Homeric Epithets for the Twenty-First Century

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A week has passed since a decade-old recording of Donald Trump’s horrifying and misogynistic “locker room talk” emerged, and now his presidential campaign seems to be running itself into the ground at a rate more alarmingly fast than usual.

The typical pattern of the Trump campaign would suggest that Mr. Trump is soon due to make another outlandish remark. The latest in this long train of verbal abuses is the declaration that the election and the entire American party system are “rigged” against him.

Like many of his supporters, Trump is having a hard time understanding the Electoral College. His latest statement serves not only as a cushiony excuse if he loses the election but also a shining example of his distinct ability to see directly into the hearts and minds of his most ardent supporters.

Trump’s rhetoric is a bizarre mix of interjections, assurances to his audience, and finger wagging that stand in sharp contrast to Hillary Clinton’s cool-calm-collected style. By focusing on borderline-apocalyptic imagery and reminding us to fear terrorism with all our might, hey appeals to those who are the most likely to agree with his statements without thinking.


The epithets have stuck. Trump is not a bad speaker. In fact, he is remarkably effective in appealing to his target demographic. His problem now is that he has isolated himself from almost every other demographic in the country.


The lower-middle class white voters that form the backbone of Trump’s support see such an ally in him because he knows how to speak their language. His hyperbolic statements reach straight to the heart of angry Americans. The main argument against Clinton is her perceived untrustworthiness. She is seen as the apex of political corruption, and for voters who want transparency in government, Trump’s huge claims and refusal to be politically correct are exactly contrary to Hillary Clinton represents.

Homer used epithets in his poetry to fit the meter and make the epic easier to sing and memorize. Trump uses such epithets to encapsulate his argument against his opponents in a way that is easy to remember. He then repeats it at regular intervals until the opponent is defeated—Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted, Crooked Hillary. Of course, we cannot compare one of the greatest poets of all time to Donald Trump. Nor can we surmise that Mr. Trump is intentionally borrowing this technique from Homer. However, it is worth noting that both have successfully captured their intended message in only a word or two.

The epithets have stuck. Trump is not a bad speaker. In fact, he is remarkably effective in appealing to his target demographic. His problem now is that he has isolated himself from almost every other demographic in the country, and his latest conspiratorial plea to voters may not be enough to save him.

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Emily was born and raised in Arizona and is majoring in History and Psychology with a minor in Classical Studies. She has interned on Capitol Hill in both the House and Senate, where she has heard firsthand what matters to many conservative voters. Emily is particularly interested in fiscal policy and job creation. When not working on the Hill, she is running along the National Mall and training for the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon.

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