Presidential Supreme Court Nomination Announcements: Rhetorical Strategies and Tactics

By: Matthew Delaporte '17

Advising Faculty: MaryAnne Borelli

While presidential and communication scholars have provided quantitative and qualitative research on presidential rhetoric, speeches announcing Supreme Court nominations have yet to be studied. Examining thirteen nomination announcements, from Anthony Kennedy (1987) to Neil Gorsuch (2017), this thesis provides a comprehensive rhetorical analysis of nomination announcements that followed the Senate’s rejection of Robert Bork. Spanning thirty years and six presidencies, this thesis finds significant continuities in these presidential speeches. This thesis concludes that presidents seek to establish and build their political legacy during the nomination announcement, as these justices are likely to influence American politics long after the conclusion of a president’s term(s) in office. These continuities and consistencies reflect political power as exercised through speechmaking in anticipation of the Senate confirmation process. This thesis concludes by considering the likely consequences of the Senate’s abolition of the filibuster in Supreme Court confirmation debates.

View the honors thesis in its entirety at Digital Commons @ Connecticut College.

Related Fields: Government