The Rhetoric of Donald Trump: Nationalist Populism and American Democracy, Robert C. Rowland

Reviewed by Jacob R. Neiheisel



Donald Trump is a nationalist populist, to begin with. This point is central to Robert C. Rowland's latest book, The Rhetoric of Donald Trump, and a good number of pages within the work's introductory chapters are spent establishing that Trump's rhetorical style matches that of a nationalist populist. Throughout the book, Rowland takes great pains to distinguish nationalist populism from its more progressive variant en route to an in-depth investigation of how it is that Trump was able to appeal to so many Americans.

It is here, however, that the first signs of trouble emerge in the study. Rowland contends that the chief distinguishing feature of nationalist populism is its focus on emotional appeals. Progressive populists, by contrast, are set apart by their use of ideological appeals, even as they do exhibit some rhetorical similarities with their more nationalistic counterparts. The problem with this account is that the distinction between the two types of populists rests upon a very particular understanding of ideology. Students of politics have long noted that ideology is a complex, multifaceted concept. And while Rowland appears to want to enlist the term as meaning “policy-oriented in nature,” greater specificity up front would have aided his argument and sidestepped possible objections to it from readers steeped in debat

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