Constituting "the people": National identity under william h. taft and richard m. nixon

Mary E. Stuckey, Karen S. Hoffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This project is focused on the long-term constitutive elements of presidential discourse; in other words, how rhetoric helps frame and determine national identity. Seemingly innocuous, and appearing in both ceremonial and policy addresses, presidential language concerning national identity helps shape the context, and thus sets the terms for more substantive, issue-laden debates. While one cannot measure the impact of this type of rhetoric in terms of specific issues and time frames, its influence is apparent in a broader and more diffuse perspective. This research compares the public rhetoric of presidents William H. Taft and Richard M. Nixon specifically in terms of their definitions of national identity. Both Republicans, albeit with very different political contexts and time periods, exhibited marked similarities in their strategies for defining the American polity, particularly with respect to their view of the president as the national representative, the idea that the nation is a unified whole, the belief that the nation follows the greatest good for the greatest number, the belief that each citizen occupies a natural place in the hierarchy of American society, and finally, the conviction that liberty is the most important foundational value of the country. The evidence suggests that rhetorical conceptions of national identity are important over time in the United States. Enjoying a broad audience, the president has the ability to shape national debate according to which groups and issues he includes or excludes from the polity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-94
Number of pages26
JournalCongress and the Presidency
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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