Democratic Deference in a Republican Primary

Democratic Deference in a Republican Primary

Colene J. Lind (University of Texas – Austin, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5003-9.ch006
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U.S. political culture holds everyday citizens to be efficacious and sovereign, while elected elites are to be their public servants. Politicians draw on this cultural truth by speaking in a deferential style. This chapter examines the various registers of the language of deference in the 2012 Republican presidential primary and argues that this lexicon produces a tone that rhetorically constructs hierarchical social roles between citizens and leaders. This chapter finds that the candidates were more likely to speak appreciatively when hailing the citizenry but with accommodation and obligation when calling upon political leaders. The chapter concludes by considering how further study of the language of deference could improve leader-citizen relations in the United States.
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Why Deference?

Civility and incivility are prodigious topics in the scholarship of public deliberation, social-movements, public address, popular culture, politics, and political communication (e.g., Arnett, 2001; Hwang, Borah, Namkoong, & Veenstra, 2008; Johnson, 2005; Muddiman, 2011; Papacharissi, 2004). In contrast, deference has received little consideration outside of psychology, sociology, and political thought. Even so, it is a productive concept because it is intrinsically relational. Of course, civility is a social phenomenon, too, but colloquially, we show deference to someone or something, while we behave in a civil or an uncivil manner more generally. Put differently, civility is the socially sanctioned demeanor displayed in a particular context (namely, the civic realm), but proper deference is a function of interpersonal, social, and even international relations (Fraser & Nolen, 1981; Scheff, 1988).

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