Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Ronald Reagan deservedly attained the moniker "The Great Communicator" due to his rhetorical prowess. This dissertation addresses an aspect, governmental scapegoating, of Reagan's rhetorical strategy. Traditional scapegoating theory claims that the scapegoat is either killed or driven from the community. However, I claim that Reagan profited by making a unique use of the scapegoat, one that was benign, the government remained essentially unscathed. The means to analyze Reagan's discourse is Kenneth Burke's cycle of guilt, victimage, redemption and rebirth. Ten speeches of President Reagan are analyzed: both of his Inaugural Addresses, his Economic Recovery Speech, and his seven State of the Union Addresses. Analysis revealed a consistent pattern of federal bureaucratic attack throughout Reagan's eight years in office. Although Reagan successfully utilized his benign scapegoating, concern arises when the United States' form of government, representative democracy, is considered. Scapegoating can stifle discourse, a potentially dangerous outcome for a free and open society.
Braden, Stephen Wayne, "The Rhetoric of the Benign Scapegoat: President Reagan and the Federal Government." (2000). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 7340.