The June LSAT’s a little more than couple months away, but if you’re still waiting to start your LSAT studying, there are a few things you can now do to build good habits. Last week, we broke down an article like you would on the LSAT Reading Comp section. We’re going to do the same thing again today.
Remember Mitt Romney? The guy with the binders full of women? He ran for president
a million six years ago? Well, he’s back and running for the US Senate in Utah. Today’s article is from The Atlantic and it concerns some comments Romney recently made about immigration. It’s a bit longer than you’d see on the LSAT but otherwise it works for an LSAT-style breakdown. Here’s the article for you to read and break down — try to identify how many main viewpoints there are, and whether the author is present or absent. Put the main point and primary purpose in your own words. Come back when you’re ready.
The passage starts a few words that should be rather telling: “At first, it seemed…” Who cares what the passage is about! We already know something big — things might have seemed a certain way at first, but someone (the author perhaps?) is going to argue that things aren’t really that way. Once you start studying the Reading Comp section of the LSAT, you’ll learn that a passage that begins this way is usually called an antithesis passage, or one with two main points of view.
The next few paragraphs present some background on what happened: Romney made some comments about immigration that weren’t so kind to Dreamers. This presents a paradox, summed up in the first paragraph after the first block quote: why would someone who’s styled himself as such a critic of President Trump take this position to Trump’s right? The author asks this as a question, and when there’s a question in a Reading Comp passage, keep your eye out for an answer.
We don’t get an answer right away, but a little more background. Romney’s spokesperson partially walked back his comments. After the block quote with her comments, we get the first potential answer to the author’s question: it’s just another case of Romney straddling the fence, changing his position according to what’s convenient. Who holds this position? We don’t get much more detail other than critics snarking on Twitter. This part of the passage isn’t all that strongly supported — no detail, links, examples, or direct evidence.
Nevertheless, this is the first potential answer to the question about why Romney took the position he did, so we can start to think about how many viewpoints there are in this article. The article’s subject is why Romney made his comments on immigration. The first answer, or thesis view, is that he’s just saying whatever to get elected. This is the view of people who snark on Twitter, so note that.
We’re not done with this paragraph, though. This one short paragraph after the second block quote has a lot in it. The last sentence is critical: it’s the strongest indication so far of the author’s attitude. The “but” is an indication that the author isn’t on the side of the Tweeters. It reveals something about Romney. What does it reveal? You should be gripping the edge of your seat, waiting to find out.
The next couple paragraphs establish that Romney has always been harsh on immigration. His recent comments were in line with what he’s been saying about the subject for years. Now check out the paragraph beginning with “Many assumed.” This is where we get the author’s view, in full, for the first time: “the evidence suggests that his hardline immigration stance is sincerely held.” That just might be the main point.
What follows is support, or in other words the evidence the author mentioned. We learn that Romney has expressed similar views in the recent past. We learn that Utah residents are more liberal on immigration than most Republican voters, which undercuts the idea that Romney is just saying what people want to hear.
Since the rest of the passage is mostly devoted to supporting the claim that Romney’s rhetoric on immigration reflects his sincere beliefs, that claim is indeed the main point. Add it to your diagram. It’s the second view, and it comes from the author who is most decidedly present.
The last couple paragraphs tie things up and reiterate the main point. They also qualify (place limits on) the extent to which the point applies: Romney might challenge Trump in other areas. Just don’t expect it on immigration.
To wrap it up, this is what we call an antithesis passage with a present author. Some people on Twitter think that Romney is just saying whatever he thinks people want to hear, but the author responds that Romney’s comments on immigration reflect his sincere beliefs. The primary purpose is to correct a misconception about Mitt Romney. It might also mention the evidence the author marshals to support his view.
What about the author’s attitude? The author is certainly present. He’s the one arguing that Romney’s words express his sincere beliefs. But what does the author think about Mitt Romney? The article is framed in terms of what anti-Trump people can expect from Romney. But the author never takes sides on that issue, and remains neutral on, say, immigration policy. The author makes the point that Romney might be to Trump’s right on immigration. It’s left to you, the reader, to decide whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. If they were to ask about the author’s views on the LSAT, it would be important not to go there.
Try this exercise with some more articles. More Reading Comp practice is a good thing, and hey, you might even learn interesting things along the way.