Archive for the 'U.S. election' Category

Dec 04 2008

Hard Work and Faith in Metaphors: What's the Difference?

‘The winner takes all’ – all attention: the race is over, and while everyone is waiting for the newest appointment for his cabinet from the President Elect, nobody talks about McCain’s campaign anymore.

Nobody, except us.

There are, of course, several explanations why McCain did not win: he did not get the Latino / Asian-American vote, he failed to attract the young,  his version of ‘change will come’ to Washington did not convince all those who wanted change, and maybe he even did not have the better politics to offer.

Whatever it was that made more people (yes, I know the American voting system is intricate and mysterious) vote for Obama, all these explanations do not address what after all is the basis for the decision to vote: conviction. For, even if you’re deciding to cast your lot with what you think is the less worse option, you are still making a choice based on a (probably wobbly and wavering) conviction.

This conviction has been formed – that at least is the ideal – over a long period of political campaigning. Unless you had a conviction already, and were unwilling to change it, the campaign is the time where you form certain opinions about the different candidates – that goes for both the primaries and the final struggle for the national vote. And at the basis of your conviction is the image you form, the information you accrue and the gut-feeling you develop in regard to this or that candidate wooing you for your vote.

One central instrument of wooing is rhetoric – and one of the favorite pastimes of scholars or rhetoric is to point out to anyone why candidate X, Y or Z could not possibly win since he or she was obviously less successful moving the voter by  rhetorical means. These explanations can even reach the point of satisfactory explanations some times, but as they say, we are all wiser after the fact.

Nevertheless, it may be an instructive endeavor to compare the rhetoric of Barack Obama (of which you will find ample evidence on these pages) with the speeches of his opponent, a man named John McCain. Starting out from the observation that successful rhetoric for a good part results from the effective use of metaphors and metaphoric connections, one could base a comparison on the question: whose metaphors are more effective and why?

So, here is an example for McCain’s rhetorical style (and of course we know that not all of it is actually his).

The most interesting aspect to look into, however, is not how different they are but, rather, how differently they interpret the same or similar root metaphors of American political discourse – like ‘hard work,’ ‘faith,’ ‘dream,’ ‘family,’ and so on.

Watch it and read it (use the link to download the transcript).

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 McCain’s Acceptance Speech NRC

>> See also posts on: Party Conventions, Speech and Video Sources
>> John McCain’s YouTube Channel
>> Barack Obama’sYouTube Channel

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Dec 02 2008

Hillary Clinton Nominated Secretary of State as Obama Announces National Security Team

After announcing the members of his economic team last week, Mr. Obama this week went ahead and introduced his national security team to the public (see this post on the development of the new administration’s team). Over the last couple of weeks it became increasingly clear that, after issues about her husband’s role had been resolved, Hillary Clinton would be nomintated to become Secetary of State. She gave a speech at the introduction (see video below) of which the New York Times argues that it “was no ordinary public-service pledge; for plenty of viewers, it was the moment when Mrs. Clinton finally conceded the election for real”.

In addtion to Mrs. Clinton, Robert Gates was introduced as Secretary of Defense; he is also currently in this position and member of the Republican Party. Apparently, this move is part of Mr. Obama’s promised strategy to be a bipartisan president. Furthermore, Janet Napolitano will be responsible for the Departmant of Homeland Security, Eric Holder will become Attorney gerneral, former general James Jones is going to be Mr. Obama’s security adviser and Susan Rice will become ambassador to the United Nations.
>> See Der Spiegel article
>> See comment on the choice of Jones

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Nov 30 2008

Obama's Cabinet Appointments

If you want to keep track of who will or might be in president-elect Obama’s administration, you can check out the special pages on this topic offered by the New York Times. Here, you can browse through the people already nominated and find out which posts are still vacant.


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Nov 29 2008

Barack Obama's Thanksgiving Address

In his weekly address, president-elect Barack Obama this time focused on Thanksgiving. His address echoed once more the themes that we’re familiar with from the campaign trail. Drawing again on Abraham Lincoln, Mr. Obama emphasised empathy for those Americans affected by the credit crunch or fighting in one of the wars.

As part of the new team’s effort to include new technologies into the work of the coming administration, the whole adress is available on YouTube:

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Nov 27 2008

George Lakoff on Metaphors and the American Election Campaign

Watch and listen to famous linguist George Lakoff’s (Metaphors We Live By) talk at the New America foundation. The talk is rather long but worth it. It may also serve as an introduction to Lakoff’s theory and basic concepts.

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Nov 25 2008

November – BBC Special Report on Obama

bbc_obama.jpgThe BBC compiles a summary of current events in US politics with special regard to new develpments concerning the upcoming Obama administration and the decisions the president-elect takes in terms of his future cabinet. If you’re interested in what’s happening across the Atlantic at the moment, this website might be worth checking out for you.

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Nov 20 2008

White House 2.0

As was discussed on this blog before, Barack Obama’s campaign relied to a large extent on the internet. The web was amongst others employed to raise funds, connect supporters, to network, spread information and to facilitate the work of campaign staff and volunteers. Also, “voter-generated content” played a big role during the election (e.g. the ‘Obama Girl’ and the ‘Yes We Can’-Song). Furthermore, Mr. Obama has promised to carry out a very transparent transition process as well as to run a very transparent administration. Apparently, the president-elect plans to use the internet much more than before for these goals and to turn his presidency into what has been called the first ‘YouTube-presidency’ (for instance discussed as ‘Clickocracy’ in the Washington Post here). On the website ‘’, the transition process is being described and people can apply for jobs with the new administration (see this NY Times article on quarrels about this website). Also, Mr. Obama gave a first address to the American people on the radio but also on YouTube this week and his advisers also talk about their work online (see videos below).
>> See article from the BBC
>> See article on

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Nov 20 2008

The Democratic Dream Team (?)

President-elect Barack Obama is apparently very seriously considering appoiting his former rival Hillary Clinton his secretary of state. By offering her the most important post in his administration Mr. Obama is able to repair the damage and glue the divisions that the long struggle during the primary campaign caused, Der Spiegel argues.
Mrs. Clinton, who lost part of her political power through her defeat to Mr. Obama, is also likely to be fond of this move. However, her husband’s financial ties might get in the way of Mrs. Clinton actually becoming secretary of state: since he left the White House, Bill Clinton has collected enormous amounts of money for his foundation (see the foundation, the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and the William J. Clinton Presidential Library). Because it is undisclosed so far who actually donated money to Mr. Clinton in this process, it is unclear if Mr. Clinton’s finances may create conflicts of interest and therefore keep Mrs. Clinton from getting the job, especially since the Obama campaign has pledged to be very transparent about the ties to lobbyists that members of the future administration have. Right now, Bill Clinton is in the process of uncovering his documents to pave the way for his wife into the state department.
>> See article in the NY Times
>> See profiles of possible other members of the Obama administration

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Nov 18 2008

The Obamas on '60 minutes'

For their first interview as the future first family, Barack and Michelle Obama joined CBS’s Steve Kroft on ‘60 minutes’ on November 16th. Their appearence apparently attracted the biggest viewership of the show in almost a decade.

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Earlier this year, Barack Obama and his then vice presidential candidate Joe Biden were already interviewed on the same show:

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Nov 14 2008

'The Guardian' on Obama

This week’s Guardian Weekly features several articles and comments on Mr. Obama’s election victory, the new first family, demographic issues and the prospects of his presidency. Take a look at:

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