Examples of CDA

So the main part of my research was doing the actual analysis of the convention speeches. So without further ado I’ll just get into some examples of the analysis I’ve done.


Lexical phrases or expressions represent and guide mental categories and thought processes. Lexical phrases are evaluative much of the time. Often they are phrases that are repeated by certain parties or groups that not only guide the audience’s mental schemas of these things, but also serve as a way a person can align themselves with a certain group.


A common example is “pro-choice” versus “pro-life”. Each phrase is evaluative in its presentation (after all, who would want to be anti-choice or anti-life?) and each phrase also aligns the speaker to a certain ideology.


The most common example is ‘illegal immigrant’ versus ‘undocumented immigrant’ or simply ‘immigrant’. Both phrases are evaluative:  the former puts the blame on the immigrant, that they themselves are illegal, while the latter puts the blame on the system, that they are immigrants, but merely undocumented. Both align the speaker with a certain ideology as well.


While that example was present in both speeches (Trump referring multiple times to ‘illegal immigrants’ and Clinton referring to them simply as ‘immigrants’) and while I did discuss it in my paper, I think that a more interesting phenomenon comes in a more subtle way.


Trump uses a lot of lexical phrases, but one of Trump’s most repeated phrases was “law and order”. This phrase is not his own, but draws on decades of history. While “Law and Order” is also a popular TV series, the phrase in context most closely resembles Nixon’s use of the phrase during his election in 1968 as part of his Southern Strategy. When Nixon used the phrase ‘law and order’, he was alluding to the urban unrest that many white southern voters associated with black communities. In this way, Nixon was able to draw on white southerners’ racism in order to consolidate votes while at the same time not being overtly racist himself. Trump does much the same.


In his convention speech, Trump uses the phrase “law and order” four times. Each time, the context of his speech refers to terrorism, immigration, or attacks on police. In each scenario, race, ethnicity, or faith is a prominent factor that he is alluding to. With regard to terrorism, he’s alluding to Muslims or Middle Easterners; with immigration it’s Latinxs, especially those here illegally; with attacks on police it is African Americans and the Black Lives Matter movement. By saying that he is for law and order, he is implying that these communities are monolithically breaking the law, implying that they have no respect for America and therefore are against American ideals. In this way, Trump is using coded language to tap into racist and prejudiced ideology without saying overtly racist things.



Another thing I looked at was how Hillary portrayed the founding fathers.


In her speech, Hillary invokes the founding fathers, creating a narrative of finding common ground.


The act of constructing a narrative around the founding fathers has been present in American political rhetoric since the 1820s, when the last of them died out. Since then, invoking the founding fathers has been used by every political party, trying to persuade the nation of the merit of their policies by insisting it was part of the original intent of the founding fathers.


However, Clinton does something slightly different than most politicians in referencing the founding fathers. In most cases, the “founding fathers” is used as a monolithic group, homogenous in opinions. Clinton, on the other hand, emphasizes some of the political discord among the founding fathers, claiming that:

“some wanted to stick with the king and some wanted to stick it to the king”

After this, though, Clinton returns to the reducing the founders to a group, using only the pronoun “they” and no names, emphasizing her claim that America is “stronger together”, that compromise is the ultimate expression of democracy and unity.


In recent years, the rhetoric of “founding fathers” and “original intent” has been dominated by the conservative movement, particularly the faction known as the “Tea Party”, which even in its very name evokes the founding fathers by referencing the historical event of the Boston Tea Party. Liberals, on the other hand, have shied away from using the founding fathers as role models as they are seen more and more as slave-owning wealthy white men, excluding many other voices of that time period.


However, with the advent of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton, liberals have been more at ease with invoking the founding fathers, as Hamilton portrays them as people of color, reclaiming the founding narrative and shifting the moral focus from men like Jefferson, a wealthy slave-owner in favor of states’ rights, to Hamilton, an orphan immigrant who called for a stronger federal government. Hillary even likens her own campaign to that story by quoting Hamilton in her closing remarks.





  1. I think it’s very interesting how language shapes our perceptions of reality, especially in politics where everything is so subjective. The examples you presented were incredibly topical in light of this election, as abortion, immigration, and Constitutional intent have been some of the most discussed issues so far. To someone not very versed in politics, a lot of these policies would sound great thanks to the positive-sounding rhetoric they are couched in. While the realities are infinitely more flawed, the words both candidates use to describe themselves and their campaigns are almost propaganda-worthy. Your analysis of the convention speeches sounds really interesting! I’m looking forward to learning more about it.

  2. I think your analysis of recent political speeches is really interesting, especially when you talk about the founding fathers. I never noticed how Clinton’s talk about the founding fathers highlights their disagreements more. That’s a fascinating distinction, because we often hear politicians talk about their intentions as if they were all the same, even though our history books clearly tell a different story.
    Your mention of Hamilton is also very interesting. The musical has brought a lot of old history back into the front in center of public consciousness, and this is a great time for Americans to examine where our nation started. I’d be very interested to learn more about the possible implicit affects Hamilton has had on this election year simply by reminding citizens of our past.

  3. syzakriya says:

    I love the examples of lexical phrases used by the candidates to hi light your points, and I also find the whole topic of your study to be quite intriguing. However, something interesting I was thinking of when reading your post was that, could it be possible that Donald Trump when using language such as “law and order” or “illegal immigrant” is not in fact echoing racist sentiments but rather real concerns many Americans have? While I disagree with him on virtually everything, he did become the GOP nominee by winning a significant amount of votes, and I think to assume that all of those voters chose him because they expressed some hidden or secret racist agenda would be simplifying their reasons. Additionally, I think it could be interesting to see if some phrases such as “political correctness,” “you can’t say that,” or “black lives matter” trigger off similar threatening emotions to Donald Trump’s constituents, causing them to gravitate towards the candidate that stands up for them and their rights.