In the past year in American politics a substantial change has taken place with the election of billionaire Donald Trump. While politicians’ personal lives are almost always given intense scrutiny, Trump was a unique case because he was not a traditional political candidate. Of course, not only was Trump a recent celebrity through his television show the Apprentice, but as a business man he had long been in the public eye dating back to the late 1970s. Trump’s name became synonymous with lavish expenses and beautiful women, but it also resulted in many of his greatest failures being public. The present essay examines how the genetic fallacy was used in relation to a business failure from far back in Trump’s life in an effort to discredit his candidacy for President of the United States.
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The genetic logical fallacy is a logical fallacy that one might frequently recognize in political disputes, such as the ones that occurred in the presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Essentially, the genetic fallacy is when a claim is made about another person, indicating that this person is incapable of performing a task – or as a means of discrediting this person’s character – based on the individual’s history, origin, or source, rather than the present meaning or context (Genetic Fallacy, 2017). While the genetic fallacy was used in attempts to discredit both candidates, it was a particularly frequent tool used against Trump because of his past as a business man. This included Trump’s filing for bankruptcy, as well as some of his more extreme behavior, such as when a video surfaced of him saying that he was allowed to commit a form of sexual harassment against women because he was a celebrity. The collection of these past mistakes and poor choices of behavior resulted in many people claiming he was unfit to be President.
The particular genetic fallacy levied against Trump in this instance occurred from an ex-Harrah’s executive that a business deal with Trump in the early 1980s. The example of this incident appeared in an open editorial this individual wrote in the USA Today during the time of Trump’s candidacy. In the open editorial the executive, Phil Satre, indicated that the business dealings took place 34 years ago (Satre, 2016). At the time, Satre was senior vice-president at Harrah’s and was responsible for arranging a business deal that created Harrah’s at Donald Trump’s then building Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. The project would have equal ownership with Trump as the land developer and Harrah’s as the operator. The individual goes to indicate that after a year of business dealings with Trump on the project the two people entered litigation against each other over the project. During this time, the individual noted that during this time he received a written response from Trump that was, “characteristic of the bluster, threats, intemperance and unsupported and unsupportable falsehoods that have permeated the correspondence we have received from him and his key management employees almost since the beginning of our partnership” (Satre, 2016). More importantly, however, the litigation and letter he received from Trump, lead the individual to claim that readers should vote for Hillary Clinton because a, “vote for Trump could give us a President Trump — that is the scariest prospect of all” (Satre, 2016). Clearly, such a statement constitutes the genetic fallacy because it is basing an opinion from the present on such historical circumstances.
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Of course, some might argue that Trump’s past history in business constitutes an accurate indicator of his potential to be President. However, this would be implementing a genetic fallacy. In this respect, the argument that is contained in the open editorial implies that since Trump failed in his business dealing over thirty-years ago, he will also fail in his role as President. Such reasoning fails to consider the substantial amount of growth and change that Trump may have gone through in the intervening period. The claim fails to logically consider the ways that Trump’s behavior in such business dealings is far different from his responsibilities as president. For instance, one would not simply indicate that since someone failed at playing football thirty years ago, this persona would also fail at playing the trumpet in the present. As such, the claim made by Satre constitutes a strong use of the genetic fallacy through its attribution to irrelevant events in President Trump’s history as constituting viable reason to deny his candidacy in the present.
In conclusion, the present research has examined the use of a genetic fallacy by one of Donald Trump’s ex-business partners in the period leading up the recent Presidential election. Whether one is conservative or liberal, should not matter, and instead individuals should seek clear and logical arguments and explanations of events. The significant amount of fallacious claims, such as the use of a genetic fallacy levied in this example, may have clouded the recent Presidential elections for both candidates and made it more challenging for the American public to determine who would be the best person for their future.
- Genetic Fallacy. (2017).
- Satre, P. (2016). I know Trump. Don’t vote for him: Ex-Harrah’s executive. USA TODAY.