Why Donald Trump is a Danger to Democracy

Mitt Romney and John McCain Denounce Donald Trump as a Danger to Democracy” on The New York Times website is framed by two images — one, an image of the “religious family man” that the Times calls Mitt Romney; the other, an image of the “profane, philandering self-promoter” that it calls Donald Trump (Burns, Barbaro). Thus, while The Times attempts to give a balanced, objective viewpoint on the clash between the former Republican Presidential candidate (as well as the one before him — John McCain) and the current Republican primary forerunner Donald Trump, it clearly sides with the campaign of Mitt Romney and the Establishment Republicans who resent being challenged by the “outsider” Trump.

The New York Times has paid for this ad, which is essentially endorsed by the Republican elites who seek to wrest control of the Republican primary away from the frontrunner and put it into the hands of someone more malleable like Rubio or Cruz.

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The main binaries of the article are the two former Candidates Romney and McCain and the frontrunner of today and likely Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump. On the one side are two failed bids for political power and on the other side is a momentum gaining rhino of a movement that threatens to overturn the establishment so long held dear by Republican elites. That Romney and McCain should voice denunciations against Trump is the height of hypocrisy and represents an implicit anomaly within the narrative offered in this article: why should the opinion of two failed candidates matter in a race that is clearly between PC (criminal) Culture (represented by Hillary Clinton) and non-PC (conservative) culture (represented by Trump). Also implicit in this narrative is the existence of two parties within the Republican party system — the neo-conservative party, led by men such as Romney and McCain (and several others), and the old-school, traditional conservative party, now being led by Trump (with the support of hundreds of thousands of voters and pundits like Pat Buchannan and David Stockman).

While this article focuses mainly on how Trump is “dangerous” because of his stances on “trade” and “immigration,” the article reveals the actual reason Trump is dangerous without really intending to do so when it describes David Duke as a “white supremacist.” Duke is not a white supremacist and has said so on several occasions (“David Duke Responds to CNN – Speaks to Trump & All Americans”) and this attempt to paint Duke as one by The Times covers up the fact that the real supremacists are those running the neo-conservative wing of the Republican Party — in fact, Romney, McCain et al. The article’s aim is to show how much division the Trump candidacy is causing and how bad it could be for the Party (i.e., the controlling neo-conservatives): The Times concludes that “There probably hasn’t been this level of personal invective by one Republican nominee against another leading candidate,” Mr. Greenberg said. “Ever” (Burns, Barbaro). The implication is that Trump is destroying an institution and causing an historic rift between Republican mainstays represented by Romney and McCain and the party voters.

The article does not attempt to establish the credibility of Trump at all: instead it focuses on sound bites and terms from Romney’s assault on Trump’s credibility and then selects a few, terse sound bites and terms from Trump’s rebuttal to illustrate the dynamic of the exchange. The ad does not go into detail about either individual and simply seems to be about showing how a great feud or drama is in the works within the Party. However, a fuller description of either side would surely give weight to the picture and provide a clearer and more satisfying ethos. But this is lacking and the sense that the reader should come away with is that this is simply sensational journalism attempting to rouse excitement and worry where there really is none. Obviously the voting electorate is not concerned about Trump’s credentials, as he is winning the majority of the states in the Primaries thus far. And, clearly, Romney does not represent the voice of the American electorate as the writers of this ad seem to imply by acting as though his remarks are in any way relevant to what is an obvious going concern among Republican voters — which appears to be backing a candidate that wants to challenge head-on the Republican neo-conservative establishment.

The logos of the article is that Republicans are at war with themselves and that Romney’s wars may still be able to persuade some voters to back Rubio in the upcoming elections. Rubio, the reader is not told, is the establishment’s preferred candidate, but one might surmise that since this article suggests that he has a chance of derailing Trump, even though every objective observer who isn’t writing for The Times would more than likely disagree. There is no real logic presented in this article as there is nothing really that is presented at all, other than bits and pieces of a sound bite war of words between two individuals, making it seem like Romney’s speech (and McCain’s support of it) actually achieved anything of significance. Essentially, the piece is acting as a propagating force, or echo, of Romney’s rhetoric, repeating the accusation that Trump is a “fraud” and a “phony” without offering any evidence of how or why this is so (Burns, Barbaro).

The pathos of the article is appealing to neo-conservative values within the Republican party voting populace. It is also appealing to the PC culture that is ironically best represented by the Republican opponent Hillary Clinton. This suggests that there is really not much difference between the neo-conservative position and the PC Warrior position of Hillary (a Democrat). The intended audience is clearly meant to be individuals who still have yet to vote in upcoming primary elections, with the eye being to steer them to Rubio, Cruz and Kasich: the article notes that Romney “offered a blueprint for a contested convention that may prove impractical, urging Republican primary voters to cast ballots for whichever candidate appeared to be the strongest Trump alternative in each state: Mr. Rubio in Florida, Gov. John Kasich in Ohio and Senator Ted Cruz wherever appropriate” (Burns, Barbaro). It should be noted that the term “impractical” is used here by the authors indicating that this plan is by no means full-proof and could even be problematic. Thus the authors are able to maintain a veneer of indifference and objectivity by showing that they can be mildly critical of such a plan even as they make mention of it, with the words between the lines suggesting that voters at least attempt to make use of this plan to see whether or not it will work.

According to Lakoff, this is a “complex narrative” that is being dealt with by the authors by breaking it down into multiple “simple structures” that include an unlikely hero (Romney/McCain) and a villain (Trump) with an unlikely “scenario” unfolding in which Republican elites make a last-ditch effort to stall the Trump campaign. While this may come across as “neutral circuitry” as Lakoff describes it, the emphasis or focus of the article on the sticking points of Romney against Trump lends credibility to the argument that this article is simply designed to be an “unbiased” hit piece on Trump, showing how he truly is “dangerous” because he is bringing down a cherished institution (Lakoff 22). Where readers may object is on this last point: Trump voters are likely to believe that the institution needs to come down.

Works Cited

Burns, Alexander; Barbaro, Michael. “Mitt Romney and John McCain Denounce Donald

Trump as Danger to Democracy.” The New York Times, 3 Mar 2016. Web. 5 Mar 2016.

“David Duke Responds to CNN – Speaks to Trump & All Americans.” YouTube, 28 Feb

2016. Web. 5 Mar 2016.

Lakoff, George. The Political Mind. NY: Viking, 2008. Print.

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