A CONTEMPORARY EXAMINATION OF DEMAGOGIC TECHNIQUES: SELECTED SPEECHES FROM THE 2008 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
A new media landscape exemplified by online political news media and the 24-hour news cycle has created a new context for political discourse, and the resurgence in demagoguery scholarship reflects a shared desire to characterize the effectiveness and evolution of demagoguery in this context. The purpose of the current study is to gather information on the presence of demagoguery in contemporary United States political campaigns, focusing on the 2008 presidential campaign between Republican candidate John McCain and Democratic candidate Barack Obama. The study will apply Martha Haun’s (1971) theory of demagoguery, which builds a model in which to analyze the rhetoric of individuals based on their psychology, their historical context and the sociological factors characteristic of demagogues. Societal contexts which favored the rise of historically significant demagogues were compared with the context faced by the 2008 candidates, and several similarities were identified between past and present. A content analysis of the candidates’ speeches showed that both candidates’ speeches contained demagogic techniques, and distinct patterns of demagogic technique use by each candidate revealed very different rhetorical strategies.