Those of us from the discipline of communication studies have long believed that communication is prior to all other fields of inquiry. In several other forums I have argued that the essence of politics is “talk” or human interaction. 1 Such interaction may be formal or informal, verbal or nonverbal, public or private, but it is always persuasive, forcing us consciously or subconsciously to interpret, to evaluate, and to act. Communication is the vehicle for human action.
From this perspective, it is not surprising that Aristotle recognized the natural kinship of politics and communication in his writings Politics and Rhetoric. In the former, he established that humans are “political beings, [who] alone of the animals [are] furnished with the faculty of language.” 2 In the latter, he began his systematic analysis of discourse by proclaiming that “rehetorical study, in its strict sense, is concerned with the modes of persuasion.” 3 Thus, it was recognized over twenty-three hundred years ago that politics and communication go hand in hand because they are essential parts of human nature.
In 1981, Dan Nimmo and Keith Sanders proclaimed that political communication was an emerging field. 4 Although its origin, as noted, dates back centuries, a “self-consciously cross-disciplinary” focus began in the late 1950s. Thousands of books and articles later, colleges and universities offer a variety of graduate and undergraduate coursework in the area in such diverse departments as communication, mass communication, journalism, political science, and sociology. 5 In Nimmo and Sander’s early assessment, the “key areas of inquiry” included rhetori-