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A demagogue is a politician whose rhetoric appeals to raw emotions such as fear and hatred in order to gain power, rather than using rational arguments. 

They often use rhetoric and propaganda to stir up public passion and create an “us versus them” mentality, stoking hatred and division among different groups in society.

Tactics of a Demagogue

A demagogue is typically a charismatic and populist figure who exploits the fears and insecurities of the masses in order to gain power and advance their own political agenda.

Demagogues often play on people’s deepest fears and anxieties, such as economic insecurity, terrorism, crime, or foreign threats, in order to win support and gain followers.

They may use inflammatory language and tactics to whip up public emotion and create a sense of crisis, urging people to support them as the only solution to the perceived problem.

Demagogues often use a variety of tactics to gain support and maintain their power, such as appealing to people’s pride and nationalism, exploiting their religious beliefs, or promoting a sense of victimhood and entitlement.

They may also use scapegoating and demonization of certain groups, such as immigrants, minorities, or political opponents, to create a common enemy and unite their supporters against them.

Demagogues may also use their personal charm and charisma to win over the masses, presenting themselves as the only ones who can solve the problems facing the country and offering simple solutions to complex issues.

One of the most dangerous aspects of demagoguery is that it often undermines the foundations of democracy and the rule of law.

Demagogues often use their power and influence to manipulate public opinion and undermine the legitimacy of democratic institutions, such as the media, the judiciary, or the electoral process. They may use propaganda, disinformation, and other tactics to silence dissent and suppress alternative viewpoints, creating a climate of fear and intimidation that stifles debate and critical thinking.


Former Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) is often cited as a classic demagogue for his practice in the 1950s of smearing prominent Americans with baseless accusations being Communists.

A demagogue could sometimes also be considered a snollygoster.

Use of “Demagogue” in a sentence

  • The demagogue’s inflammatory rhetoric appealed to the emotions of the voters, rather than their reason.
  • The rise of the demagogue in our political system has led to a decline in civil discourse and an increase in polarization.
  • Many are concerned that the demagogue’s ascendance to power will result in a erosion of democratic norms and institutions.