The Oratory of Donald Trump

  • Andrew S. Crines
  • David P. Dolowitz
Part of the Rhetoric, Politics and Society book series (RPS)


This chapter considers the most prominent Republican figure in 2016—Donald Trump. When announcing his candidature to be the nominee for the Republican candidate for President of the United States, Trump was seen as a ‘joke’. In the early months of the campaign, he was surrounded by elites of the Republican establishment—from Jeb Bush to Marco Rubio. Trump faced such a wide field that his chance of securing the nomination was—it was assumed—small. Yet on 20 July 2016 he secured the nomination to face Hillary Clinton (herself nominated 26 July) in the general election campaign.

This chapter will examine how Donald Trump’s oratorical and rhetorical performances managed to overturn all expectations. It is clear his is an emotional (pathos) rhetorical style, but more important is his epideictic delivery. His speeches are dramatic; he makes bold yet unrepentant claims about his abilities, and is particularly forceful about the failings of his opponents. One of his strategies is to construct the character of his opponents using simple but short descriptions. Indeed, ‘Little Marco’, ‘Lying Ted Cruz’, and ‘Crooked Hillary’ are labels that carry character-destroying meaning, which Trump uses to undermine his opponents with concise memorable nicknames. In a similar way he labels groups in order to exaggerate threats to American security, such as telling stories about ‘killing Muslim terrorists with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood’ and personally seeing thousands of Muslims celebrating after 9/11. It is not just Muslims groups from Latin America who are rapist and murders. Or arguing that when ‘Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists’. The goal of this is to label opponents as supporting anti-American groups and that he alone can keep America safe and ‘make it America great again’.

In an extraordinary general election, the rhetorical performance of the Republican candidate will have long-lasting consequences not only for the Republican Party or the United States but also for the world.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew S. Crines
    • 1
  • David P. Dolowitz
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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