Department of Rhetoric & Writing
Department of Rhetoric & Writing

A Party of Demagogues

Tue, October 17, 2017
A Party of Demagogues
U.S. News and World Report

Professor Trish Roberts-Miller has been quoted extensively in a new article by U.S. News and World Report about the rhetoric used by today's Republican Party and how it relates to her field of study, demagoguery. From the article: 

Patricia Roberts-Miller, a rhetoric professor at the University of Texas at Austin, put it this way in her slim new volume titled "Demagoguery and Democracy": "Demagoguery depoliticizes politics," she said, "in that it says we don't have to argue policies, and can just rouse ourselves to new levels of commitment to *us* and purify our community or nation of *them*. It says that we are in such a desperate situation that we can no longer afford *them* the same treatment we want for *us*."

Identity, of course, is probably hard-wired. It seems reasonable that our ancestors evolved with a sense that in-group members were safe while out-group members were dangerous. Even "The Federalist Papers," Roberts-Miller told me during a short conversation over the phone, were preoccupied by identity. "It was central the American conception of democracy," she said. "Identity politics" was not called that until the last century when partisans fought to enfranchise Americans of "marked identity" – that is, anyone who was not a straight, male and white.

Roberts-Miller has been studying demagoguery for years. She first noticed the trend begin to surge in the run up to the 2003 Iraq invasion. Public debate from conservative quarters was not about the pros and cons of invasion but "demonizing deliberation" itself, she said. "People were listening to pundits say they shouldn't listen to politics." All they had to do was trust President George W. Bush.

The rest of the article can be viewed on the U.S. News and World Report website, and Professor Roberts-Miller's book titled Demagoguery and Democracy can be purchased from Amazon.

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