Title

Rhetoric and Public Culture: Bernie Sanders and Resignification

Presenter

Jessica Kostelnik

Abstract

After years of stigma, socialism has new currency in the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist. In interviews and public appearances, Sanders has attempted to resignify what it means to be a Democratic Socialist. Sanders’ candidacy brings to the forefront clashing interpretations of socialism. While his ability to maneuver around the modern political landscape is telling, a more fascinating consideration is what the current election cycle will mean for socialism. I argue that Bernie Sanders is resignifying socialism. He does so by rejecting the existing construct of the term socialism and reframing socialism in a modern context. The origins of socialism’s construction is not explicitly stated by Sanders. This strategic omission is a rhetorically powerful technique. Why is socialism stigmatized, and who perpetuates and benefits from these stigmas? Sanders enthymematically explores these questions in his interviews and speeches.

Faculty Sponsor

Heather Hayes

Sponsor Department/Programs

Rhetoric Studies

Tracks

Rhetorical Studies: Public Culture

Location

Reid G02

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

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Apr 19th, 2:15 PM Apr 19th, 2:30 PM

Rhetoric and Public Culture: Bernie Sanders and Resignification

Reid G02

After years of stigma, socialism has new currency in the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist. In interviews and public appearances, Sanders has attempted to resignify what it means to be a Democratic Socialist. Sanders’ candidacy brings to the forefront clashing interpretations of socialism. While his ability to maneuver around the modern political landscape is telling, a more fascinating consideration is what the current election cycle will mean for socialism. I argue that Bernie Sanders is resignifying socialism. He does so by rejecting the existing construct of the term socialism and reframing socialism in a modern context. The origins of socialism’s construction is not explicitly stated by Sanders. This strategic omission is a rhetorically powerful technique. Why is socialism stigmatized, and who perpetuates and benefits from these stigmas? Sanders enthymematically explores these questions in his interviews and speeches.