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Jennifer Mercieca

Faculty member Jennifer Mercieca
Associate Professor
Areas of Speciality
  • Rhetoric and Public Affairs
Contact
  • mercieca@tamu.edu
  • BLTN 202G
Professional Links
Personal Website

Introduction

Academia IconTwitter IconDr. Mercieca’s research focuses on the ways that we have thought citizenship, the American presidency, and the nation. Historical and theoretically informed, her research explores how political theory and American political discourse positions citizens as romantic heroes, tragic victims, and ironic partisans. She also examines how new media and public relations techniques marks a shift from the “rhetorical presidency” to the “post-rhetorical presidency.”

Bio

Dr. Jennifer Mercieca is an historian of American political rhetoric. She writes about American political discourse, especially as it relates to citizenship, democracy, and the presidency. Jennifer has published three books about political rhetoric: Founding FictionsThe Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency, and Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump.

Her scholarship has been published in The Quarterly Journal of SpeechPresidential Studies QuarterlyRhetoric & Public AffairsArgumentation & Advocacy, and Rhetoric Society Quarterly. She is a member of the Editorial Boards of The Quarterly Journal of SpeechRhetoric Society QuarterlySouthern Communication Journal, Rhetoric & Public Affairs, and the Texas A&M University Press.

She is a Contributing Editor for Zócalo Public Square. She has written about rhetoric and politics for The ConversationUSA TodayWashington Post, and other major media outlets. ​She has been interviewed about rhetoric and politics by the BBC World News, NPR’s All Things Considered, NPR’s 1A, Diane Rehm, The New York Times, CNN, The Guardian, Vice News, Australia’s ABC Radio, Slate, USA Today, and many other outlets throughout the United States and Worldwide.

She is a 2016 recipient of the Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching, the highest student award given to faculty for teaching at Texas A&M University. She’s been called “probably the leading authority on Trump’s rhetoric” by the Austin American Statesman and her book Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump has been “highly recommended,” by Politico; called a “must read, by Salon; one of the “best books of summer” and the “most anticipated books of 2020,” by LitHub; and, “one of the most important political books of this perilous summer,” by the Washington Post.

Courses Taught

  • COMM 438: Propaganda
  • COMM 440: Political Communication
  • COMM 431: Social Movements
  • COMM 301: Rhetoric in Western Thought
  • COMM 243: Argumentation
  • COMM 640: Rhetorical Theory
  • COMM 655: Citizenship and the Public Sphere
  • COMM 649: American Public Discourse before 1860

Representative Publications

Books

 

Jennifer R. Mercieca, Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2020)

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.

 

book: The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations

 

Justin S. Vaughn & Jennifer R. Mercieca, The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency (edited volume). College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2014.

Campaign rhetoric helps candidates to get elected, but its effects last well beyond the counting of the ballots; this was perhaps never truer than in Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. Did Obama create such high expectations that they actually hindered his ability to enact his agenda? Should we judge his performance by the scale of the expectations his rhetoric generated, or against some other standard? The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency grapples with these and other important questions.

 

 

 

book: Founding Fiction

 

Jennifer R. Mercieca, Founding Fictions. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2010.

Founding Fictions develops the concept of a “political fiction,” or a narrative that people tell about their own political theories, and analyzes how republican and democratic fictions positioned American citizens as either romantic heroes, tragic victims, or ironic partisans.  By re-telling the stories that Americans have told themselves about citizenship, Mercieca highlights an important contradiction in American political theory and practice: that national stability and active citizen participation are perceived as fundamentally at odds.