Legitimacy Troubles and the Performance of Power in the 2016 US Presidential Election
In this article, I pursue the themes of newness and rupture as representing manifestations of legitimacy troubles in a host of America’s political and civil spheres, and in and amongst its democratic institutions. I present findings from the literature on legitimacy that indicate, despite much commentary to the contrary, a Trump like-character is not anathema to American symbolic representations of legitimate authority. Finally, I offer a brief cultural pragmatic analysis of the election and specify what performances of national identity and claims to leadership look like under these conditions.
Keywordslegitimacy performance cultural pragmatics Donald Trump elections democracy
Shai Dromi and Anne Marie Champagne contributed mightily to managing this special issue project. Reviewers and Anne Marie helped me refine my argument. Thank you all.
- Axelrod, D. (2016) The Obama theory of Trump. New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/25/opinion/campaign-stops/the-obama-theory-of-trump.html.
- Barbaro, M., Haberman, M. and Rappeport, A. (2016) As America sleeps, Donald Trump seethes on Twitter. New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/01/us/politics/donald-trump-alicia-machado.html.
- Berezin, M. (2017) On the construction sites of history: Where did Donald Trump come from. American Journal of Cultural Sociology 5(3).Google Scholar
- Bycoffe, A. (2016) The endorsement primary. FiveThirtyEight, https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-endorsement-primary.
- Chokshi, J. (2016) U.S. Partisanship is highest in decades, Pew Study Finds. New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/24/us/politics/partisanship-republicans-democrats-pew-research.html.
- Chozick, A. and Healy, P. (2015) Hillary Clinton’s vows to ‘Fight’ evoke a populist appeal and a contrast with Obama. New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/16/us/politics/hillary-clintons-vows-to-fight-suggest-a-contrast-with-obama.html.
- Chozick, A. and Healy, P. (2016) Inside the Clinton team’s plan to defeat Donald Trump. New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/01/us/politics/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-general-election.html.
- Clifton, J. (2016) Explaining Trump: Widespread government corruption. Gallup, http://www.gallup.com/opinion/chairman/188000/explaining-trump-widespread-government-corruption.aspx?utm_source=genericbutton&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=sharing.
- Confessore, N. and Lichtblau, E. (2015) ‘Outsider’ presidential Candidates prove competitive in fund-raising. New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/16/us/politics/outsider-presidential-candidates-prove-competitive-in-fund-raising.html.
- Davies, D. (2016) Fake news expert on how false stories spread and why people believe them. NPR: Fresh Air, http://www.npr.org/2016/12/14/505547295/fake-news-expert-on-how-false-storiesspread-and-why-people-believe-them.
- Dovere, E-I. (2016) How Clinton lost Michigan - and blew the election. Politico, http://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/michigan-hillary-clinton-trump-232547.
- Dropp, K. and Nyhan, B. (2016) It lives. Birtherism is diminished but far from dead. New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/24/upshot/it-lives-birtherism-is-diminished-but-far-from-dead.html.
- Enten, H. (2016) Americans’ distaste for both Trump and Clinton is record-breaking. FiveThirtyEight, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/americans-distaste-for-both-trump-and-clinton-is-record-breaking/.
- Fingerhut, H. (2015) In politics, most Americans feel they’re on the losing side. Pew Research, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/25/winners-and-losers-in-politics/.
- Frizell, S. (2015) One in five Americans still think Obama is foreign-born, according to Poll. Time, http://time.com/4033161/obama-foreign-born.
- Gallup. (2015) 75% in U.S. See widespread government corruption. Gallup, http://www.gallup.com/poll/185759/widespread-government-corruption.aspx.
- Green, E. (2017) It was cultural anxiety that drove white, working-class voters to Trump. The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/05/white-working-class-trump-cultural-anxiety/525771/.
- Guskin, E. and Clement, S. (2016) Poll: Nearly half of Americans say voter fraud occurs often. Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/09/15/poll-nearly-half-of-americans-say-voter-fraud-occurs-often.
