Sociology Colloquium, 9/16/2020
September 16, 2020
Meeting ID: 913 4925 0255
If you cannot join with video, you can connect to the Zoom session via phone: 1–346–248–7799
Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump
Dr. Jennifer R. Mercieca, Texas A&M University
A demagogue—a leader of the people—could be a hero or a villain. What kind of demagogue is Donald Trump? He is both a hero and a villain—a hero to his supporters and a villain to everyone else.
Demagogue for President tells the story of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and shows how Trump took advantage of pre-existing distrust, polarization, and frustration to attack America.
Within a crisis of public trust in which the very viability of democracy was at risk, Trump ran a campaign that was designed to increase distrust for government and traditional leadership. Within a crisis of polarization in which Americans believed that they had little common ground with their political opposition, did not share the same values, and that their opposition was an enemy of the state, Trump ran a campaign that was designed to increase polarization. Within a crisis of frustration in which Americans believed that government was the biggest issue facing the nation, that the nation was on the wrong track, and that anybody else would do a better job running the country than current leaders, Trump ran a campaign that was designed to increase frustration.
Trump used rhetoric as a weapon—as a “counterpunch”—and in so doing Trump attacked America’s public sphere and its democratic process. Demagogue for President gives Americans a vocabulary to use to understand Trump’s rhetorical strategies and explains why those strategies are dangerous for democratic stability.