Volume 9, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1569-2159
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9862
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In the first two and a half months of 2008, conservative American radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh declared a state of “race war” in the United States. According to Limbaugh, the primary combatants were Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, who (at the time of writing) were competing to become the Democratic nominee in the 2008 race for President. As the most successful African-American presidential candidate in American history, then-Senator Obama was the subject of racially-charged comments and the target of racially-motivated mud-slinging. Despite his professed neutrality in what he portrayed as a purely internecine affair, however, Limbaugh was an enthusiastic enlistee in this war, fighting on what appears to be both sides in the service of the greater message. This paper uses an interdisciplinary framework, drawn from linguistic anthropology, social psychology, and Goffman’s (1981) study of participant roles, to analyze the strategies which Limbaugh deployed in the earliest days of the Democratic primary season to discuss race while reinforcing the playful, prescient, and persecuted “message”-persona (Silverstein 2003) which has made him synonymous with American conservatism today.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Barack Obama; blackface; persona; race; Rush Limbaugh
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