The “Campaign-Promise” As Genre

Speculation: The promise made during a political campaign has become so ritualized as to be a genre, a specific type of utterance. Consider the countless promises all of us have heard from people running for a place in a officialdom. Consider our responses. If we are predisposed to like the image, the illusion, of the person or a set of positions the person appears to represent, we may literally or figuratively applaud a promise–even when we know that the promise cannot or will not be kept. “When I’m elected . . . .,” “Under a Wigglewart Administration . . .,” “After eight long years under the Piggleprop Administration, we will finally . . . .”

The ritualized spectacle of politics seems to require this genre, the promise, sometimes tweaked into a prophecy. When we listen to speeches at conventions, we may even note that as the rhetoric of a sentence rises toward the promise, the crowd-noise quickens in anticipation: here it comes, the promise! If the promise itself doesn’t quite fulfill the expectation, the air sometimes seems to leak out of the rising response, in which case the promiser has to recover and add something, such as, “And you can bet on that!” “Yes, we can!” “You betcha!” (Etc.)

How odd that by now, most people agreeing to participate–in some way–as the audience for the spectacle don’t automatically think, “Whatever! Not going to happen!” whenever any promiser, representing anypolitical stance, running for anyoffice, and promising anythingdeploys the genre, the campaign-promise.


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