- Habermas, J. (1973) Legitimation Crisis. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
- Habermas, J. (1979) Communication and the Evolution of Society. London: Heinemann Educational Books.Google Scholar
- Hartig, H., Lapinski, J. and Psyllos, S. (2016) Poll: Clinton won final 2016 debate; 53% of republicans would accept election results. NBC News, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/data-points/poll-clinton-won-final-debate-53-republicans-would-accept-election-n670626.
- Jacobs, R. (2017) Journalism after Trump. American Journal of Cultural Sociology 5(3).Google Scholar
- Kreiss, D. (2017) The fragmenting of the civil sphere: How partisan identity shapes the moral evaluation of candidates and epistemology. American Journal of Cultural Sociology 5(3).Google Scholar
- Kurtzleben, D. (2016) The most ‘Unprecedented’ election ever? 65 ways it has been. NPR.org, http://www.npr.org/2016/07/03/484214413/the-most-unprecedented-election-ever-65-ways-it-has-been.
- Lyotard, J.-F. (1979) The Postmodern Condition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
- Moyer, J.W. (2016) Trump’s grammar in speeches ‘just below 6th grade level,’ study finds. Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/03/18/trumps-grammar-in-speeches-just-below-6th-grade-level-study-finds/.
- Mudde, C. (2014) Conclusion: Some further thoughts on populism. In: C. de la Torre (ed.) The Promise and Perils of Populism. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press.Google Scholar
- Patterson (2016) News coverage of the 2016 general election: How the press failed the voters. Shorenstein Center at the Harvard Kennedy School, https://shorensteincenter.org/news-coverage-2016-general-election/.
- Perrin, A. (2014) American democracy: From Tocqueville to town halls to Twitter. Malden: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Pew Research Center. (2016) 2016 Campaign: Strong interest, widespread dissatisfaction, http://www.people-press.org/2016/07/07/2016-campaign-strong-interest-widespread-dissatisfaction/.
- Polletta, F. and Callahan, J. (2017) Deep stories, nostalgia narratives, and fake news: Storytelling in the Trump era. American Journal of Cultural Sociology 5(3).Google Scholar
- Roller, E. (2016) Your facts or mine? New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/25/opinion/campaign-stops/your-facts-or-mine.html.
- Saad, L. and Jones, J.M. (2016) U.S. concern about global warming at eight-year high. Gallup, http://www.gallup.com/poll/190010/concern-global-warming-eight-year-high.aspx.
- Samuelsohn, D. (2016) Bernie’s army of coders. Politico.com, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/02/bernie-sanders-army-of-coders-2016-213647.
- Schumacher, E. and Eskenazi, M. (2016) A readability analysis of campaign speeches from the 2016 US Presidential Campaign, https://arxiv.org/abs/1603.05739.
- Silver, N. (2016a) Education, not income, predicted who would vote for Trump. FiveThirtyEight, http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/education-not-income-predicted-who-would-vote-for-trump/.
- Silver, N. (2016B) The mythology of Trump’s ‘working class’ support. FiveThirtyEight, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-mythology-of-trumps-working-class-support/.
- Swift, A. (2016) American’s trust in mass media sinks to new low. Gallup, http://www.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx.
- Thrush, G. (2016) 10 crucial decisions that reshaped America. Politico.com, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/12/2016-presidential-election-10-moments-trump-clinton-214508.
- Wagner-Pacifici, R. and Tavory, I. (2017) Politics as a vacation. American Journal of Cultural Sociology 5(3).Google Scholar
- Wang, A. (2016) ‘Post-truth’ named 2016 word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries. Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/11/16/post-truth-named-2016-word-of-the-year-by-oxford-dictionaries/.
- Weber, M. (1946) Politics as a vocation. In: Gerth, Mills (eds.) From Max Weber. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Williams, V. (2015) Clinton campaign gives new meaning to the term ‘rope line’ at New Hampshire parade. Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2015/07/04/clinton-campaign-gives-new-meaning-to-the-term-rope-line-at-new-hampshire-parade/.