Trump The Demagogue?
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Politics and Activism

Trump The Demagogue?

As the election draws closer, it's time to evaluate the true nature of The Donald.

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Trump The Demagogue?
Political Theology

As the election rolls closer, we are still stuck pondering the question of which candidate would better fit the role of President. In terms of what we have discussed in class, I think it is clear that in order to justify Donald Trump’s running for President, we need to compare his character to that of the original character desired by the founders, who created the position. In class, I explicitly recall stating the fact that one of the goals of the Federalists when pushing to get the Constitution ratified was to be to deter demagogues from achieving power in the United States. A demagogue, as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a political leader who tries to get support by making false claims and promises and using arguments based on emotion rather than reason.”[1] Some notable modern demagogues could be identified as Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Josef Stalin, and Marcus Garvey, to give a few commonly known examples. Now, the endgames of demagogues are not always bad, like we saw with Garvey, who tried to develop a larger sense of pride in black people, by encouraging them to resettle in Africa and be self-sufficient. However, the application of demagoguery commonly leaves negative experiences, opposed to positive ones, i.e Hitler and Stalin. The importance of these men lies in the comparisons that people often make with Donald Trump, modernly.

Megan Garber, in her article What We Talk About When We Talk About ‘Demagogues,’ lists some things that are connoted with “demagogue.” The section of her writing that I found the most interesting was her explaining how Trump gaining power would be exactly what Aristotle feared, when organized democracy was in its early stages.[2] Both in class and in Garber’s article, Alexander Hamilton’s fear of a leader using demagoguery to feed off of the people and destroy democracy. Garber quotes Hamilton: “Of those men who have overturned the liberty of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by playing an obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants.” I find this quote to be important in determining whether or not Donald Trump is a true demagogue.

Trump, without question, has used mass appeals of emotion throughout his campaign. His emotional appeals have ranged from lack of national security, weakness in our own country, the problems surrounding a “foreign” religion (I use the word “foreign” loosely, because people fear Islam as it is not what their used to), or even to further criticizes the mishandling of information from the opposing candidate. He is the uniting the people on the grounds of nationalistic appeals. However, I believe it will be until Trump takes the Presidential office that we will be fully able to judge his level of demagoguery. If Trump does end up in office and bans everybody who isn’t white and Christian from the United States, he will pass the demagogue check. But, for now, he has yet to have an opportunity to enact his master plans. So, for the time being, Donald Trump is only partly demagogue.


[1] Merriam-Webster, “Dictionary: demagogue,” Merriam-Webster, 2016, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/demagogue?utm_campaign=sd&utm_medium=serp&utm_source=jsonld.

[2] Megan Garber, “What We Talk About When We Talk About ‘Demagogues’,” The Atlantic, 10 December 2015, http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/12/what-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-demagogues/419514/.

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