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Megan Cooney

Abstract

This essay uses thematic analysis through the lens of framing theory to dissect how former U.S. President Barack Obama and former U.S. President Donald Trump created contrasting but successful frameworks of America to win their campaigns. The paper operates on the grounds that Obama is a rhetor and Trump is a demagogue. Frames consummate a multitude of themes that are created with rhetorical tools—namely figurative language. The storylines that are created by politicians can play an instrumental role in developing the constituent’s basis of reality. This study aims to unpack how a rhetor and a demagogue can use the same rhetorical tools to forge a successful framework for their audiences. The paper starts by establishing a basis of rhetoric, political rhetoric, and demagoguery. After creating that foundation, it leads into a thematic analysis of Obama’s 2013 Inaugural Address and Trump’s 2017 Inaugural Address, through themes of community, religion, and the future of America. The results reveal that the strength of the frame was the most important factor in its success. Both presidents used the same themes to create differing realities of America. The morality of the speaker was less relevant in shaping an influential narrative for the audience. This study provides further inquiry into Communication Studies research on how rhetors and demagogues use linguistics to persuade their audiences.

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Section
Articles