Campaign '96: A Functional Analysis of Acclaiming, Attacking, and Defending

Campaign '96: A Functional Analysis of Acclaiming, Attacking, and Defending

Campaign '96: A Functional Analysis of Acclaiming, Attacking, and Defending

Campaign '96: A Functional Analysis of Acclaiming, Attacking, and Defending

Synopsis

Benoit, Blaney, and Pier apply the functional theory of political campaign discourse to the 1996 presidential campaign. They examine the use of strategies of acclaiming or self-praise, attacking the opponent, and defending or responding to attack. They investigate various message forms and all three parts of the campaign, from the primaries to the nominating conventions and the general election campaign.

Excerpt

We take up three topics here. First, we sketch our functional approach to political campaign discourse (which is elaborated in Chapter 1). Second, we describe the purpose and scope of our investigation. Finally, we acknowledge those who have helped, directly and indirectly, with this project.

A functional approach to campaign discourse

Campaign discourse generally has one goal: to persuade citizens to vote for one candidate instead of an opponent (of course, a few candidates may campaign to champion an issue as well). Because each vote is a choice between competing candidates, persuasive attempts to win votes are inherently comparative. When voters are fortunate, this means picking the best of two good candidates; at other times, it means selecting the lesser of two evils. a candidate need not be perfect to elicit votes: each voter chooses to cast his or her ballot for the candidate who appears preferable on whatever criteria are most important to that voter.

This goal of appearing to be the preferable candidate prompts political campaign rhetors to develop and present messages designed to make them appear better than their opponent(s). Candidates can accomplish this goal by engaging in (1) acclaiming (self-praise: lauding one's own positive qualities or accomplishments) and (2) attacking (kategoria: criticizing opposing candidates as possessing negative qualities or having performed objectionable actions). If attacked, candidates may also choose . . .

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