Constructing a political persona of honor
Galloway, Ryan Wade
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Senator John McCain’s rise to national prominence was as rapid as it was unexpected. Despite long odds, McCain claimed victory in seven different primaries, including an initial upset in the New Hampshire primary that put him on the political map. McCain is now perceived as a power-broker on Capitol Hill, often defying the Republican Party with his maverick image and willingness to cross party lines. This dissertation analyzes the ways in which John McCain utilized distinctive rhetorical strategies to become one of the most powerful national political figures in the country. First, McCain employed a narrative of honor to build a persona of a “clean” politician interested in protecting the country’s interests over his own. Second, McCain used his campaign autobiography and speeches to meld his personal life story with his political life. Finally, McCain translated his campaign successes into the legislative success of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation. This dissertation illustrates how McCain rhetorically transferred his status as a war hero to that of a political reformer, and thus provides useful insights into how a politician’s character is created and deployed in modern politics.