The Rhetorical Psychology of Trumpism: Threat, Absolutism, and the Absolutist Threat

The Rhetorical Psychology of Trumpism: Threat, Absolutism, and the Absolutist Threat AbstractConventional wisdom suggests that Donald Trump’s rhetoric – aggressive, insulting, often offensive – would be counterproductive to electoral success. We argue that Trump’s surprising victories in both the primary and general campaigns were partly due to the positive effects of his appeals grounded in the intersection of threat and absolutism. The content of Trump’s rhetoric focused on threats to personal safety (terrorism), personal status (economic decline), and group status (immigration). The style of Trump’s rhetoric was absolutist, emphasizing non-negotiable boundaries and moral outrage at their violation. Previous research has shown perceived threat to motivate political participation and absolutist rhetoric to bolster impressions of positive character traits. Trump employed these two rhetorical psychologies simultaneously, melding threat and absolutism into the absolutist threat as an effective rhetorical strategy. Analysis of Trump’s debate language and Twitter rhetoric, as well as original data from political elites at the Republican National Convention and ordinary voters at rallies in New Hampshire confirm the unconventional efficacy of Trump’s rhetorical approach. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Forum de Gruyter

The Rhetorical Psychology of Trumpism: Threat, Absolutism, and the Absolutist Threat

The Forum, Volume 15 (2): 20 – Jul 26, 2017

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Publisher
de Gruyter
Copyright
©2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston
ISSN
1540-8884
eISSN
1540-8884
DOI
10.1515/for-2017-0019
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

AbstractConventional wisdom suggests that Donald Trump’s rhetoric – aggressive, insulting, often offensive – would be counterproductive to electoral success. We argue that Trump’s surprising victories in both the primary and general campaigns were partly due to the positive effects of his appeals grounded in the intersection of threat and absolutism. The content of Trump’s rhetoric focused on threats to personal safety (terrorism), personal status (economic decline), and group status (immigration). The style of Trump’s rhetoric was absolutist, emphasizing non-negotiable boundaries and moral outrage at their violation. Previous research has shown perceived threat to motivate political participation and absolutist rhetoric to bolster impressions of positive character traits. Trump employed these two rhetorical psychologies simultaneously, melding threat and absolutism into the absolutist threat as an effective rhetorical strategy. Analysis of Trump’s debate language and Twitter rhetoric, as well as original data from political elites at the Republican National Convention and ordinary voters at rallies in New Hampshire confirm the unconventional efficacy of Trump’s rhetorical approach.

Journal

The Forumde Gruyter

Published: Jul 26, 2017

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