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Pandemic, Demagoguery, and Right-Wing Authoritarianism, Vol. 30 - 2023, No. 1

Guest Edited by Robert L. Ivie

Dissenting Democratically from Trump’s Toxic Tropes

, pages: 1-17

The discourse of democracy is displaced, and authoritarianism advanced, by Donald Trump’s demagogic trope of racial warfare. Democratic agency is further eroded by images of disease, deployed by both Trump and his critics and contextualised by a viral pandemic. To the extent Trumpism is a rhetorical phenomenon, there is reason to consider its toxic tropes in relation to healthy figures of democratic polity. Democracy itself is a slippery term that revolves around various notions of popular sovereignty, self-rule, community, equality, pluralism, reciprocity, and deliberation. It is a politics of contestation in which deliberation does not occur when adversaries are alienated and common ground is vacated or destroyed. The question, then, is which tropes might political actors draw on to rebuild and occupy common ground, especially to defuse the divisive figure of racial warfare promoted by Trumpism. One answer is that democratic dissent’s affirming gesture (as counterpart to its discordant gesture) can draw on a commonplace of complementarity. This is well illustrated by Stacey Abrams’ reply to Donald Trump’s 2019 State of the Union Address, a response in which she located racial complementarity within a complex of democratic values of inclusion, fairness, hard work, opportunity, community, justice, and mutual benefit.

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