Populism in performance?
Trump on the stump and his audience
Much commentary on the discourse of Donald Trump’s populist appeal has tended to focus on his use of Twitter, to the relative neglect of his campaign rallies. Yet his campaign rallies during the presidential election were arguably crucial for delivering the votes which secured his victory. Members of his own team, and Trump himself, certainly thought so.Since the election Trump has continued to campaign in rallies in key states with increasing vigour, attracting large audiences as the second term elections in 2020 approach.These large-scale public events confirm the bond between Trump and his base. But they also require us to re-focus attention beyond Trump as an individual figure to the process of mutual engagement between him and his highly active and vocal audience.This article, by examining the overall communicative behaviour of participants at his rallies asks: “Is the audience Trump’s creation or is Trump the audience’s creation?”
Keywords: applause, audience response, conversationalisation, discourse, discourse plane, gesture, live audience, political speeches, rhetoric
Published online: 25 August 2020
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