Jason Gilmore and Charles RowlingApr 3, 2023
How Donald Trump Exploited the Discourse of American Exceptionalism
Today, I’m sitting down with Dr. Jason Gilmore, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Utah State University to discuss his recently published Bloomsbury Press book written with Charles Rowling, Exceptional Me: How Donald Trump Exploited the Discourse of American Exceptionalism (Bloomsbury, 2021). Donald Trump has forged a unique relationship with American exceptionalism, parting ways with how American politicians have long communicated this idea to the American public. Through systematic comparative analyses, this book details the various ways that Trump strategically altered and exploited the discourse of American exceptionalism to elevate not the nation, but himself personally, professionally, and politically.
Jason Gilmore and Charles Rowling call this Trump's Exceptional Me Strategy and they document how it made Trump different from every president in modern American history. Beginning with the 2016 election, the authors show how Trump broke with tradition and instead of championing American exceptionalism, he actively portrayed the nation as an un-exceptional mess in need of a savior. Placing blame at the feet of politicians-both Democrats and Republicans-for America's decline, Trump set himself up to be seen as the one person who could “Make America Exceptional Again.” The authors then document how throughout his presidency and the 2020 presidential election Trump sought to convince Americans that he was the exceptional president, making the case at every turn how American exceptionalism had returned under his presidency and that he, and he alone, was to thank for it. Gilmore and Rowling illustrate how from the outset Trump's conception of American exceptionalism had almost nothing to do with the country's institutions, ideals, or its people.
Dr. Julia M. Gossard is Associate Dean for Research in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Associate Professor of History at Utah State University.