The Rhetoric of Political Time: Tracing the Neoliberal Regime's Ascent
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In this dissertation, I argue that Stephen Skowronek’s theory of political time can be used as analytic to better understand the rhetorical opportunities and constraints for presidents and presidential candidates. In particular, I look to Ronald Reagan as a case study: as a president who came on the heels of the end of FDR’s liberal era, Reagan set the tone for a new presidential regime, consisting of particular rhetorical and policy commitments that were all shaped through his neoliberal economic policy. After identifying the rhetorical hallmarks of the neoliberal era as constructed by Reagan, I analyze the rhetorical efforts of his successor, regime articulation president George H.W. Bush, to negotiate the changing domestic and international atmosphere within the rhetorical and policy constraints of Reagan’s neoliberalism. Finally, I identify and analyze the preemptive efforts of Bill Clinton and Ross Perot during the 1992 election as they attempted to renegotiate key aspects of Reagan’s rhetorical and policy commitments to win the presidency. The analysis of each individual’s rhetoric is aided by attention to both discursive and visual rhetoric: the rhetorical interiors and exteriors of regime discourse. The analysis of Reagan’s neoliberal regime emergence begins with the 1964 primary run against Barry Goldwater and continues through his presidency. Analysis of Bush begins with his 1980 primary election contest against Ronald Reagan and culminates in the 1992 election. Both Clinton and Perot were analyzed using stump speeches and advertisements from the primaries through the 1992 presidential election. For each individual, analysis of Time magazine covers provided visual confirmation or rejection of each rhetor’s rendition of neoliberal regime commitments. In the end, while Reagan was successful in establishing the rhetorical and policy commitments of the Neoliberal regime, Bush was unable to perform those commitments to the satisfaction of the base; as a result, Clinton’s rendition of the neoliberal regime, which he presented as a “third way” during the 1992 presidential election, succeeded in winning the presidency.
Terry, Andrea June (2017). The Rhetoric of Political Time: Tracing the Neoliberal Regime's Ascent. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from