Originally written on November 2, 2016. One week before the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.
Cicero, the great Roman orator, and Donald Trump, the 2016 Republican presidential nominee, equivalently place the use of rhetoric above the common law and their individual philosophies. Still, the objective eye would say Mr. Trump is not a master of the law, a prerequisite Cicero would say of an optimal orator.
And yet, Mr. Trump has amassed a political following more loyal in spirit than any other 2016 challenger, mostly thanks to his original, common-man vernacular. His notion that “there will be no amnesty” for undocumented immigrants and promises to bring American industries back to the states have legitimized hard-lined conservative and Tea Party causes of the last four years.
Cicero’s claim that the “ideal orator” would exemplify the components of an admirable human being in their everyday life, however, may disqualify Mr. Trump from this title.
In the first presidential debate, Trump interpreted losses of American industry as, “Our jobs are leaving the country. They’re fleeing to Mexico. They’re [the industries] using our country as a piggy bank to rebuild China, and many other countries are doing the same thing.” (Blake). This deliberative speech fits into Cicero’s thought as to what should be used in political debates, but it lacks factual credibility he argues necessary when rhetoric and philosophy were taught together.
“I’ll be reducing taxes tremendously, from 35 percent to 15 percent for companies, small and big businesses. That’s going to be a job creator like we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan.” (Blake). Despite public showings of ignorance to the law of the land regarding tax policy, Mr. Trump’s rhetoric sets a firestorm in the bellies of like-minded people. He can instruct through speeches as well as Cicero’s “ideal orator”.
Though eloquent, Donald Trump does not fit the mold of a useful discussant of the relationships between law, philosophy and rhetoric. Though heartfelt and true, his raw emotions in un-teleprompted moments have not accumulated to viable policy solutions like the leading role in politics Cicero demands.
“For who ever doubted that in the decision of political matters, and in time of peace, eloquence has always borne the sway in the Roman state, while jurisprudence has possessed only the second post of honour?” (Cicero 28).
Donald Trump possesses the oratory skill (apparently to the scale of conquering the American Republican party) of a Cicero character, but his body language, tone, and self-deprecating impressions of accents and even physical ailments of others deny him the title of an “ideal orator”.
Cicero demands an orator to be an effective policy-maker, in terms of politics, and Mr. Trump has yet to reflect this capacity.