The Presidency and the Constitution

"Rhetoric and the Modern Presidency"

Overview

The use of rhetoric by Progressive presidents, beginning in the early 20th century, has transformed the way that Americans think about the presidency. No longer is the president viewed as the head of one institution in a tripartite system of separated government powers that is designed to secure the natural rights of all American citizens. Rather, the president is today considered a national political leader who is expected to wield the powers of government in order to satisfy the needs of the people. To execute this political role, the modern president primarily relies on three rhetorical techniques: he employs a wartime mentality, provides a vision for the future, and offers himself as an indispensable leader who can address the problems of the day.

Lecture

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Recommended Readings

Discussion Questions

  • How do modern presidents misuse rhetoric? How did past presidents use it properly?
  • How does modern presidential rhetoric reflect the Progressive model of leadership?
  • Why does the modern rhetorical presidency seek to create and sustain artificial crises? 

Q & A Session

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Kevin Portteus is an Associate Professor of Politics at Hillsdale College, where he has taught since 2008. Dr. Portteus is faculty advisor for the Washington-Hillsdale Internship Program, and teaches courses in American political thought and American political institutions.

A visiting graduate faculty member in the American History and Government program at Ashland University, Dr. Portteus formerly taught at Belmont Abbey College and Mountain View College, in Dallas. Having published online through the Washington Times, Human Events, and BigGovernment.com, his book, Executive Details: Public Administration and American Constitutionalism, is under review for publication. He received his B.A., summa cum laude, from Ashland University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in politics from the University of Dallas.