Barack Obama and the rhetoric of American exceptionalism : race, economy, security, and the exceptional rhetorical apparatus of sovereign power.




McVey, J. Alexander.

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This thesis examines President Barack Obama’s use of the rhetoric of American exceptionalism to establish authority for the exercise of sovereign power. I perform a close reading of three speeches to examine how Obama uses American exceptionalism to garner authority on issues of race, the economy, and national security. Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech demonstrates how Obama deploys the rhetoric of American exceptionalism to limit the rhetorical force of racial anger. The 2011 State of the Union illustrates how Obama rhetorically manipulates time to defend neoliberal economics through the rhetoric of American exceptionalism. Obama’s “Our Security, Our Values” speech shows how Obama uses the rhetoric of the rule of law to establish American exceptionalism as a durable rhetorical framework for ongoing actions in the war on terror. Together, these speeches demonstrate the importance of understanding how American exceptionalism functions in Obama’s rhetoric as a foundation for sovereign power.