Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

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Emotions and Political Narratives: Populism, Trump and Trade

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Abstract:  In 2016, a wave of American populism triggered emotional reactions to issues like trade and immigration, and dramatically impacted the Obama administration’s plans to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during President Obama’s final year in office. This article asks how do emotions infuse populism with political power, and why was populism effective in sparking American economic nationalism and retreat from free trade during the 2016 presidential campaign? Drawing on a psychoanalytic, narrative framework, the article argues that populist narratives deployed by US presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders characterized the American economy as a story of the people versus corrupt elites offering greater audience resonance that ultimately derailed President Obama’s plan to pass the TPP and ushered in an era of economic nationalism under President Trump. The article contributes to the literature on emotions and foreign policy and explores the under-studied emotional features of populism as a discursive narrative.

Keywords:  economic nationalism; emotions; identity; narratives; populism; trade; Trans-Pacific Partnership; Trump; US foreign policy



© Amy Skonieczny. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.