Presidential Speech and the Framing of Poverty: From the War on Poverty to the War on the Poor
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Presidential narratives are influential components of the national conversation about social issues. In order to gain a better understanding of how the Presidents framed and discussed poverty and the poor State of the Union addresses between the years 1964 and 2014 were analyzed. The focus of this research was to identify the narratives the Presidents crafted about the war on poverty. Narrative analysis was utilized to unpack and these narratives and identify the different narrative forms they took while the Presidents presented and discussed the war on poverty. Initially the war on poverty was presented as a romantic quest to rescue the poor from the structural forces trapping them in poverty. Over the 51 State of the Union addresses, that narrative shifted to a tragic narrative that implicated the welfare system as the villainous force that harmed the middle-class and had to be defeated. This gave rise to a second romantic narrative that cast the middle-class as the victims of Government overspending on the unworthy poor. The narrative about the war on poverty ultimately ended during the Clinton administration after welfare was successfully framed as code for the unworthy poor and welfare reform was passed in 1996.