A recent article that talked about Donald Trump's meeting with bikers at the beginning of a Rolling Thunder event quoted Trump as saying the following:
“Look at all these bikers,” Mr. Trump, standing before a crowd in front of the Lincoln Memorial, said with admiration. “Do we love the bikers? Yes. We love the bikers.”
Bikers... bikers... bikers.
I'm convinced that Donald Trump is an example of what my long-ago high-school biology teacher sneeringly called The Law of the Septic Tank, which applies nicely to politicians: the biggest pieces rise to the top. Nothing Trump has said, since he began his improbable run for the presidency, has convinced me that he has any brains. Sure, he's got what many would style "low cunning," but don't expect to see Trump sitting by the hearth, holding his own opposite someone with the intellectual firepower of a William F. Buckley anytime soon.
Repetitive elements in speech and writing can sometimes be a powerful rhetorical technique, but there are also times when repetition, especially when it leads to a feeling of "overlapping prose," signals ineloquence at best and obtuseness at worst. Look at the following paragraph, which I've written to mimic the style of some bloggers I read:
I have a problem. It is a big problem. My problem is this: horseflies in my back yard. How can I solve this horsefly problem? I've talked to my neighbors, who also have this problem. My neighbors don't have any solutions. And frankly, I need a good solution.
I can't stand this overlapping style of writing: sentence 1 says "problem," then sentence 2 says "problem"; sentence 3 says "horseflies," then sentence 4 says "horsefly." Sentence 5 says "neighbors," then sentence 6 says "neighbors." Sentence 6 says "solutions," then sentence 7 says "solution." For me, this is the rhetorical equivalent of a slug leaving a trail of slime as it drags itself along the ground. It's intellectual slop. Pigswill.
In trying to figure out what exactly bothers me about this rhetorical style, the only thing I can come up with is that I'm an elitist with an admiration for aretê (Gk. excellence) and little patience for clumsiness and incompetence. This makes some bloggers' prose musical to me, and others' downright hellish. Overlapping prose indicates an inability to leave one thought completely behind when leaping to the next thought. It's like the fearful navigation of a North Dakota farmer in a blizzard, moving from house to barn by sliding his hands along a cable strung between the two buildings. If the cable magically turned into a dotted line, the farmer would be lost, and the same is true for prose-overlappers, who can't hold a coherent thought without seeding successive sentences with reminders of previous sentences.
Who knows? Maybe you, Dear Reader, like this sort of rhetorical technique and can see its redeeming qualities. I don't and can't, and if I were ever to teach another writing class, I'd warn my students away from forming their thoughts in this manner.