This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Scapegoating Saviors: Presidential Rhetoric in U.S. Government Shutdowns




Oliver, Rebecca

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Communication and Journalism


This project extends research on how and why rhetors create enemies in political discourse. Previous literature has examined the construction of enemies for a number of purposes. One of these purposes is scapegoating. To combat problems within our social, economic, political, and religious structures rhetors often blame others. However, there is a lack of research examining the reflexive functions of enemy creation, such as the creation of a savior persona for the rhetor. There are times when the rhetor uses scapegoating as more than an opportunity to shift blame. I argue the rhetor’s purpose then is not only to shift blame but to elevate their status. The focus of this project is the consideration of the reflexive function of scapegoating and how rhetors may use it to develop a savior persona. To illustrate this principle, I consider how and why presidents Trump, Obama, and Clinton enemized Congress to promote themselves as saviors in their State of the Union addresses given during government shutdowns.