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Title: Trojan Horse Rhetoric: The Paradoxical Vocabulary of Progressive ACA Reformers
Authors: Hosie, Duncan
Advisors: Zelizer, Julian
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2016
Abstract: This thesis explores the rhetoric used by President Obama, Congressional Democrats, and their allies in the legislative debate over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA). It examines how progressives co-opted “conservative” keywords and frames by employing rhetoric centered on fiscal responsibility, self-sufficiency, individualism, free-market principles, and business development. The thesis relies on an interdisciplinary methodology that emphasizes history, political science, political strategy, communication studies, rhetorical analysi s, and cognitive linguistics. The author coded 197 speeches, weekly addresses, and town hall remarks given by President Obama, 31 interviews by President Obama, and 274 press releases produced by the White House over the course of the ACA debate. The author also coded 336 speeches, interviews, and press releases from prominent Congressional Democrats, including Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid, Congressman Waxman, Congressman George Miller, and Senator Baucus. The author reviewed 100 hours of transcript on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show and 56 articles in the Nation , Mother Jones , Think Progress , The New York Times Opinion Pages, and the New Yorker to examine the full development of progressive health care rhetoric during this debate. Finally, the author examined political science literature on framing and 254 past speeches of former health care advocates and reformers. This thesis makes two core contributions to the existing literature. Numerous academics and social activists on the left posit that the progressive use of “conservati ve” frames undermines the long-term cause of liberals and legitimizes neoliberal public policy frameworks. Working with the ACA as a case study, this thesis rejects their position. Although President Obama and his allies relied on conservative key words and frames to pass the law, this thesis argues that the ACA represents a progressive victory. It also defends the law against left-wing critics who argue it does little to help poor Americans and constitutes a “giveaway” to private insurance companies. Second, this thesis challenges popular progressive conceptions of these “conservative” frames. Through careful historical analysis, this thesis tracks the enduring roots of these keywords and their resonance in the American progressive lexicon. While this thesis demonstrates that these frames have gained increasing prominence in the liberal vocabulary, it shows that these key words are not new. This thesis concludes by offering rhetorical recommendations to future progressives reformers. Synthesizing lessons from the rhetoric of reformers in the ACA debate, it provides structural linguistic recommendations and specific rhetorical recommendations on policy issues, including on climate change, criminal justice, gun control, minimum wage, affordable housing and paid-sick leave benefits.
Extent: 144 pages
Access Restrictions: Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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