The “I” in President: The Role of Rhetorical Personalization in the Presidential Campaigns of Barack Hussein Obama and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

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Personalization in political science refers to individual politicians in Western democracies becoming increasingly important in relation to the parties they endorse. Although the reasons and results of this proposed phenomenon are disputed, personalization is often linked to the advent of new types of media that stress individuals rather than parties, and also focus on the personal lives of said individuals- thereby making them more salient to the public. This thesis proposes to look for another dimension that can provide additional insight in the reasons for and results of personalization of United States presidential candidates: their rhetoric. Rhetorical personalization as I define it is the act of focusing on an individual’s being, such as abilities, past, or corporality- be it the speaker’s own, or those of the opponent- often with the aim of creating a positive image of themselves or to discredit an opponent- which ties in with the ethos aspect of Aristotle’s theory. This rhetorical device is, as I argue, intertwined with the current process of personalization, which should also include and be focused on the rhetoric of presidential candidates in order to gain insight into potential changes in the American political system. By analyzing the rhetorical personalization utilized in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Presidential campaign in 1932 and Barack Hussein Obama’s equivalent in 2008 in a qualitative study, it is surmised that there are numerous similarities and discrepancies in the manner that rhetorical personalization is utilized, but that one cannot speak of an increase or decrease in quantity. Keywords: Rhetorical Personalization, Rhetoric, Personalization, Presidential Campaign, Candidate, Individual, President, Barack Hussein Obama, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Economic Recession, Aristotle, Inaugural Speech, Inaugural Address, Ethos, Personal, Priming, Framing, Visual, Omission, Ad Hominem.
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