The Blueprint and the Mirror: Richard Nixon's Presidential Rhetoric and American Masculinity

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Author:
Camacci, Lauren Rose
Graduate Program:
Communication Arts and Sciences
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
September 28, 2017
Committee Members:
  • Stephen H. Browne, Dissertation Advisor
  • Stephen H. Browne, Committee Chair
  • Michele J. Kennerly, Committee Member
  • Kirt H. Wilson, Committee Member
  • Michelle Rodino-Colocino, Outside Member
Keywords:
  • rhetoric
  • Richard Nixon
  • masculinity
  • masculinities
  • Cold War
  • Vietnam
  • Kent State
  • Apollo 13
  • Watergate
Abstract:
This dissertation examines the intersections of presidential rhetoric and American masculinity. The Richard Nixon presidential years were a time of immense social change that carried high stakes for American hegemonic masculinity. Drawing on the growing literature of critical studies of men and masculinities and using theories of civic republicanism and doxa, I analyze three moments pivotal in renegotiating a position of dominance for mainstream masculinity in the United States. My main argument is that Richard Nixon’s presidential rhetoric was metonymic of the changes mainstream (white) American masculinity was undergoing during this period of U.S. history. By studying Nixon’s presidential discourse, we can see the rhetorical resources on which he—and by extension, the average, white American man—relied to maintain a status of dominance in a changing social landscape. The Apollo 13 crisis, tensions between Vietnam veterans and Black and student protestors, and the Watergate affair cracked the hard shell of hegemonic masculinity; Nixon’s rhetoric shows how mainstream men attempted to repair those cracks. Studying the Nixon presidency and its crises illuminates a timely historical and rhetorical antecedent for the state of the U.S. presidency in 2017. Richard Nixon was a mirror for American masculinity, reflecting the status quo, and was a blueprint, offering alternative paths to retain a dominant social status in the United States.