Trump Alfred E. Neuman

MAD Magazine's Twitter account poking fun at Democratic Presidental Candidate Pete Buttigieg.

Twitter/MAD Magazine

MAD Magazine's Twitter account poking fun at Democratic Presidental Candidate Pete Buttigieg.

Shomudro Gupta, Staff

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President Trump recently took to an interview with POLITICO to express his thoughts on presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg as well as elaborate on his progress with the Chinese government on achieving a new trade deal in the midst of the ongoing trade war. One element that particularly stood out was an all-too-familiar name for the purpose of criticizing and deriding Buttigieg – Alfred E. Neuman. Trump utilized this epithet, knowingly referring to the outlandish, gawky, gap-toothed, wide-faced, big-eared, naive mascot of MAD Magazine (The satirical magazine used this caricature on the front cover back in 1956, mainly as a write-in candidate for president. His image would eventually peak in the 1970s, although being a mainstay in American counterculture.) and likening it to Buttigieg, and unknowingly highlighted a generational gap between demographics supporting both camps. Buttigieg further highlighted said gap in a response to his newly adorned nickname, stating “I’ll be honest. I had to Google that,” and “I guess it’s just a generational thing. I didn’t get the reference. It’s kind of funny, I guess.” MAD Magazine afterwards took to Twitter to mock Buttigieg’s relative recent spat at fame, utilizing the same phrase that Buttigieg used to respond to Trump.

This seemingly innocuous yet increasingly virulent exchange between political players is little more than a reminder of the ever-growing generational gap, as well as yet another example of Trump’s campaign maneuver of labeling with simple, yet effective epithets, i.e. “Crazy Bernie”, “Sleepy Joe Biden”, and “Crooked Hillary”. Whether Trump knows it or not, he is utilizing phonemes (the smallest unit of meaning) as well as the mere exposure effect (a novel stimulation is repeated countless times until an association is made with said phoneme) to eventually “Trump” his competition. This is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a campaign tactic that is as effective and transcendent as it was back in 2015, when Trump first announced his candidacy. Whether one likes Trump or loathes him beyond reasonable comprehension, it must be agreed that sometimes, Less is More.