Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Trump's Syllogism from the Declaration of Independence Demands Insurrection

Donald Trump's demagogic rhetoric has succeeded in persuading his supporters because of his skillful use of two primary syllogisms--an electoral syllogism and a revolutionary syllogism.  The syllogistic character of his rhetoric is usually not clear because he leaves some steps in his syllogistic reasoning unstated, so that they have to be supplied by the listeners.  This is what Aristotle described in his Rhetoric as persuasion through enthymemes.

I have indicated in some previous posts (here and here) that Trump's main syllogism supporting his election in 2016 looked like this:

Major premise: Because of stupid politicians, America no longer wins; and America will not win again until a successful businessman who knows how to win is elected president.

Minor premise:  Donald Trump is unique in his business success and his prudence in knowing how to win, because he is a self-made multi-billionaire.

Conclusion:  Therefore, Americans need to elect Trump president.

Both of the premises are contestable.  The minor premise is demonstrably false.

Beginning in his 2016 campaign, Trump has also employed a revolutionary syllogism; and it's the persuasiveness of that syllogism with his supporters that led to the insurrection on Capitol Hill on January 6, which could motivate future insurrectionary violence as well.  When the majority of those in the House of Representatives recognized this, that led them to impeach Trump a second time.  Whether Trump is convicted in a Senate trial will depend upon whether two-thirds of the Senators can be persuaded to recognize this.

Trump's revolutionary syllogism follows the model of the syllogism around which the Declaration of Independence is organized.  In a previous post, I have said that the Declaration argues for this revolutionary syllogism:

Major premise:  The natural history of humanity shows that human beings have a natural right to overthrow tyrannical governments.

Minor premise:  The cultural history of the American colonies shows that the British King intends to exercise tyranny over the colonies.

Conclusion:  The 56 individuals signing the Declaration can rightly exercise their prudential judgment, acting as representatives of the American people, to affirm the conclusion that the American colonies have a right to revolt in separating from British rule.

This same structure--a theoretical major premise, a factual minor premise, and a practical conclusion for insurrectionary violence--can be seen in Trump's revolutionary syllogism:

Major premise:  The American people have the right to overthrow tyrannical government.

Minor premise:  The Democratic Party has been conspiring to steal elections so that they can rule over America tyrannically.

Conclusion:  The American people have the right to engage in a violent insurrection to stop this tyrannical conspiracy for stealing elections.

The insurrectionary conclusion follows logically from the premises.  I presume that most Americans accept the major premise.  The minor premise--the factual premise about the Democratic Party's fraudulent voting conspiracy--is the point of disagreement.  Most Americans deny that minor premise.  But a large number of Trump's supporters believe Trump's endorsement of that premise, and so they feel justified in becoming insurrectionists, as they did on January 6.

That Trump has indeed argued for this revolutionary syllogism becomes clear as soon as one reviews the history of what he has said to his supporters from 2016 to the present.  The best survey of that history that I have seen is the long article by Luke Mogelson for The New Yorker--"Among the Insurrectionists."

During his campaign in 2016, Trump predicted that while he would win by a landslide in the legal votes, the Democrats would steal the election for Hillary Clinton.  Roger Stone created a Web site called Stop the Steal.  After the election, Trump said that the Democrats had stolen enough votes to win the popular vote, although they had failed to win the Electoral College.

During his reelection campaign in 2020, Trump predicted that the Democrats would once again try to steal the election from him.  On the day of the election--November 3--shortly after midnight, Trump sent out the message: "We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election."

On November 14, at the Million MAGA March, tens of thousands of Republicans went to Washington, D.C. and marched to the Supreme Court demanding that it overturn the election.  They believed Trump's claim that the Democrats had stolen a victory for Joe Biden both in the Electoral College and in the popular vote, despite the fact that Trump had actually won the election by a huge margin.  At the rally, Alex Jones, a leading pro-Trump conspiracy theorist, declared: "Down with the deep state!  The answer to their 1984 tyranny is 1776."

