To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Demagogues and the “Guardrails of Democracy”

Mark Pearcy (Rider University, Flemington, New Jersey, USA)
Jeremiah Clabough (The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA)

Social Studies Research and Practice

ISSN: 1933-5415

Article publication date: 19 November 2018

Downloads
112

Abstract

Purpose

Contemporary American politics has been characterized by excessive, vitriolic rhetoric since the 2016 presidential victory of Donald Trump. However, Donald Trump’s brand of politics is nothing new. He is the inheritor and latest proponent for a brand of American politics that utilizes demagogic rhetoric. The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of demagoguery along with the traits of demagogic rhetoric. Two activities for the high school classroom are given that look at the demagogic rhetoric employed by Joseph McCarthy and George Wallace, two of the most infamous political demagogues of the twentieth century.

Design/methodology/approach

With the first activity, McCarthy’s “Enemies from Within Speech” is analyzed by breaking down the speech with Gustainis’ seven traits of demagoguery (1990). Similarly in the second activity, George Wallace’s inaugural address is examined with Gustainis’ seven traits of demagoguery, and then, the authors provide a series of activities that students can do to protest the demagogic rhetoric in Wallace’s inaugural address. Finally, an appendix is provided with additional speeches from American demagogues that social studies teachers can use to teach about elements of demagoguery.

Findings

In this paper, the authors provide an overview of demagoguery along with the traits of demagogic rhetoric. Two activities for the high school classroom are given that look at the demagogic rhetoric employed by Joseph McCarthy and George Wallace, two of the most infamous political demagogues of the twentieth century.

Originality/value

Contemporary American politics has been characterized by excessive, vitriolic rhetoric since the 2016 presidential victory of Donald Trump. However, Donald Trump’s brand of politics is nothing new. He is the inheritor and latest proponent for a brand of American politics that utilizes demagogic rhetoric. In this paper, the authors provide an overview of demagoguery along with the traits of demagogic rhetoric. Students need to be able to critically examine demagogic rhetoric to hold elected officials accountable for their words, actions and policies.

Keywords

Citation

Pearcy, M. and Clabough, J. (2018), "Demagogues and the “Guardrails of Democracy”", Social Studies Research and Practice, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 345-356. https://doi.org/10.1108/SSRP-05-2018-0022

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited