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Donald Trump, Barack Obama And The Power of Rhetoric

Posted: 04 Mar 2016 08:20 AM PST

INTELLECTUAL CONSERVATIVE

 

 

Rhetoric is a powerful force.

We all recall the spectacle of watching American Liberals swept away in a tidal wave of rhetoric eight years ago, under the spell of a junior senator from Illinois who had not been very notable during his short time in the congress.  What  mattered was that he was a compelling speaker; he excited and energized the people.  Watching this myself, I glibly assumed that this was the sort of thing that only Progressives were susceptible to.  Conservative Republicans, I thought,  were hard nosed realists that look at who a man actually is; at his history. For history is unquestionably the only way that we can know any person to which we ourselves have not had personal access. What it seems we are discovering is that human beings can  be very susceptible to rhetoric regardless of their ideological stripe.  Now the character of that rhetoric may vary; in one case we may have high eloquent rhetoric, and in another  we may have bold-sounding, feisty, straight to the point rhetoric.  The point is however that in each case rhetoric serves as a replacement for action.

What is courage and character?  Courage and character  do not consist of speaking in a confident, firm or aggressive tone.  They mean to faithfully stand for a set of principles over time, even when it is difficult to do.  Now having the strength of one’s convictions comes from a desire  to see certain things take place within your  nation.  The man who truly has the good of his country as his highest priority will always be content  to see another man or woman with similar values occupy that same office instead of himself. He would certainly  never do anything that would  unquestionably turn that country over to his political opponents. At the beginning of this race Mr.  Trump refused to pledge his support for the eventual Republican nominee. After  considering his lead in the polls and the political pressure  he agreed to do so. When recently another candidate began to pull ahead in the polls he indicated that he would revoke that pledge, but once he proved triumphant in South Carolina  he reversed himself once more.

Both the history of  political positions here, and the unwillingness to lay down his  own personal ambition  for the sake of Conservative political beliefs  should be a clue on the question of conviction.  Now president Obama by contrast is a true believer in his ideals who would  support any fellow Progressive candidate win or lose. The overall point here is that we must become more concrete in the assessment of our political candidates.   Let the things that excite us be the things that we have learned about their actions and their character; not  their campaign rhetoric in the present moment.  People within an authoritarian society are lead by the picture that a leader  paints of himself. The people within a free society are lead by the picture that reality paints of a man.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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