Trump's lawyers filed many lawsuits to reverse the electoral outcome.  One of his lawyers in an interview on Fox Business explained their strategy: "We're waiting for the United States Supreme Court, of which the President has nominated three Justices, to step in and do something."  All of their lawsuits failed, because they had no persuasive evidence of fraudulent voting, and they failed even when the judges were Trump appointees.  Once this failure in the courts became clear, congressman Louie Gohmert from Texas declared on TV: "You gotta go to the streets and be as violent as Antifa and BLM."

Nicholas Fuentes is the host of the popular "America First" program.  Many of the protesters at the Capitol Hill riot had royal-blue "AF" flags, the logo of "America First."  In December, Fuentes said: "Our Founding Fathers would get in the streets, and they would take this country back if necessary.  And that is what we must be prepared to do."

In December, the Arizona Republican Party reposted a tweet from Ali Alexander, an organizer of the Stop the Steal movement, that stated, "I am willing to give my life for this fight!"  The Republican National Committee the following to this retweet: "He is.  Are you?"

On December 20th, Trump retweeted a QAnon supporter who declared: "It was a rigged election, but they were busted.  Sting of the Century!  Justice is coming!"  QAnon conspiracy theorists believe that the entire world is coming under the tyrannical control of a small cabal of Democratic Party leaders like Hillary Clinton who are Satan-worshipping pedophiles.  They also believe that Donald Trump will expose their conspiracy and then have them all arrested and executed.  They predicted that he would do this shortly after being reelected in 2020.  Now they are predicting that he will have to declare martial law so that he can overturn the stolen election and arrest Biden and the others leading the conspiracy.

Trump has used one of the favorite phrases of the QAnon people--"the calm before the storm."  The Storm is the apocalyptic violence of Trump's revolution when he overturns the conspiratorial cabal and kills their leaders.  Many of the insurrectionists who broke into the Capitol Building to stop the certification of the presidential election of Biden apparently thought they were part of The Storm.

This was initiated by Trump when he invited his people to come to Washington on January 6 to "stop the steal."  At the rally that day, Trump warned: "We want to be so nice.  We want to be so respectful of everybody, including bad people.  We're going to have to fight much harder.  And Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us."  He went on to say: "After this, we're going to walk down, and I'll be there with you.  We're going to walk down to the Capitol, and we're going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women.  We're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them--because you'll never take back our country with weakness.  You have to show strength."

People in the crowd responded by yelling "No weakness!" and "We're storming the Capitol!"  They marched to the Capitol.  But Trump did not keep his promise to march with them.  He drove back to the White House where he watched the assault on the Capitol on TV.

On the Mall, some of the people constructed a makeshift wooden gallows, with stairs and a rope.  Others carried ropes with nooses.  As they entered the Capitol Building, they shouted: "Storm!"  "Shoot the politicians!"  "Fight for Trump!"  "Hang Mike Pence!"

Advancing on five policemen guarding a side corridor, one group of people shouted: "Stand down."  "You're outnumbered.  There's a fucking million of us out here, and we are listening to Trump--your boss."  "We can take you out."

Some of the intruders were clearly hunting for politicians--shouting "Where the fuck are they?" and "Where the fuck is Nancy?"  Those who broke into Nancy Pelosi's office were angry that she was not there.

One woman--Ashli Babbitt--was fatally shot by a policeman.  In her final tweet the day before, she had declared, "The storm is here," the QAnon prophecy that the day was coming for Trump to expose and execute his enemies.

Some of the people yelled: "It's 1776!"

They believed Trump's revolutionary syllogism.


Anonymous said...

wow. deep dive. many of us believe the election process, control and outcome was fraudulent. Because of the dozens of examples given, and videos, testimony, etc. You say the courts didn't think there was persuasive evidence of fraud. You do not explain why the supremes did not even look at the evidence, and did not acknowledge that ALL of the states have standing when it comes to contesting alleged fraudulent voting. If an illegal immigrant casts a vote in my county for a county commissioner, I have standing to sue for that vote to be discounted.

Larry Arnhart said...

I have written a series of posts over the past two months on the Trump lawsuits, indicating the lack of evidence for massive voting fraud. Even judges appointed by Trump himself said that the lawsuits were baseless.