Presidents Must Use Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations

American presidents must “attempt to close the yawning gap between what the public expects and what political reality and the American system of government allows,” write two political scientists. In The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency, they “argue that presidents justify their presidencies – both at the outset of their administrations and throughout their tenure in office – in the face of public expectations for heroism and greatness. Opportunities to fulfill these expectations are at best fleeting, and the overall task remains virtually impossible, yet presidents must strive –and do so publicly and frequently – to meet the challenge.”

“The heroic expectations of the American presidency, despite its myriad burdens, do not allow acknowledgment of impotence nor does it tolerate expressions of doubt, indifference, or defeat. Even when heroism does not appear in the cards, American presidents must play as if their hand was full of nothing but aces.”

Justin Vaughn is assistant professor of political science at Boise State University. Jennifer Mercieca is associate professor and associate head of communication at Texas A&M University.

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