Analysis

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Last Updated on April 30, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 585

To make her speech more convincing, Senator Margaret Chase Smith employs the Aristotelean appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos to build credibility, stir shared emotions, and draw on legal precedents.

Ethos

Smith builds ethos by focusing her speech on her various identities and establishing the consequences of McCarthyism...

(The entire section contains 585 words.)

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To make her speech more convincing, Senator Margaret Chase Smith employs the Aristotelean appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos to build credibility, stir shared emotions, and draw on legal precedents.

Ethos

Smith builds ethos by focusing her speech on her various identities and establishing the consequences of McCarthyism on each corresponding group: “I speak as a Republican, I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American.” Smith’s attempts to champion unity are bolstered by her ability to connect to all Americans.

  • Smith establishes her ethos as a Republican by criticizing the Democratic administration and emphasizing the importance of a Republican victory in the next election. However, her emphasis on her Republican identity also allows her to level criticism at her own colleagues without having to fear accusations of partisanship.
  • Smith was the only female senator for much of her career and she calls on this identity to provide unique insight into the issues at hand. She empathizes with the mothers, sisters, and daughters of those accused by McCarthy.
  • Smith invokes her role as a senator in order to remind her colleagues of whom they are meant to serve. As elected officials, they are bound by duty to uphold the interests of the American people. The US Senate “has long enjoyed worldwide respect,” but McCarthy’s irresponsible politics have jeopardized that esteem.
  • Above all else, Smith asserts that she is an American. As such, she cares more about the well-being of her nation than any political agenda. By establishing herself as an American above all else, Smith rejects McCarthy’s divisiveness and instead foregrounds the importance of patriotism.

Pathos

Smith largely rejects heavily pathos-driven statements, instead speaking “simply and briefly” in order to avoid succumbing to the emotional, divisive rhetoric employed by McCarthy. However, she does appeal to pathos by citing the inherent injustice involved in McCarthy’s reckless accusations. Rather than appealing to her audience’s fear of communism, she instead encourages them to think of the damage suffered by those accused by McCarthy. By redirecting her audience’s attention to the victims of McCarthy’s crusade, Smith conveys her belief that McCarthy is attacking the wrong enemy. Rather than effectively battling communism, McCarthy is instead weakening the United States from the inside, rendering the nation vulnerable to real communist infiltration.

Logos

In an appeal to logos, Smith grounds her criticisms of McCarthy in the founding documents of the United States, specifically the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Rather than resorting to McCarthy’s tactics and outright accusing suspects, Smith instead invokes legal precedent in order to highlight the unconstitutionality of McCarthyism.

  • The US Constitution guarantees the right to a trial by jury, but McCarthyism has promoted a culture of “trial by accusation.” Rather than hosting proper trials, McCarthy and his supporters relied on biased public opinion to condemn the accused.
  • The First Amendment guarantees the right of all citizens to hold and express unpopular beliefs. By accusing anyone who holds unpopular opinions of being a Soviet ally, McCarthy is trespassing on the constitutional right to speak freely.
  • Article 1, Section 6 of the US Constitution grants Congress legal immunity regarding comments they make or publish in an official capacity. This “shield of congressional immunity” allowed McCarthy and his supporters to accuse whomever they wanted to without fear of legal repercussions. Smith asserts that it is both immoral and illogical that Congresspeople can politically “mangle” American citizens with no repercussions but cannot criticize one another without being dismissed as disrespectful.
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