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Creatures of Politics

Media, Message, and the American Presidency

Michael Lempert and Michael Silverstein

Publication Year: 2012

It's a common complaint that a presidential candidate's style matters more than substance and that the issues have been eclipsed by mass-media-fueled obsession with a candidate's every slip, gaffe, and peccadillo. This book explores political communication in American presidential politics, focusing on what political insiders call "message." Message, Michael Lempert and Michael Silverstein argue, is not simply an individual's positions on the issues but the craft used to fashion the creature the public sees as the candidate. Lempert and Silverstein examine some of the revelatory moments in debates, political ads, interviews, speeches, and talk shows to explain how these political creations come to have a life of their own. From the pandering "Flip-Flopper" to the self-reliant "Maverick," the authors demonstrate how these figures are fashioned out of the verbal, gestural, sartorial, behavioral—as well as linguistic—matter that comprises political communication.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Creatures of Politics

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xv

In this book we bring together, adapt, and blend material we have been separately developing over the last decade. Mutually discovering that each of us has been following American electoral politics—particularly, American presidential politics—with a similarly attuned linguistic...

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1. Introduction: “Message” Is the Medium

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pp. 1-57

In their professional jargon, political insiders call it simply—and to many outsiders, misleadingly—“message.” It is the politician’s publicly imaginable ‘character’ presented to an electorate, with a biography and a moral profile crafted out of issues rendered of interest in the public sphere. In...

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2. Getting It “Ju . . . st Right!”

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pp. 58-104

Many people think about the difference between the 2003–2004 presidential campaign and that of 2007–2008 in terms of the centrality of the Internet, the number of voters of various demographic groups who cast ballots on Election Day, and so forth. One of the important comparisons...

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3. Addressing “The Issues”

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pp. 105-121

That “The Issues” are a hallowed discursive institution in U.S. electoral politics is suggested by the rote outrage expressed when people fail to address them. The day after the Democratic Party’s twenty-first and final primary debate of 2007–2008, held in Philadelphia for finalists...

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4. Ethno-Blooperology

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pp. 122-143

On Tuesday morning, the twenty-third of October 2007, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney seemed to some to have done it. Talking to the Greenwood, South Carolina, chamber of commerce on free trade agreements, he digressed to focus on the threat of radical Islam and the...

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5. Unflipping the Flop

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pp. 144-169

On 30 October 2007, more than two months before the primaries began, the Democratic Party held a televised debate in Philadelphia for seven of its presidential hopefuls, which included then front-runner New York senator Hillary Clinton (New York Times 2007). At a certain moment...

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6. The Message in Hand

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pp. 170-199

That politicians can sway audiences through gesture is an old conceit, as the writings of the first-century Roman rhetorician Quintilian, for instance, attest. Quintilian offered copious advice on how orators should use their hands and manage their bodies, and made it sound as if these...

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7. What Goes Around . . .

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pp. 200-230

How much of what a candidate or incumbent says and does makes it through the concentric layers of media filtration to reach at least a segment or sector of the public? And in what form do the doings and sayings as they are represented by media reports advance or counter the Message...


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pp. 231-244


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pp. 245-255


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pp. 257-263

E-ISBN-13: 9780253007568
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253007452

Page Count: 284
Publication Year: 2012