Al Maerifa Public Seminar Series

Presented Digitally by Texas A&M University at Qatar

Explaining Why Donald Trump’s Rhetoric
is So Dangerous

Thursday, 9 July 2020 • 3–4 p.m.
Arabian Standard Time (GMT +3)

A demagogue — a leader of the people — could be a hero or a villain. What kind of demagogue is Donald Trump? He is both a hero and a villain — a hero to his supporters and a villain to everyone else. Demagogue for President tells the story of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and shows how Trump took advantage of pre-existing distrust, polarization, and frustration to attack America. Within a crisis of public trust in which the very viability of democracy was at risk, Trump ran a campaign that was designed to increase distrust for government and traditional leadership. Within a crisis of polarization in which Americans believed that they had little common ground with their political opposition, did not share the same values, and that their opposition was an enemy of the state, Trump ran a campaign that was designed to increase polarization. Within a crisis of frustration in which Americans believed that government was the biggest issue facing the nation, that the nation was on the wrong track, and that anybody else would do a better job running the country than current leaders, Trump ran a campaign that was designed to increase frustration. Trump used rhetoric as a weapon — as a “counterpunch” — and in so doing Trump attacked America’s public sphere and its democratic process. Demagogue for President gives Americans a vocabulary to use to understand Trump’s rhetorical strategies and explains why those strategies are dangerous for democratic stability.

Dr. Jennifer Mercieca

Dr. Jennifer Mercieca is an historian of American political rhetoric. She is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University and is a Contributing Editor for Zócalo Public Square. Jennifer writes about American political discourse, especially as it relates to citizenship, democracy, and the presidency. Jennifer has published two books about political rhetoric: Founding Fictions and The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency. Her third book Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump is out just this week. Demagogue for President has already received praise: Jack Shafer at Politico says it’s “highly recommended” and LitHub has listed it as one of “the best new books to read this summer.”

Jennifer has written about rhetoric and politics for The Conversation, Zócalo Public Square, USA Today, Washington Post, and other major media outlets. And she has been interviewed about rhetoric and politics by the BBC World News, NPR’s All Things Considered, NPR’s 1A, Diane Rehm, The New York Times, CNN, The Guardian, Vice News, Australia’s ABC Radio, Slate, USA Today, and many other outlets throughout the United States and Worldwide.