Democratic Disunity: Rhetorical Tribalism in 2020 addresses that while attention has recently and rightly been paid to the tribal bifurcation of the GOP, the Democratic Party is similarly divided. Americans live in a democratic republic rather than a direct democracy and choices regarding governing concerns are configured through communicative action. These choices include those made between and within American political parties. Without rhetorical mediation and intervention, toxic partisan tribalism within the two major American political parties is likely to destabilize the nations’ federalist system of government. Kelley argues that intraparty tribalism poisons public life and consumes public space within which electoral politics, including discussion, deliberation and compromise, should be thriving. Democratic Disunity considers intraparty tribalism as a rhetorical form, uniquely positioned within the twenty-first century. Details are provided regarding language-in-use strategies with which to anchor a rhetoric of governing through a mindful, deliberative dialogue which diminishes the effect of political partisanship, including its toxic variations both between and within American political parties. Scholars and students of rhetoric, political communication, and political science will find this book particularly interesting.
Colleen Elizabeth Kelley is associate professor of rhetorical communication at Penn State Erie.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1Democratic Intraparty Tribalism
Chapter 2Rhetorical Tribalism
Chapter 3American Rhetorical Tribes
Chapter 4Congressional Tribalism
Chapter 5Mediated Tribalism
Chapter 6Caucuses, Primaries and Convention
Chapter 7The Election
Chapter 8The Legacy of Intraparty Tribalism
Chapter 9Tribalism as a Rhetorical Form
Conclusion: Rhetorical Tribal Reconciliation
About the Author
“As a reader trying to make sense of political disorder throughout the pandemic, I celebrate the humane reflections in Democratic Disunity: Rhetorical Tribalism in 2020. This well-written and tightly reasoned book analyzes the rhetorical workings of group identifications delineated as tribalism. Dr. Colleen Kelley highlights the significance of destabilizing between-and-within-party communication practices that impact US democracy. Her final chapters and conclusions move the reader smoothly toward remedial measures that offer hope for reconciliation through judicious rhetorical acts.”
“Democratic Disunity: Rhetorical Tribalism in 2020 is excellent and a rarity these days: interesting, extremely well-written and addressing profound questions. Dr. Kelley examines the ‘relationship among rhetoric, civility, power and politics.’ She describes the current political situation as ‘toxic partisan tribalism,’ steadily worsening since the end of the Cold War. ‘The contentious 2020 presidential campaign laid bare these deep divisions in American society, exhibiting tribal politics.’ Remedies are not easy but might involve ‘think(ing) about what you don’t know’ and ‘check(ing) your assumptions.’ Above all, a thought-provoking book.”
"Planting a position on the solid ground of centrism, Colleen Elizabeth Kelley unearths useful analytical insights by excavating the political rhetoric of the Trump years. Kelley not only adds to the national public discussion about the polarization of the American two-party system, but also maps out the maze of discursive and ideological trenches that separate the various “tribes” within the Democratic Party itself."
"This superbly crafted text weaves a highly compelling, coherent and finely nuanced account of how the radical left and right of the American liberal-conservative continuum operate as two tribes that collaboratively define not only each other but a common contempt for the center using parallel rhetorical devices. What is more, Kelley challenges the view that this opposition is founded on beliefs and ideology. Instead, in line with Anderson and Hoekstra, (2019), Buchanan (2020) and Packer (2018) , she argues that tribal opposition is more about social identity work than cognition. At the same time, Democratic Disunity is an optimistic text, proposing that understanding political tribalism and the discursive forms that sustain it provides a way forward towards intraparty reconciliation; one that could furnish the public with a basis for developing discursive skills to transcend the ‘ultra-partisan binaries’ in US intraparty tribes and reconnect party members to the nation’s political system. In so doing, Kelley is making a highly constructive literary contribution to political thought; one I highly recommend to US citizens and international observers alike."