Polarization, a disaffected and frustrated electorate, and widespread distrust of government, media, and traditional politicians set the stage in 2016 for an unprecedented presidential contest. For many, Donald Trump’s campaign speeches and other rhetoric seemed on the surface to be simplistic, repetitive, and disorganized. In Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump
(Texas A&M University Press, 2020), Jennifer Mercieca
shows that Trump’s rhetoric was anything but.
As a political communication expert, Mercieca describes the Trump campaign’s expert use of the common demagogic rhetorical techniques. These strategies were meant to appeal to a segment of an already distrustful electorate. Mercieca analyzes Trump’s rhetorical strategies, including argument ad hominem, reification, and paralipsis, to reveal a campaign that was morally repugnant to some, but that was also effective and that may have fundamentally changed the discourse of the American public sphere.
Carrie Gillon received her PhD from the Linguistics program at the University of British Columbia in 2006. She is currently an editor and writing coach and the cohost of the Vocal Fries Podcast, the podcast about linguistic discrimination. She is also the author of The Semantics of Determiners and the co-author of Nominal Contact in Michif.