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and in their politics – reflect the values inherent in the national mythology51 (Fishwick

1952, 84). Yet for a mythology of this sort to become real, it needs to be performed by

actors (Fisher 1982, 46). Accordingly, presidents must celebrate – rather, embody – the

national mythology that lies at the base of mass public opinion. Scholar Walter Fisher

summed up this idea:

Presidential heroes need to be romantic figures, but they need to be more than that. A romantic figure need only be an adventurous, colorful, daring, and impassioned exponent of certain American ideals, such as individualism, achievement, and success. To be an American hero, one must not only display these qualities, one must also be visionary and mythic, a subject for folklore and legend. The American hero evokes the image of the American Dream, of the ways people and things are when the spirit of America transcends the moment, and her destiny is manifest. The American hero is the symbolic embodiment of this dream in a single person, most predominantly, in certain presidents (Fisher 1982, 46).

It seems fitting then that the cowboy is used to draw a presidential portrait of the

American hero (Fishwick 1952, 84). As an integral part of the American national

mythology, the cowboy has a certain political utility as an item of cultural value (Emmert

1996, 14). The cowboy remains the compelling archetype of an American national hero

and the most popular historical and mythical character from the country’s past (Frantz

and Choate rev. ed. 1968, 8). He plays an important role in American politics because he

signifies the traits the American people look for in the symbolic leader of their country:

leadership, bravery, plainspoken integrity, loyalty, staunch individualism and moral

authority (Fishwick 1952, 77-92). Thus, the use of the mythic cowboy image lends to the

politician the status of a hero (Slotkin 1998, 644).

51 I use Slotkin’s definition: “The mythology of a nation is an intelligible mask … of national character” (Slotkin rev. ed. 1973, 3). Thus, Slotkin suggested mythology to be a secondary

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