Date of Award

5-1-2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Speech Communication

First Advisor

Daughton, Suzanne

Abstract

This dissertation is a study of political realignment from a rhetorical perspective. Specifically, I use the lens of doxa to rhetorically explore how basic assumptions regarding the role of government shift over time, and how crisis narratives are used to usher in these doxastic transformations. I explore the elections of Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama as markers of such shifts. In chapter one, I provide a statement of purpose and justification for my study, along with a description of the historical contexts of the 1932, 1980, and 2008 presidential elections. Chapter two includes a literature review, in which I discuss scholarship related to political realignment, the rhetorical situation, doxa, and crisis rhetoric. I also provide a description of my method of rhetorical criticism, and an explanation of how the analysis chapters are structured. Chapter three is my first analysis chapter. Using 55 news and opinion articles, I construct a doxa of the Roosevelt era, a doxa of the Reagan era, and a doxa of the Obama era. Creating these doxai provides a context for understanding how each respective candidate challenged the doxa of his time, and sought to usher in a transformation of the role of government. In chapter four, I explore five speeches delivered by each respective candidate to examine how these doxastic transformations are rhetorically manifest. I also investigate how crisis narratives are employed in the service of ushering in a doxastic transformation. In chapter five, I explore the implications of my analysis, and reflect upon limitations of this study and possibilities for future research. In sum, this study provides insight into the ways in which basic assumptions regarding the role of government change over time, and the implications of these shifts.

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