Cody HawleyFollow




Communication Studies


Master of Arts (MA)


William Mullen


American Rhetoric, House of Representatives, Idealism, John Boehner, Pragmatism, Richard Weaver


American Politics | Communication | Political Science | Rhetoric | Social Influence and Political Communication | Speech and Rhetorical Studies


American political rhetoric is characterized by a synthesis of contradictory idealistic and pragmatic elements, both of which are necessary if there is to be convincing persuasion. The way in which politicians rhetorically approach this dichotomy is significant, however, current studies on the topic are limited to presidential discourse. There is little research on this topic in other settings such the United States House of Representatives. This criticism analyzes John Boehner's congressional rhetoric in the idealistic-pragmatic dichotomy. The critical method utilized is Richard Weaver's four forms of argument-genus, similitude, consequence, and circumstance. Eight speeches of John Boehner, four from his position as Minority Party Leader and four as Speaker of the House are analyzed using this model. The thesis asserts that Boehner's primary argument was one of consequence, which is practical in orientation, but is complemented by idealistic arguments from genus that while ultimately inferior to consequence, were still major considerations with implications on the merit of legislation. In addition, he relies on common lines of argument which can be encapsulated in Walter Fisher's materialistic myth of the American Dream. Limitations of the study and its implications on the American rhetorical tradition are discussed.