Politics and its Ugly Sister

The first round of the Republican debate for the upcoming 2016 election year was aired on Fox News on August 7th. And the second round is right around the corner.

statueDonald Trump, TV personality and powerful business tycoon, entered the debate with an overwhelming backing of Republican supporters, and exited seemingly unmarred in the polls. Despite some reports and reporter commentary, Trump remains steadily in the lead for the Republican Candidacy.

One of the highlights of the evening was a spat between Trump and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. Kelly addressed some of  Trump’s scathing and public remarks about the looks of various women of celebrity status.

Of course, everyone has heard about his comments and tweets, and are well aware that they have been dealt to numerous women, though Trump evaded confessing to others during the debate. Trump even admitted,light-heartedly and without remorse, to making ugly comments regarding Rosie O’Donnell, but passively denies the accusation in regard to anyone else.

How politic of him.

Considering that the likely Democratic candidate is Hillary Clinton, avid Republican Megyn Kelly has valid reason to address this particular concern in a public forum—in her own interests and that of every other Republican affiliate. In my previous column entitled “Are Women More Liberal Than Men“, I addressed the issue of conservative candidates ignoring women’s issues, driving many women to side with a more liberal party. In fact, in some instances, women have been responsible for handing liberal candidates the win in an election. Whether for good or bad, it won’t be argued here.

Returning to the spat, it’s no wonder that Kelly brought this question to the forefront. If Trump gains the Republican candidacy—which looks more and more likely—the Republican Party could lose simply as a result of female voters being turned off by Trump’s misogynistic comments.

I am not making the stereotypical suggestion that women are being petty by reacting this way; it would be difficult for a woman, feminist or not, to see his comments as anything but a reflection of Trump’s feelings about women in general. Essentially his comments say, “I equate the value of women to their appearance.”
Very misogynistic indeed.

About 24 million people watched the confrontation, and waited for Trump’s answer to that important question. trump2Trump responded, in his usual flair, and rambled for a moment beyond the ding—all the while, the studio audience cheered and laughed in support of his answer.

But in fact, he gave no answer at all.

Essentially, Trump turned the table on Kelly by using her question as a response to fuel the fire of other issues that were completely unrelated to her inquiry. He never addressed her question. He very astutely evaded it, yet still managed to satisfy the audience.

Hence the thundering applause.

In fact, let’s review his response verbatim. Trump first interrupts Kelly’s question, smirking, to say, “Only Rosie O’Donnell.” The crowd erupts in laughter.

This comment sets the tone for the rest of Trump’s response. An apparent attempt at levity, Trump mishandled an important issue. Not only was the comment a lie (as Kelly implied when she continued her question), but with its lackadaisical tenor it served as a blatant rebellion against the advice the anchor discreetly delivered to the potential Republican candidate (rather considerate if you ask me).

In fact, as we review Kelly’s question itself, we see that it serveed not only as an inquiry but also as a rhetorical question—or an admonition. “You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs’, ‘dogs’, ‘slobs’, and ‘disgusting animals’. Your Twitter account … has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge [from] Hillary Clinton, who is likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?”

What Kelly could be saying is, “Trump, that is not the temperament befitting the President of the United States. Be careful.”

Yet Trump just laughed it off, and the audience joined him. And not quiet amongst the laughter was women.

He proceeded with great bombast, in a rather ingenious response, by twisting Kelly’s question into some sort of pander. “I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct,” he stated.

There are few issues more hypnotic to a conservative than the always offended, over-sensitive, politically-correct progressive society, and Trump wielded this issue like a weapon with skill. This weapon has been used by politicians for centuries now. It is perhaps the most effective tool that a politician has at his disposal.

Long before the politicians we know today were called politicians, the Greeks were referred to them Sophists. Sophists were the archetype of orators, and were trained extensively to persuade an audience to side with a viewpoint, which often the sophist himself did not possess. In fact, the best Sophists could just as skillfully persuade the audience of the contradicting view, at a moment’s notice.

The Sophists used the same weapon that Trump and many politicians before him have used. It has a name, and it’s called Rhetoric. And it’s the ugly sister of politics.

Rhetoric is essentially the art of persuasion, and it is an interesting tool in politics and oration. It possesses in itself the unique ability to camouflage. Like a chameleon, the majority of people are looking at rhetoric—but simply don’t recognize it for it is actually is.

But if we analyze the rest of Trump’s response, we can see that it’s riddled with rhetorical bullet holes. Whereas Kelly uses rhetoric appropriately, Trump used it inappropriately—though no less successfully.

He went on: “… I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness and to be honest with you this country doesn’t have time either. This country is in big trouble, we don’t win anymore, we lose to China, we lose to Mexico, both in trade and at the border. We lose to everybody … ”

Trump completely alters the platform which Kelly was trying to establish. Unwilling to elaborate on his political  or personal views on women, he evades her question and dives into a discussion on political correctness, the economy, and border control which perhaps encompass the top three most discussed issues in the Republican realm. Important issues, yes; yet, these issues have nothing to do with holding misogynistic views which likely affect the man’s policies. His response was completely and deliberately irrelevant.

