Dean C. Hammer


My concern here is not with explaining why the "New Covenant" failed to capture the political imagination of the electorate; rather, my interest lies in how the covenant as a political symbol was analyzed by both the media and scholarship. My suggestion is that this treatment is itself symbolic of a far deeper dilemma that faces not only President Clinton but also future presidents. The problem is this: at the same time that the public turns increasingly to the President to provide a "vision" of a common purpose and direction to government and society, the articulation of that vision rests on a rhetoric that in both media and scholarly accounts has been devalued. By this I mean that rhetoric is no longer viewed as conveying a sense of values, experiences, and purpose. This devaluing has occurred because rhetoric has come to be analyzed as a technical instrument of political persuasion. And though there are certainly technical aspects of rhetoric, our contemporary focus on rhetorical technique excludes from our analysis, and may even undercut, the critical role of rhetoric in providing a meaningful vocabulary that is essential to a continuing democratic discourse.