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Photo: “Donald Trump closeup,” by Gage Skidmore licensed under CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic. Hue modified from the original.

Kelley, Colleen. “The Trump presidency: Democratic fatigue or fascism?.” Communication Research and Practice (2022): 1-15.


Donald Trump became the president that the American system of government was designed to avoid and that America’s founders feared; an anti-democratic leader who positioned himself as an alternative to that system. This critical rhetorical analysis initially deconstructs the founders’ vision of a system configured to vet, counter and neutralise anti-constitutional demagogues with leadership aspirations. The essay suggests such leadership as Donald Trump’s is the prototype of a legitimately elected leader who rhetorically deconstructs the political system which initially elevates them to office. In so doing, it becomes difficult if not impossible for that system to hold such a leader and their political organisation accountable for their actions, at least through democratic means. The essay also examines the impact of such dysfunctional political discourse on American democracy as well its global significance. It concludes speculatively by suggesting the enactment of a rhetorical narrative of constitutional patriotism as a counterpart to demagogic populism.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.