Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump

Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump

by Jennifer Mercieca

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"Deserves a place alongside George Orwell’s 'Politics and the English Language'. . . . one of the most important political books of this perilous summer."—The Washington Post

"A must-read"—Salon

"Highly recommended"—Jack Shafer, Politico

Featured in "The Best New Books to Read This Summer" and "Lit Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2020"—Literary Hub

Historic levels of polarization, a disaffected and frustrated electorate, and widespread distrust of government, the news media, and traditional political leadership set the stage in 2016 for an unexpected, unlikely, and unprecedented presidential contest. Donald Trump’s campaign speeches and other rhetoric seemed on the surface to be simplistic, repetitive, and disorganized to many. As Demagogue for President shows, Trump’s campaign strategy was anything but simple.

Political communication expert Jennifer Mercieca shows how the Trump campaign expertly used the common rhetorical techniques of a demagogue, a word with two contradictory definitions—“a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power” or “a leader championing the cause of the common people in ancient times” (Merriam-Webster, 2019). These strategies, in conjunction with post-rhetorical public relations techniques, were meant to appeal to a segment of an already distrustful electorate. It was an effective tactic.

Mercieca analyzes rhetorical strategies such as argument ad hominem, argument ad baculum, argument ad populum, reification, paralipsis, and more to reveal a campaign that was morally repugnant to some but to others a brilliant appeal to American exceptionalism. By all accounts, it fundamentally changed the discourse of the American public sphere.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781623499075
Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
Publication date: 07/07/2020
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 110,736
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

JENNIFER MERCIECA is associate professor in the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University. She is the author of Founding Fictions and coeditor of The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency. She frequently appears as an expert commentator and consultant for national and international media outlets

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction: Demagogue for President 1

Part 1 Trump and the Distrusting Electorate

Chapter 1 "I don't, frankly, have time for total political correctness.": Ad Populum 27

Chapter 2 "It's going to be like this. … I'm going to continue to attack the press.": Ad Baculum 36

Chapter 3 "You could have a Trojan horse situation. You could-this could be the ultimate Trojan horse.": Reification 43

Chapter 4 "Now, the poor guy. You gotta see this guy.": Ad Hominem 50

Chapter 5 "I'm not saying that he conspired; I'm just saying that it was all over the place.": Paralipsis 57

Chapter 6 "I am 'America First.' So, I like the expression. I'm 'America First.'": American Exceptionalism 62

Part 2 Trump and the Polarized Electorate

Chapter 7 "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters.": Ad Populum 73

Chapter 8 "Low-Energy Jeb!": Ad Hominem 81

Chapter 9 "I didn't tweet; I retweeted somebody that was supposedly an expert. Am I gonna check every statistic? All it was is a retweet. And it wasn't from me.": Paralipsis 89

Chapter 10 "If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment, people, maybe there is. I don't know.": Ad Baculum 99

Chapter 11 "Oh, shut up, silly woman,' said the reptile with a grin.' You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in."': Reification 107

Chapter 12 "Drain the Swamp": American Exceptionalism 118

Part 3 Trump and the Frustrated Electorate

Chapter 13 "Yeah, 'lock her up' is right. No.": Ad Baculum 132

Chapter 14 "Russia, if you're listening …": Paralipsis 142

Chapter 15 "You know the story. It's 'Crooked Hillary.' She's as crooked as they come.": Ad Hominem 157

Chapter 16 "You've called women you don't like 'fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.' … How will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton … that you are part of the war on women?": Reification 167

Chapter 17 "It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to.": Ad Populum 181

Chapter 18 "I. Am. Your. Voice!": American Exceptionalis 189

Conclusion: Controlling the Uncontrollable Leader 203

Appendix: Chronological List of Trump's Rallies Mentioned In Text 215

Glossary of Rhetorical Terms 219

Notes 223

Index 329

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