“The Power of the Presidency to Hurt”: The Indecorous Rhetoric of Donald J. Trump and the Rhetorical Norms of Democracy

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Abstract

Presidents are both individual agents who make rhetorical and political choices and discursive nodes through which political discourse circulates. As both agents and nodes, when presidents engage in educative, vituperative, and performative rhetoric, they are positioned to influence the form and content of the national discourse. Donald Trump largely eschews educative rhetoric. He depends heavily on vitriol, primarily using demeaning language, false equivalency, and exclusion. As an individual actor, these tactics characterize his rhetoric. As a discursive node, the effects are far more broad ranging, circulating and reinforcing deleterious language in both form and content. Trump’s example indicates that scholars of the presidency and presidential rhetoric need to think differently about presidential language as it circulates and influences broader political processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)366-391
Number of pages26
JournalPresidential Studies Quarterly
Volume50
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration

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