great again.”
metaphor: a figure of speech that finds the similarities in things that look dissimilar at first glance. When an unnamed White House staffer says that their office space is “ a morgue,” they do not mean that everyone there is literally dead — only on the inside.
monologue: an unbroken riff, replete with asides on gossip, China, Hillary Clinton, trade, the Electoral College, and the relative unfairness of being a powerful white man just trying to make his way in the world.
ode: a free-verse poem about the "greatest" things in the world, usually relating to the 2016 election.
pathetic fallacy: a term for the moment when members of Congress tell reporters that they are "troubled" by events in the White House, a reaction reminiscent of how humans would respond to similar situations, if still retaining a kernel of inhumanity. The politicians might try to inch closer to acting human by referencing the fact that they are related to at least one woman, by saying they are "very troubled," or by giving a reporter the middle finger.
parable: a story meant to illustrate the wisdom one might learn while selling real estate in Manhattan, as told by Trump in The Art of the Deal.
proverb: a quote from a Nigerian poet that has been gifted to the Irish on Saint Patrick's Day in such a way that the framing of the quote becomes far more instructive than the quote itself.
synecdoche: a figure of speech used to convey that Donald Trump incorrectly believes that the executive branch represents the entire federal government.