National identity, as a broadly constituted social identity category, has been shown to hold power both as a source of political mobilization and as an enforcer of democratic stability. In recent years, Republican voters have reported stronger national attachments than Democrats, perhaps due to national identity’s longstanding implicit associations with white racial identity – and the rising prominence of multiculturalist and globalist ideologies in recent decades. In light of such findings, I propose that the rhetoric of Republican political elites may function to further exacerbate a stronger sense of national identity among their base by appealing to conjoined national and racial identities. This project investigates if and how Republican presidential candidates in the 2016 and 2020 elections employ national narratives in ways which have the potential to activate both sources of social identity when compared to the narrative elements employed by their Democrats counterparts. Through both “thin” and “thick” social narrative analysis, I found that Republican politicians were indeed more likely than Democrats to employ narratological techniques that implicitly affirm the notion of an ancestrally continuous and racially homogenous (white) nation. Such techniques may further raise the salience of both national and white racial identities among receptive audiences, and thus – given the associations between racial and partisan identities – may both reflect and exacerbate the growing association of national identity with Republican partisan identity and the growing power of Republican “identity politics” writ large. This social identity alignment may benefit the GOP’s political mobilization efforts while also perpetuating political polarization, threatening to distort the democratic function that national identity has been shown to perform.



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