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From My Cold, Dead Hands: Democratic Consequences of Sacred Rhetoric

Marietta, Morgan (2007) From My Cold, Dead Hands: Democratic Consequences of Sacred Rhetoric. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Civil society and democratic deliberation rely on compromise, but political leaders often express convictions that are sacred, grounded in non-negotiable appeals to transcendent authority rather than reasoned consequences. This study examines the political meaning of this form of persuasion, or the democratic consequences of sacred rhetoric. I find that the distinctive effects of sacred appeals are on political reasoning and motivation rather than on expressed opinions. Sacred rhetoric is not more effective in changing minds but in shifting the nature of public discourse, resulting in a more strident political culture. Absolutist appeals also encourage political intensity and engagement, creating a strong partisan incentive for their use. But they are not employed equally by both national parties. The direct political consequence of sacred rhetoric is an absolutist advantage for contemporary Republicans, while the more diffuse democratic consequences include increased citizen participation and decreased prospects for meaningful deliberation — a contradictory influence on the health of American democracy.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBarker, David
Committee MemberRockman,
Committee MemberMarkoff, Johnjm2@pitt.eduJM2
Committee MemberGoodhart,
Committee MemberTetlock,
Date: 29 June 2007
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 19 February 2007
Approval Date: 29 June 2007
Submission Date: 29 March 2007
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Political Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: democratic theory; rhetoric; sacred; values
Other ID:, etd-03292007-005431
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:33
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:37


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