A Rhetorical Analysis of Donald Trump’s Campaign

Pathos – an appeal to emotion

Ethos – an appeal to the credibility of the speaker

Logos – an appeal to logic or reason

Donald masterfully employs pathos. He brilliantly taps into the emotions of his followers, especially their fear, anger, and vindictive desire for justice. He is running for president at perhaps the most opportune time in history: a time when people are so fed up with Washington, feeling betrayed by their party and frustrated with the current administration, that they just want to blow the system up. And like a knight in shining armor Donald is swooping in saying the things they want to say and promising to do the things they cannot do themselves.

Donald also does a fantastic job with ethos. His favorite thing to do is to praise himself, telling you how much people love him and how great a business he has built. He exudes an aura of success and confidence, which bolsters his believability. His success in business, moreover, has become the basis for his credibility to speak on any issue and to espouse that he is the one most qualified to fix our nation’s problems.

Donald doesn’t do so well, however, with logos. He has the genius ability to speak and not say anything substantive at the same time, and to repeat himself ad nauseam, while denying he is doing so. Donald’s rationale in what he says consistently looks like Swiss cheese. He’s an expert of the non sequitur. And thus, when pressed by an interviewer to defend his bold claims, he regularly changes his approach to his favorite ethos argument, “I’ve built a great company.”

You see, the way in which Donald has taken over the political scene is like a man wandering in a desert, dying of thirst, who in the distance sees his wife whom he never dreamed he would see again. He runs with all the strength he can muster to wrap her in his arms. But just as he reaches out to grasp her, he trips over his own feet, falling to the ground with a mouthful of sand. Why? Because she wasn’t really there. It was a mirage.

Donald is a mirage. He looks and sounds great. He says the things everyone wants to say but no one has the gall to say. He promises to be the hero we’ve all been waiting for. He tells us he’s done this all before, just look at the great company he’s built; and he can do it again in Washington. But when you take a closer look, what’s really there? Nobody really knows, because no one can pin him down. At his core (by his own admission) he’s flexible: a negotiator of the highest order. Not to mention, he’s conveniently gone through an ideological conversion over the last few years, and therefore, can seemingly excuse any flip-flopping on the issues.

In the end, Donald’s use of pathos is ingenious, but frightening. His support is more cultish than rational. As he said himself, he could shoot someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue and wouldn’t lose a single follower.

Donald’s use of ethos gives the appearance of credibility, but when you peek behind the curtain the stage is empty. Does business success really translate into success in government? We’re voting for a commander in chief, not a chief executive officer.

Donald’s use of logos, or lack thereof, is also concerning. He prefers the bait and switch maneuver over real policy discussion. That is, he makes bold promises (the bait), but when he’s challenged, instead of giving a reasoned defense or explanation, he regularly says something to the effect of, “Just trust me,” or better yet, attacks the challenger (and switch).

Serious times call for serious thought. We cannot afford to get this election wrong. Is Donald Trump the candidate best prepared to make America great again?


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