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Title:Rhetorical Constitution of Public Character and Conservative Ideology in the 1996 Republican Presidential Primary Campaign
Author(s):Klien, Stephen A.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Swanson, David L.
Department / Program:Speech Communication
Discipline:Speech Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Political Science, General
Abstract:Contemporary American political culture is often characterized as uncivil, marked by communicative practices that are manipulative, distorting and combative. Such practices by politicians, who exist as role models for how citizens should conduct themselves in public life, may contribute to public attitudes of cynicism, distrust and apathy which hinder the possibilities for a robust, democratic civil society. This study advances the concept of public character as a basis for the ethical criticism of political rhetoric. I define "Public character" as the rhetorical enactment of ideal norms for political agency. These norms involve "ideological worldview"---a description of the political realm and the possibilities for action within it---and "civil relationships"---a description of the ways in which we should interact with other persons in public life. Public character is manifest in every rhetorical performance; as rhetors construct their own public personae, they invite the public to embrace certain ways of judging and acting in the world. Public character is a rich and internally diverse rhetorical construction that is fundamentally influenced by a surrounding ideological context. Rhetors appropriate traditions of political language and political voice, and articulate them in performance in ways that both complement and conflict with one another. This study examines the campaign rhetoric of the six major candidates competing in the 1996 Republican presidential primary season. For each candidate I analyze a selection of representative campaign speeches and advertisements in order to identify traditions of conservative ideological language which influence the formation of public character and traditions of political style which give voice to a complex set of ideals for political agency. I also ethically evaluate the performances by considering the extent to which they promote or impede the possibilities for a civil society based on open, inclusive, and critical public discourse that is supported by active civic communities and governing institutions. I conclude the study with a cross-campaign ethical evaluation of the 1996 presidential primary campaign and conclusions regarding the use of "public character" in ethical criticism and my extension of the critical perspective of "political style" with the Bakhtinian concepts of heteroglossia and polyphony.
Issue Date:1999
Description:587 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1999.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI9921705
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-28
Date Deposited:1999

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