A dramatic version of George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” is opening on Broadway this June. The play was already a big success in London and Los Angeles.

That was of course before Donald Trump. This time it’s guaranteed to be an even bigger box office bonanza. You can take that to the bank.

In fact, since the Trump presidency there has been a large run on dystopian literature. Why?

Well, there is a terrific Yiddish expression, “Oy gevalt!”: “Woe is me!” As someone put it, “When you realize you’re about to be hit by a car, this expression would be appropriate.”

There we go, right over the hood about to land headfirst on the hard pavement.

Right now, if someone wrote a dystopian novel called “Trump: Oy Gevalt!” she could also take that to the bank.

Trump’s behavior causes so much anxiety because it is extraordinary, most of all because it centers on creating chaos.

But don’t let that concern narrow your vision.

Trumpism is so extreme and the symbols and language involved are so scary, that it is easy to ignore how much more subtle forms of political language affect us in our own backyards.

So let’s first understand Trump, then go beyond Trumpism and consider Hawaii.

Beyond Trump

To understand, you need to consider the power of symbolic politics and the role language plays in conveying these symbols.

As the great scholar of symbolic politics Murray Edelman put it, “Politics for most of us is a parade of abstract symbols” about events that we do not experience firsthand. Politics, he writes, is a “series of pictures in the mind.” Language creates these pictures by framing the issues and touching the emotions.

Political language and symbols are most commonly used to get people to be acquiescent, to get them to accept or obey.

Trump’s approach is different, at least for now. Trumpian language sets out to create chaos. His talk is about disruption, confrontation, enemies versus friends, the bad guys, black and white with no gray. He talks of violence against those who oppose.

Politicians often use culturally powerful terms like “Hawaii is different” to create mind pictures that reinforce the status quo.

A recent study shows that he almost never talks about democratic values.

Trump’s symbolism goes beyond lying. It is part of a strategy that criticizes the idea of truth itself. Don’t trust anyone. There are no objective authorities or objective facts. All anti-Trump analyses are “fake news.”

All this is pretty frightening, toxic, and even exceptional. It goes beyond the Big Lies in Orwell’s “1984.”

But like that novel, Trump’s ultimate goal is to get people to be acquiescent by demonstrating that he is the only one who can lead us out of this chaos.

So far he is maintaining the acquiescence of his base. A recent Huffington Post Poll shows that 88 percent of Republicans approve of his performance so far. But the rest of the country is far from acquiescent. Only 9 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of the independents approve.

So Trump’s chaos theory is a work in progress, but it’s the work that takes precedence right now. And that makes a lot of people rightfully worried about authoritarianism and dystopia.

Nothing Ever Changes In Hawaii

Now for Hawaii. So quiet, so predictable. And that comes in no small part from our own symbolic politics.

For the most part, Hawaii’s political symbols and language are the polar opposite of Trump’s. In this state, symbolic politics focuses on supporting the status quo.

There are some obvious examples. Big surprise, one of the clearest involves rail. “On budget and on time” was a powerful phase that protected politicians from the public for a good long while.

Politicians often use culturally powerful terms like “local values,” “don’t talk stink” and “Hawaii is different” to create mind pictures that reinforce the status quo.

Let’s go really polar opposite, though, to the everyday, unspectacular, nuts-and-bolts symbols and language that Hawaii bureaucrats use to deflect change.

One example is ritualized responses conveying the image that everything is OK.

For years, the Hawaii state auditor as well as others has criticized the state Department of Transportation’s handling of its hiring and monitoring. This is how that department responded to the auditor’s last set of criticisms:

“The Department of Transportation’s management reviewed the recommendations in the 13-04 audit report and made improvements to emphasize the importance of compliance to procurement laws and rules.”

Flat, terse, routinized language, suggesting that the DOT can respond with business as usual even though business as usual is in fact the problem.

Another example involves the Department of Health’s failure to obey the Legislature’s mandate to make information about the quality of facilities for the elderly available to the public.

After a variety of responses and in the face of a lawsuit, this is what a DOH spokesperson gave as a reason for this failure:

“We didn’t know enough to put the system up that made sense to the public.”

Doing the public a favor by not complying. This is a version of another phrase used by non-complying bureaucracies: “It’s complicated.”

Gov. David Ige also used this kind of language when he failed to meet his own deadline for solving the state’s Maui hospital’s privatization.

Over time here, people have responded to this kind of language not with resistance but with reluctant, cynical acquiescence but acquiescence nevertheless: well, it’s business as usual. Things will never change. That’s Hawaii.

Ordinary everyday politics. No one is going to produce a successful play called, “Oy Gevalt! The Department of Health Is At It Again.”

Trumpism is obviously more frightening and dangerous, but quiet, mundane symbolism like Hawaii’s also has a profound impact on our lives.

You can take that to the bank.

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