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Exploring Charismatic Leadership: A Comparative Analysis of the Rhetoric of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election

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This study examines the charismatic leadership rhetoric of the Democratic Party’s nominee Hillary Clinton and the Republican Party’s nominee Donald Trump during the 2016 election. DICTION 7.0, content analysis software designed for political discourse, was used to analyze the campaign speeches of both candidates. The findings suggest that Donald Trump was significantly more likely to use hyperbolic crisis rhetoric regarding the intolerable nature of the status quo as well as rhetoric emphasizing a shared social identity, the pursuit of a common goal, and tangible outcomes. His communitarian rhetoric enabled the creation of a hermeneutic praxis shifting identity salience from the individual to the collective, encouraging the formation of collective memory and national nostalgia. Hillary Clinton, while employing egalitarian rhetoric, was constrained in her ability to utilize agentic rhetorical constructs due to stereotypical gender expectations and her positionality as a member of the incumbent party. The findings affirm presidential rhetoric as being anchored in political times and question the role of charismatic rhetoric in influencing the appeal, and potential electability, of the candidates during the 2016 presidential election.
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Keywords: 2016 presidential election; charismatic leadership; charismatic rhetoric; content analysis; presidential rhetoric

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2019

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