Curriculum Vitae (PDF)
"Racial and Ethnic Strategy in Presidential Election Year Rhetoric, 1964-2004"
Victoria Hattam (chair), David Plotke, Deva Woodly
My dissertation analyzes presidential rhetoric from 1964 to 2004 to show how presidents have come to use ethnic rhetoric to justify subtly coded racial appeals and sidestep issues of racial inequality. It uses a mixed methods analysis of seventeen election-year volumes of the Public Papers of the Presidents to track when and how presidents integrated the term “ethnic” into their speeches. My research shows how direct discussions of racial inequality have dropped out of presidential speeches in favor of coded appeals on crime, welfare, and education that presidents consistently justified with reference to values that unite ethnically diverse supporters. This strategy allows presidents to draw on racial resentments, frame these appeals with egalitarian messages, and claim to be sensitive to issues of diversity. The approach employed in this dissertation allows us to view this rhetorical strategy’s reach across time and party to trace its growing acceptance as the dominant rhetorical strategy for presidents to address race, softening the focus on racial inequality through the lens of ethnicity.
My research focuses on the American presidency, racial and ethnic politics, and political rhetoric. In my dissertation, I perform a mixed-method analysis of seventeen volumes of the Public Papers of the Presidents from 1964 to 2004 to show how Republican presidents established a framework for presidential speech about race that places ethnicity alongside race and focuses on how common values unite Americans despite their differences. I show how Republican presidents developed this framework to justify subtly coded racial appeals and sidestep issues of racial inequality, and how it has now become the dominant way for presidents from both parties to speak about race.
I have presented this work at several conferences including the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting in September 2013, the Southern Political Science Association Annual Meeting in January 2013, and the Midwestern Political Science Association Annual Meeting in March of 2012. I have an article under review at Presidential Studies Quarterly that analyzes Nixon’s 1972 campaign rhetoric and shows how he used ethnic rhetoric to support his campaign strategy to harness the racial resentments of white ethnics. I am preparing a second manuscript for submission to Ethnic and Racial Studies titled “From South Africa to South Central: Framing Racial Transcendence through Foreign Policy Rhetoric” that analyzes the way that presidents frame American racial relations in their rhetoric on foreign policy. It shows that Nixon, Reagan, and Bush framed America as having transcended racism by comparing domestic American racial relations with Southern African racial tensions.
My next project will assess the relationship between federal disaster response and Americans’ viewpoints of government. In this project, I will analyze federal government responses and rhetoric on those responses through content analysis of local and national media coverage and Federal Emergency Management Agency messages regarding HIV/AIDS, Sickle Cell Anemia, Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy. I will survey community leaders in both affected and unaffected areas to determine if their perceptions of the federal government changed after the federal government’s response. This project will provide scholars with a better understanding of the political impacts of crisis management communication techniques.
Short writing sample (PDF)
Teaching Experience/Courses Taught
Power and the American Political System; Introduction to American Politics; Politics and Culture; The United States and the World; Democracy and Its Critics; Introduction to Political Theory; Contemporary Political Issues.
Power and Politics in the United States (PDF)