Hope Keynote Address

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Hope Keynote Address

  1. 1. The Hope and Promise of Political Communication in the 21st Century<br />Trevor Parry-Giles<br />University of Maryland<br />NCA Institute for Faculty Development<br />“Hope” Institute, 2011<br />
  2. 2. (Re)Assessing Political Communication<br />American political discourse is often detailed and specific in its focus on policy.<br />American political discourse is generally successful at producing high quality leaders and leadership.<br />American political discourse is increasingly democratized.<br />Rhetorical politics works to the benefit of the American political community.<br />
  3. 3. The Clinton Model<br />Clinton embodied and performed the policy emphasis of contemporary political communication in 2000.<br />American judgments of Clinton manifested the sophistication of voters on issues of leadership.<br />Clinton made full use of technology and alternative media to expand and democratize political communication.<br />
  4. 4. The Clinton Model<br />“Well, you know, sometimes during this campaign, I hear people criticize the 1990's and that's fair, you know, it's a campaign and people can criticize each other, but I'm always wondering when I hear that criticism, well, what part of the 1990's didn't they like? The peace or the prosperity? Because I thought we were on the right track.”—Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2008<br />
  5. 5. 10 Years (or so) Later…<br />Do we still, in 2011, have a meaningfully rhetorical politics that works to the benefit of a democratic community? Did we ever have such a politics?<br />How best can we assess the overall quality of political communication for a community that generally dismisses or demeans such symbolic practice as a matter of course and custom?<br />Themes emergent from Hope that point the way in evaluation and assessment:<br /><ul><li>Context
  6. 6. Effects
  7. 7. Ethics
  8. 8. Virtue
  9. 9. Civility
  10. 10. Progress</li></li></ul><li>Generational Elections<br />1908<br />
  11. 11. Generational Elections<br />1928<br />
  12. 12. Generational Elections<br />1948<br />
  13. 13. Generational Elections<br />1968<br />
  14. 14.
  15. 15. Generational Elections<br />1988<br />
  16. 16.
  17. 17. Generational Elections<br />2008<br />
  18. 18.
  19. 19. Voter Turnout<br />
  20. 20. (Re)Assessing Political Communication<br />American political discourse is often detailed and specific in its focus on policy.<br />American political discourse is generally successful at producing high quality leaders and leadership.<br />American political discourse is increasingly democratized.<br />Rhetorical politics works to the benefit of the American political community.<br />
  21. 21.
  22. 22. A “Rhetorical” Politics<br />“…‘rhetorical’ refers to a general way of existing in the world—approaching the world as a rhetorical being who understands that few things in life are given or inalterably determined; one who understands that most things are amenable to choice and to selection from among several competing choices; one who understands that the power to use symbols carries with it the power to both build and to destroy; one that believes that all of life is the domain of the rhetorical, not merely those formal occasions that call for speech or discourse; and one who comprehends that the truly important questions in life seldom lend themselves to clear-cut answers that can be held with absolute certainty.”<br />Martin J. Medhurst, 1996<br />
  23. 23. Themes of Hope for a Rhetorical Politics<br />Emergent themes from this week’s proceedings are critical, it seems to me, in the articulation of a programmatic revisioning of critical and pedagogical approaches to political communication.<br />They offer normative and prescriptive guidance toward the achievement of a “rhetorical” politics through our study and teaching about political communication.<br />
  24. 24. Context<br />A “rhetorical” politics demands a commitment to context and history—a recognition that political communication does not occur in a vacuum.<br />Resistance to presentistexceptionalism that often characterizes political communication scholarship.<br />
  25. 25. Important Presidents?<br />
  26. 26. Effects & Efficacy<br />Careful attention to both the attribution of effect and the measurement of the effects of political communication.<br />Voters vote the way they do (and citizens act the way they do) for many, many complicated reasons that often are not measurable or attributable to political communication.<br />Political communication must be sensitive to the proclivities of populations and subjects—and citizens.<br />
  27. 27. Ethics & Character<br />Attention to character and ethics recognizes that a rhetorical politics is often and significantly about questions of leadership and personal capacity.<br />Political communication falls prey to what McGee (1980) called a “treacherous piety” that ignores the personal for the policy, the image for the issues.<br />Political theorist Ronald Beiner notes wisely that personal judgments are significantly relevant to political ones.<br />
  28. 28. Civic Virtue<br />The sublimation of personal gain and selfish satisfaction for a greater public good is a model of civic virtue.<br />A construct that offers an ethical manifestation of political communication with an eye toward both social justice and public comportment.<br />A way to ground and enhance instruction in issues of civic engagement and governance.<br />
  29. 29. Progress<br />A rhetorical politics is progressive in a small “p” sense of hoping for and embodying progress, development, enhancement, and improvement.<br />Political communication scholarship engages with this progress through public intellectualism as well as via the progress of our scholarly and pedagogical endeavors.<br />
  30. 30. Hope<br />At the root of it all is hope—a powerful and palpable belief in a better tomorrow.<br />Performing that hope as scholars, as teachers, and as citizens enhances our achievement of a “rhetorical” politics to the betterment of our collective enterprise.<br />

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