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Moral appeals in political discourse: A moderate approach to political identification
Progar, Brendt Sean
McClish, GlenBoyd, RichardAdams, Brian
Congressional Democrats and Republicans continually blame one another for the problems facing our country, the American public seems to be heavily divided based upon political identification, and Congress has come to a standstill because of their inability to compromise. It seems as if our two-party political system is in fact the root of our problems, because as people form groups and engage in team psychology, they divide themselves from others and shut down open-minded thinking. Kenneth Burke, a leading figure in modern rhetorical theory, argues that in order for persuasion to occur, rhetors must identify with people by a sharing a substance or ideal that a particular group maintains. This leads to group identification and persuasion, but it can also encourage division. Jonathan Haidt and Jesse Graham, social psychologists who focus on morality and social justice, posit that moral foundations are innate moral precursors that influence political identification. Haidt and Graham find that on the global level there are six essential moral foundations that determine moralistic action and political foundation: Care, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority, Sanctity, and Liberty. If rhetoricians, social justice researchers, and academics who focus on social progress begin to understand the frameworks through which the moderate public situate and call upon their moral domains, perhaps we can begin to bridge the political divide and induce cooperation by understanding a base substance through which moderates can identify. We can thereby use Haidt and Graham's Moral Foundations Theory to understand how to appeal to moderate Americans and unite the opposing parties. In this spirit, my project is to discover the knowledge scripts that create a foundation for moral appeals in political rhetoric. Therefore, a close examination of sample speeches from Mitt Romney and Bill Clinton's 2012 campaign speeches will unveil the logical tropes and accompanying warrants under which these moral appeals are created, and thereby demonstrate the social knowledge that liberals and conservatives live by. This analysis discovers that, in political discourse, there is a complex relationship among each moral foundation, and the two moral foundations that are most at odds with one another according to political identification are the moral foundations of fairness and liberty. For liberals, liberty enables fairness in that American society should foster fairness for all so that people have the liberty to pursue self-development and personal pursuits. For conservatives, liberty enables the American community to prosper because businesses have the liberty to operate according to free-market capitalism, thus allowing individuals to achieve wealth according to the notion of equitable fairness. This difference in the conception of fairness influences each party's conceptualization of community: for liberals, community should foster fairness and promote care, and for conservatives, people have a duty to bolster their community by following the rules of equitable fairness. This study ultimately finds that Romney emphasizes division and marginalizes his opposition, while Clinton truly works to bridge the divide between the two parties.
Rhetoric and Writing Studies
Arts and Letters
Master of Arts (M.A.) San Diego State University, 2013
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