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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2020 Jennifer Mercieca (P)2020 Blackstone Publishing

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  • LFY
  • 21-07-2020

A Summer 2020 Must Read

Before the 2020 election rhetoric heats up (did it ever cool down?), pick up Mercieca’s latest in order to spot the ways in which Trump’s use of language polarizes the electorate, often in his favor.

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  • 匿名
  • 03-08-2020

Reductio ad Hitlerum?

I'm anti-Trump but was hoping for something more than a partisan screed here. This book contains rhetoric like comparing Trump to Hitler in the conclusion, and the old fallacy of linking that scientific study finding a correlation between erectile dysfunction and Trump voters to fear of women when an academic should spot confounding with older voters voting Republican. I'm fascinated by Trump's ability to drive his opponents bonkers while his supporters view him like a self-satirizing WWE star, and wonder how much self awareness he has while balancing that feat, but this book doesn't dig that deep and is more a topic-by-topic overview of pedestrian politics with the occasional insight from her field. Which may be what sells, but won't scratch your profundity bone if you've got one.

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