The Normalization of Exclusion through a Revival of Whiteness in Donald Trump's 2016 Election Campaign Discourse

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This article is based on the thesis that the language employed during the Trump campaign and the narrative created in his public speeches and social media posts played a decisive role in increasing white voter turnout and thus contributed to a significant extent to Trump’s victory. I argue that Trump won the presidency not despite having run what the Washington Post called "the most racist, xenophobic, misogynistic campaign for president in memory,” but because of it. The often openly abusive, hateful, and nativist discourse of the Trump campaign is the result of a strategic decision to create a winning coalition, a new, old covenant, of white Americans eager to reinstate a vision of a pre-diversity America. In his campaign speeches, Trump employed a number of discursive strategies that supported the normalization of verbal behavior that was previously seen as either utterly unacceptable or at least politically incorrect. These include, among others, the creation of fear, racialization, discrimination, stigmatization and de-stigmatization, scapegoating and victimization, as well as othering and social exclusion. All of these strategies need to be seen against the background of discursively constructed imaginaries of whiteness where the exclusion of un-American others in Trump's campaign discourse is closely linked with an articulation of America as a white nation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial semiotics
Issue number3
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 8 Jan 2020



  • American jeremiad
  • campaign discourse
  • Donald J. Trump
  • normalization
  • political correctness
  • whiteness

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