The Strategy of Rhetoric: Campaigning for the American Constitution
This book, the last work of an eminent political scientist, is an innovative study of persuasion in a landmark political event: the 1787-88 campaign to ratify the United States Constitution. William Riker uses both historical and rational choice analysis to examine the rhetoric and strategic manipulations used in this campaign, and he points out patterns and principles that should be applicable to political campaigns in general.
Riker examines the campaign's rhetoric and derives strategic principles that seem to guide campaigners. These principles explain, among other things, the frequent reliance on negative themes in campaigns. He also investigates what he calls "heresthetic"―how campaigners structured situations so that their preferred outcome was more likely to occur. He discusses several heresthetical maneuvers that made the Federalists' narrow victory possible, such as their proposal of a constitution that was broader than most citizens would have preferred, and their design of the ratification process as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, so that they could prevent any ratifying state from altering it. Riker concludes by examining the relationship between rhetoric and heresthetic. He shows that both were necessary for the Federalist victory: rhetoric, to build support for Federalist positions, and heresthetic, to structure the choice process so that this level of support would be sufficient. His analysis yields a new understanding of the ratification campaign, and the tools and approaches he develops lead toward the further development of the science of political campaigns, of political rhetoric generally, and of the art and science of heresthetic.
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