Demagogue for President:

The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump












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.

It's a history of the public discourse of the 2016 election. Some of it will surprise you.

“A rollicking tour of Donald Trump and his rhetorical excess.  Jen Mercieca hits all of the high points.”—Roderick P. Hart, author of Political Tone: How Leaders Talk and Why


“From the moment Trump descended the escalator at Trump Tower, Jennifer Mercieca, like no one else, immersed herself in the rhetoric of Donald Trump, explicating in real time and with meticulous precision and clarity, how a bombastic pitchman emerged as America’s authoritarian PT Barnum, using nothing more than his weaponized words to transform a polarized and dispirited nation into his own reality TV show. This book is essential to understanding how he did it and the peril it poses for democracy.”—Jonathan Tilove, chief political writer, Austin American-Statesman

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