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Political Campaigning: Political Communication

Political Campaigning: Political Communication

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Published by phunkstar
Essay from my fifth semester at Queensland University Of Technology, 2003
Essay from my fifth semester at Queensland University Of Technology, 2003

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Published by: phunkstar on Nov 04, 2009
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Week 10: Political Campaigning

Question 2: The political process has been under considerable change since the introduction of media technologies in the 20th century. This essay will discuss the driving forces in the evolution of political campaigning, and will firstly look at the political process before media took over, secondly the era after, and thirdly some of the implications. The political landscape has changed considerably, and campaigning has shifted its focus from party to candidate. Johnson-Cartee & Copeland argue that to understand how modern political campaigning has developed, one has to understand how the political process has changed. They divide political history in two eras: the organizational politics era and the media-age politics era. This is an extensive task, as the complexities and relations between the two are intertwined and multifaceted. Looking alone at the development of mass media in western society is a daunting enough task. Nonetheless, the organizational politics era is characterized by a strong partyaffiliation and personal contact. According to Johnson-Cartee & Copeland, ‘party identification determined how an individual would vote (Johnson-Cartee & Copeland 1997, p. 229).’ The party served as the primary link between the people and the government. Citing DeVries & Tarrance, they claim that voters during the 40s voted based on party allegiance, group allegiance, and assessment of the candidate’s personality and consideration of issues. At this stage, they argue, newspapers were the primary mass media, but common discourse was what they describe at a ‘parallelism stage (ibid, p. 229).’ The relationship between the two institutions was beneficial for both parts, as their interests and success was determined by each other. A political party’s views would be mirrored in a newspaper because the political party’s constituency would loyally read that certain newspaper. With the emergence of raising dissent among young people during the 60’s, with the uprising of socialist movements, and above all – war, a political candidate’s personality and issues associated with that candidate had exceeded party- and group allegiance. According to Crotty & Jacobsen, by 1976 split ticket voting included about 25 % of all votes cast in the US (Johnson-Cartee & Copeland 1997, p. 229). With the further development of media technologies and especially the introduction of television, the public discourse of western society changed dramatically the political

landscape. The effect of television’s power to blur boundaries between the privateand the public spheres meant that political communication had to accommodate the private context in which public information was consumed. Candidates had to establish relational connections among the electorate. This major difference from the organizational politics era is perhaps the minimizing use of personal interaction by political candidates. As most political communication was no longer produced or consumed in situations where the majority of voters and politicians assemble, it is no wonder party allegiance became less and less important. Personality and image now reigns at the top of voters’ priorities when voting, but for political candidates, it means they have to employ experts to create an image that will increase their popularity. Johnson-Cartee & Copeland thus argue that political consultants are now the orchestrators of political life, where political candidates can bypass the political party system (Johnson-Cartee & Copeland 1997, p. 231). Since campaigns now focus on the individual candidate, and the candidate does not have to rely on party funding, it means that money must be raised elsewhere. Welcome to the political landscape of today. Campaigns are now financed through contributions, own personal wealth and funding from government and political action committees. This also means that the wealthier you are, the higher the chances are that you’ll succeed. From 1968 to 1976, US presidential campaign expenses increased over 250 % (Johnson-Cartee & Copeland 1997, p. 231). This new environment has also changed how journalists view themselves. Since party allegiance has been discarded, journalists now view themselves as a vital link in the democratic process. Journalists now view themselves as watchdogs, representing public interest rather than promoting a party program. Johnson-Cartee & Copeland now argue that ‘the mass media serve as the main linkage between people and government, and the mass media articulate interests to the people, creating for them an interest agenda (ibid, p. 233).’ Conclusion To summarise, it can be argued that the close knit relationship with politics and media is ultimately what forced them apart. With the introduction of television came a new era where newspapers would become more neutral and discourse would become more private. Personality, image and personal wealth are factors that are needed to succeed in politics, but at least newspapers have become more critical of

candidates since they now consider themselves as the main link between the government and the people. Bibliography:
Johnson-Cartee, K. & Copeland, G. (1997), “The evolution of Political Campaigning,” in Inside Political Campaigns, Westport: Praeger

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