Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Department

School of Communication Studies

Advisor(s)

Matthew P. Brigham

Lindsey A. Harvell-Bowman

Paul E. Mabrey III

Abstract

My thesis explores the implications of the references to President Ronald Reagan in the 2015-2016 Republican presidential primary debates. I conducted a rhetorical analysis of the references to Reagan throughout these debates, while also considering their relation to public and collective memory theory. In order to analyze the different ways in which Reagan was mentioned, I divided the analysis into the undercard debates, mainstage debates, and the mainstage debate that occurred at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. In the undercard debates, candidates often utilized attention-grabbing strategies in order to aid their chances of moving up to the mainstage debates. The mainstage candidates referenced Reagan to support different goals than the undercard candidates, often focusing on policy rather than personal qualities. In the Simi Valley debate, or “Reagan debate,” the candidates were inspired by the location at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and competed to claim Reagan’s legacy. Through my analysis, I discovered that the candidates referenced Reagan in order to support a wide range of ideologies and goals. Therefore, due to the prevalence and centrality of references to Reagan in the 2015-2016 GOP presidential primary debates, and the way in which his name was utilized to support candidates’ arguments, I concluded that Reagan’s legacy had affected and will likely continue to affect the communication of the modern Republican Party in primary debates, which scholars, candidates, and campaign teams would benefit greatly by systematically analyzing and exploring.

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