Freedom in speech: Freedom and liberty in U.S. presidential campaign discourse, 1952-2004
"Freedom" is a flexible and powerful word. When a speaker describes a soldier as a "freedom fighter," the New Deal as a way to achieve "freedom from poverty," or taxation as a threat to freedom, he or she implicitly identifies heroes, villains, rights, and violations of rights. To identify the ways freedom - and its close cousin "liberty" - have been used in American presidential campaign discourse, I analyzed 88 speeches from 28 Republican and Democratic presidential nominating conventions (1952-2004). This study is the first to code and categorize the variable meanings of freedom and liberty language. I found that freedom and liberty terms were most often used in reference to Communism, economic freedom, individual liberty from government, and in ways that did not reference anything specific. I identify how such freedom language may encourage particular policies, citizen identities, and national memories. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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