Presidential Debate Negotiation from 1960 to 1988

Setting the Stage for Prime-Time Clashes

By (author) John W. Self

Hardback - £81.00

Publication date:

20 December 2016

Length of book:

274 pages


Lexington Books

ISBN-13: 9781498520317

Since their inception, the presidential debates Americans have watched on television were carefully negotiated. This book closely examines a previously unexamined type of political communication, presidential debate negotiation. While it has been widely known that all general election presidential debates since 1960 have been negotiated by the participating candidates, no one has ever completed a systematic study of them. In particular, the 1960, 1976, 1980, 1984, and 1988 negotiations were examined in detail. For each of these election cycles, a comprehensive narrative of what occurred during the pre-debate negotiations was constructed based on primary source materials, media accounts, and other secondary sources. Comparisons across election cycles were made in order to draw some conclusions about presidential debate negotiation.

Presidential debate negotiations are not just negotiations, but rather also a form of political rhetoric for several different players. The research concluded that that there are five contexts in which presidential debate rhetoric occurs and the rhetoric is aimed at two audiences. Within each context, the functions and strategies of the rhetoric were discussed and explained from the perspective of the sponsor of the debate(s), the candidates and their representatives, as well as the media.
This study is a fascinating, exhaustively researched, behind the scenes look at presidential debates. John W. Self shows how the polished performances audiences consume are the result of intense struggles over competing campaign strategies, as seemingly insignificant minutiae become critical moments for candidates. Nearly thirty years of cases show that, on a macro level, presidential debates are critical communicative acts that require intensive strategic preparation.