The 2019 State of the Union Address and Stacey Abrams’ rebuttal. A deferred dialogic exchange


A favoured communicative opportunity of Donald Trump was the State of the Union Address, which was widely broadcast across the contemporary mediascape, including via YouTube. Traditionally, the SOTU address is followed by a rebuttal speech from a representative of the opposition party, and in 2019 the speaker for the Democrats was Stacey Abrams, the first African American woman to deliver a rebuttal speech. This heteroglossic dialogic confrontation was further amplified by the simultaneous fact-checking of the news media, thus presenting the audience/s with a complex diachronic speech event. Indeed, the rich affordances of our polymedia environment critically engage the cognitive levels of human interaction and information exchange, leading to forms of bounded rationality, such as cognitive heuristics. Against this fluid background, the research purpose of this study is twofold. Firstly, it evaluates the success of presidential rhetoric in the 2019 SOTU address, which aimed at projecting a renovated image of the desired unity of values and goals at a national level. Secondly, it comparatively considers the different qualities of the rhetoric of the SOTU and the rebuttal speech, as well as the media reaction. The analytical foci will be on both speakers’ attitudinal positionings by utilising the fine-grained resources of the appraisal framework (White 2015), with insights from Bakhtin’s notion of dialogism, on their discursive strategies and topoi, following a broad discourse-historical approach (Reisigl 2017; Wodak 2015), as well as on the pragmatic aspects of such exchanges, which were finalised to gain political consensus.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v53p7

Keywords: SOTU; fact-checking; rebuttal; mediascape affordances; appraisal framework


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