Perhaps the most amusing part of his sermon: Trump proceeded: “…And frankly what I say—and often times, it’s fun, it’s kidding, we have a good time—what I say is what I say. And honestly Megyn if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be based on the way you have treated me but I wouldn’t do that.”

This statement prompted a lot of noise in the audience; Trump was now attacking his interviewer in an effort to distract from the question and his own policy. If the interviewer is petty and rude, how on earth can her question deserve an answer?

But it’s just more rhetoric.

If we take a look at the very reason for Megyn Kelly’s question, we see a demonstration of that same tool that politicians like to use so much. Trump’s many indiscreet comments about women, using insults regarding their appearance, is a representation of the tactic of attacking an opponent’s stance by insulting a part of their character that isn’t relevant to the issue being discussed.

Does being “pig-like” in appearance have anything to do with the honorableness of a person, particularly a woman? No, being ugly is an irrelevant attack on the character or stance of an individual.

Should Rosie O’Donnell’s physical appearance have a significant effect on the opinion of her character? No, it shouldn’t. Does Megyn Kelly being “not nice” have anything to do with the reasonableness of her question? Absolutely not.

sophistWe know this, yet Trump’s tactic actually worked. Why else did everyone laugh when he admitted to insulting O’Donnell in such a way?

In fact, we are seeing a similar phenomenon going on with a certain suddenly-infamous celebrity, Kim Davis. Davis, a county clerk, recently found herself in the spotlight for withholding marriage licenses to gay couples.

Clouding the media between focus on her actual stance and the legality of her actions are comments about, lo and behold, her looks and her love life. Primarily from the liberal media, jokes are flooding the internet about her weight, her three failed marriages, and her unfashionable hairdo.

The same liberal media who has become furious with Trump for objectifying comments regarding women is doing the same thing.

Except whereas Trump is one man with a lot of publicity, the liberal media encompasses millions of people attacking the stance of a woman based on her looks and other equally irrelevant aspects of Kim Davis.

But Trump is simply using a political tactic that works and works all too well. After all, he wants to win, right? Trump’s use of rhetoric is not the problem. The problem is that it is so well-received.

The problem is that rhetoric is extremely effective. We’ve seen it time and time again. We gripe about dirty politicians and make as many jokes about them as we do lawyers, but when the politician presents his face to the camera, we become hypnotized and inspired by words that lack reason or even meaning.

Trump’s audience was swept up by his oration, even the women who watched him downplay the topic of women’s issues. He used levity where it had no place, he used evasion, he used pandering, he used superficial insults, pompousness, irrelevancy, and even deception in a matter of seconds—and it went unnoticed by millions of people.

Whether you are voting Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or anything else in 2016, be on the lookout for rhetoric. Despite this rather long-winded analysis of Trump’s use of rhetoric and fallacious reasoning, my aim is not to attack Trump personally or his candidacy. My aim is not to laud Kim Davis. It’s possible that Trump would be a great president and that Kim Davis is a slime-ball.

As citizens and voters, we need to be aware of when we are being duped by politicians, because it is happening constantly. So when you are watching the next debate, Republican or other, don’t fall for the trickery, the sophistry, the rhetoric.

If we, as citizens, begin to respond to a different tactic—say, for instance, the truth—then maybe politicians will step up and give it to us.

It really is up to you.

 

Sources:

“Republican Presidential Candidates 2016.” Republican Presidential Candidates 2016. 2015Politicks.org, 2015. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.

“Donald Trump and Megyn Kelly Go Back and Forth at the Fox News GOP Debate.” YouTube. YouTube, 6 Aug. 2015. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.

Event, The. “Fox’s GOP Debate Had Record 24 Million Viewers.”CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 7 Aug. 2015. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.

Holloway, Lynette. “So This Happened: Donald Trump Says He’ll Win The Latino Vote.” The Michigan Chronicle RSS. Michigan Chronicle, 09 July 2015. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.

Gren, Samuel. “Noet Blog.” Noet Blog. NOET, 18 May 2015. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.

Press, Associated. “Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis Again Asks for Delay on Marriage Licenses.” Msnbc.com. NBC News Digital, 11 Sept. 2015. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.

“Google.” Google. Google, n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.

Lauren Boudreaux

Lauren Boudreaux

Lauren Boudreaux is a budding freelance writer, with interests including philosophy, law, politics, and contemporary issues. Raised in an extremely conservative religious sect, she was compelled to leave the church as an adult. Later on she discovered philosophy, and it seemed a natural path for her to take. Though no longer agreeing with the teachings of the church, she credits her upbringing for much of her appreciation of morality and ethics. She is currently a philosophy major at the University of New Orleans, and plans to graduate in the spring of 2016. After obtaining her bachelor’s she plans to attend law school and is leaning towards a focus in criminal law. She currently resides in New Orleans.
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