A Rhetorical Presidency: Literary Analysis Of Barack Obama's Use Of Rhetoric During His 2008 Campaign

1670 words - 7 pages

The way the public is persuaded during presidential elections is a topic that will be relevant now and into the future. Persuasion is a politician's best friend and is an art that is to be perfected if a candidate is looking to win an election. A person's rhetoric is the means by which they go about persuading the public to agree with their positions. Aristotle defines rhetoric as "the faculty of discovering in, any particular case, all of the available means of persuasion" (online). Elections are won and lost based on how well a candidate can persuade the public that their policies and leadership are in the best interest to their needs. As the media becomes more immediate and powerful, effective rhetoric in presidential elections becomes ever more important. Barack Obama was able to win the 2008 election using his superior rhetoric over John McCain. How was Barak Obama able to use rhetoric to persuade the American people that he was capable of leading a nation?Barak Obama has mastered the art of public speaking, capturing his audience with superior oratory skills his competitors do not possess. Capturing an audience in the first few minutes of a speech is important as to not lose their interest in the speaker. According to Start-up Rhetoric in Eight Speeches of Barack Obama, the president possess a way of identifying with his audience and speaks to them according to the situation. In the first minute of his speeches, he relates his life to the lives of the people in the audience. Before the listener even knows what the speech is about he knows something about the history of the man whois speaking to them (O'Connell). He often prefaces is speeches by engaging his audience in a personal conversation, using verbal and nonverbal communication, before he even speaks the first word of his prepared speech. His rhetorical approach to the beginnings of his speeches often helps him to set up the crowd to sympathize with him and, in turn, his prepared speech (O'Connell).Relating to the people is a large part of a president's public persona. Often times, candidates come from backgrounds that resemble nothing of the average American's upbringings. Obama on the Stump focuses attention on how Barack Obama was able to use his superior grasp of rhetoric to gain support on a speech to speech basis, depending on his audience, poll position and speech topic (Coe). The authors use a computer coding system to isolate key words from the president's speeches beginning with his announcement of his candidacy to his victory speech in November 2008.The authors sampled 183 speeches from the beginning of his candidacy to the end of the election. They were able to see how Obama's message would change depending on where he was positions, such as whether he was in a traditionally republican state (a red state) or in a traditionally democratic state (a blue state) (Coe). The authors were able to break the speeches up into different categories that were analyzed through key...

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