American politics is characterized by a bipartisan system in which two major political parties – the Democratic Party and the Republican Party – compete against each other. These parties and their respective supporters (American progressives/liberals and conservatives) are divided by contrasting ideologies, which are grounded in different forms of morality (Lakoff 1996) and in diverging sets of psychologically rooted values and beliefs (McAdams et al 2008). This study focuses on the current US president Joe Biden (Democratic Party) and former president Donald Trump (Republican Party) and analyses their respective inaugural addresses as a specimen of their rhetoric and a representation of underlying ideologies and moral values. Since the inaugural address represents a type of political speech that is based on a specific event, namely the formal transition of power from one administration to the next, the analysis will consider how this situational context is described in each of the speeches by concentrating on the use of distinctive discursive strategies and rhetorical devices. The inaugural address is also a traditional, formal occasion for establishing a presidential image and for making a binding agreement with the electorate in terms of political principles and ideals inspiring one’s presidency (see, e.g., Campbell and Jamieson 1990: 14-51). In light of this, the analysis will also illustrate the range of values that inform Trump’s and Biden’s visions of the nation under their respective leaderships.
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