When it comes to gaining power over the whole country, political leaders do their best to persuade people that they are the correct and the only choice. Election campaigns involve hundreds of people working on the image of the candidate. They use a variety of resources to attract the audience. Among these are political advertisements, cartoons, speeches, and presidential candidate debates. Although it may be curious to compare the behavior of candidates in one campaign, the results of the investigation of the same candidates’ programs in different election campaigns are also surprising. A proper research subject here may be the attempts of George W. Bush to win the political elections of 2000 and 2004, especially the advertisements used at that time.
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“A Fresh Start”
The commercials of the 2000 campaign had an aim to support the image of George W. Bush as a “compassionate conservative”. The first advertisement under discussion is the “Successful Leader”. It is a kind of public affairs advocacy advertisement. It represents George W. Bush as the “best hope to win the White House” for the Republican Party (“2000 Bush vs. Gore”) and focuses on his activity as a governor. The video informs on his success in improving public schools, re-establishing the local control and activity in some other fields. In the end, Bush is called “a compassionate conservative leader” and a “fresh start” for America (“2000 Bush vs. Gore “).
The images represent a confident man who can rule the country. The advertisement appeals to the primary values of ordinary people, who are the intended audience. For example, the scenes of the candidate among the children together with his wife represent family values. The video describes the success of Bush in cutting taxes and the reduction of state government growth. It appeals to people’s need for a steady country with a favorable economic environment. Thus, the advertisement mainly addresses middle-class people, whose life concerns are confidence in the future, safe surroundings, and a happy family.
After watching the video, I thought that the presented candidate looked like a good choice. He has a certain experience of governmental work, looks like a man of his word, and a reliable leader.
The video has some messages to observe. The explicit one lies in the statement of positive changes that George W. Bush initiated during his work. The implicit ones refer both to the past and the future. The emphasis on the positive results of the candidate’s activity in the advertisement hints that the situation in those spheres used to be worse and can be improved if the candidate is elected.
Still, the advertisement has several fallacies. The most obvious one is that of Pathos, in particular, “appeal to popularity” (Ramage et al. 399). Throughout the video, the candidate is depicted among the audience, either shaking hands with the people in the streets or communicating with children at schools. These methods create the image of an attractive and approachable leader.
The advertising video in just 30 seconds represents the motto of the campaign: “A Fresh start”, thus claiming that the country needs changes and the candidate is eager to bring his new ideas for the good of the citizens. The campaign of 2000 used facts and figures, referred to as statistics, charts, and graphs. It did not contain many “attack” ads. In fact, the commercials tried to appeal to the voters who did not make up their minds. The campaign resulted in the victory of George W. Bush, who got 271 electoral votes.
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“Steady Leadership in Times of Change”
In fact, terrorism and the war in Iraq became the main topics of the 2004 election campaign. They put aside the home affairs like the economy, healthcare, and jobs, attracting attention to military issues. While the campaign of George W. Bush of 2000 was promoting a new successful leader, that of 2004 looked different. It still had some positive advertisements, but its chief aim was to depict the opponent, Senator Kerry, as the unreliable candidate who was supporting high taxes and thoughtless cuts. In fact, the purpose was to describe Kerry before he did that himself.
Ii this campaign the matter of the investigation is the advertisement “Weapons”. It touches the burning problem of terrorism. The key idea is that Senator Kerry opposes the things necessary to win the War of Terror. It mentions that Kerry did not support the body armor for the military forces and finally states that John Kerry’ Record on National Security is troubling (“2004 Bush vs. Kerry”).
The commercial appeals to the people concerned about national security. Life, which is the core human value, turns out to be in danger. It was apparently created to bring discredit on Senator Kerry. Its explicit message is clear and roughly set. The video claims that John Kerry does not care about the citizens’ safety, opposing the support of the armed forces. The implicit message here is that the support of a steady leader, who is George W. Bush, will contribute to the de-escalation of the conflict and lead to the reduction of the terrorist threat.
This political commercial has more fallacies than any other in the campaign of George W. Bush. Among them are some fallacies of pathos. These are Appeal to Pity and Argument to the People (Ramage et al. 399). The first one lies in the sympathy of the people to the military troops defending the country, that may lack weapon and protection due to the wrong policy. The second one is rather visual than verbal, for the advertisement uses the images of soldiers on the background of deserted land, thus appealing to the people for the support of the army that is defending the land in poor conditions. The fallacy of Ethos can also be traced here, specifically this of “Poisoning the Well” (Ramage et al. 401). This means that the video tends to discredit the president’s race opponent before he can respond and explain the real state of things. One more fallacy in the video us that of Logos, namely the Hasty Generalisation (Ramage et al. 401). It attempts to draw the evil image of John Kerry basing on very few facts, which do not mean that his military politics, in general, will be that bad.
The intended audience of the commercial is the common citizens, especially those who have relatives in the army whose close people suffered in the sad events of 9/11. The motto of this race was “Steady Leadership in Times of Change” (“2004 Bush vs. Kerry”), encouraging the people to vote for the leader who had already proved his loyalty to the state because the time of changes is a difficult period for the country and needs a strong rule. Although the campaign was less positive than that of 2000 and rather aggressive, George W. Bush got 286 electoral votes, which gave him one more victory.
On the whole, the presidential race is a complicated matter. Political science has many tools to aid the candidates’ teams, and they are not always decent. Besides, it is usually difficult to predict, which style of the campaign will lead to victory this or that year. A successful political race should consider the needs of society at a particular moment of time, must be appealing and understandable for the diverse population, and meet the needs of the country.
“2000 Bush vs. Gore.” The Living Room Candidate, Web.
“2004 Bush vs. Kerry.” The Living Room Candidate, Web.
Ramage, John D. et al. Writing Arguments. A Rhetoric with Readings. 3rd ed., Pearson, 2016.