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People often cite life experiences as evidence in political arguments, though personal experience is far from generalizable. How do these arguments work? In this paper, I consider the rhetorical dynamics of “autobiographical political argument” by examining We are the 99 Percent and We are the 53 Percent, two blogs that use autobiographical stories to make discursive points. I argue that these autobiographical appeals efficiently use all three of Aristotle’s persuasive “proofs”—logos (logic), ethos (credibility), and pathos (emotion). Then I show that many of the blogs’ stories focus on “redemption,” a theme personality psychologists have found emphasized in the narrative identities, or “stories of self,” of Americans. I argue that autobiographical political arguments draw on the cultural and psychological power of life stories. These findings are evidence of how “narrative rationality” enables public engagement.


This article originally appeared in the International Journal of Communication, Volume 9 (2015).

At the time of publication, the author was employed by the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.