Endorsement Editorials: Rhetorical Strategies of Compelling Arguments
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This thesis reports on a rhetorical study of endorsement editorials published in Canadian newspapers during the spring 2011 federal election. These editorials, intended to encourage readers to support or vote for a candidate or party, draw their persuasive power from a combination of rhetorical genres and appeals. An endorsement editorial expresses a newspaper’s backing of a party or candidate; it may also urge readers to support and vote in a similar manner. Endorsement editorials are a significant area of study because they are usually published only during election campaigns and respond to a perceived exigence or need to address pressing issues. My sample set includes editorials published in English-language daily newspapers: the Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Star, and Toronto Sun. The Toronto Star published two endorsement editorials, one of which I describe as a “dis-endorsement” to reflect the message to not support a specific political party. This study examines three elements I deem important for successful argumentation: arrangement, argumentative strategy, and audience. I identify seven elements of an endorsement editorial: thesis, endorsement, call-to-action, kairos or time-to-act, evidence, refutation, and context. My study draws on the theoretical frameworks of Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca and Stephen Toulmin as well as Kenneth Burke’s concepts of identification and expectation. I illustrate that endorsement editorials reveal the underlying values and beliefs of a newspaper, both reflecting and constructing power relations within society. This dissertation theorizes that endorsement editorials create persuasive arguments by combining deliberative discourse with forensic and epideictic rhetoric. Endorsement editorials debate the expediency of a course of action, in particular electing a party or leader to govern, exemplifying deliberative discourse. But they also employ forensic discourse to justify their decisions on the basis of the past actions of the parties or candidates. In addition, epideictic rhetoric is used to praise or blame political participants. Although logos might be anticipated to predominate in a text dealing with the future of the country, endorsement editorials incorporate all three appeals, with pathos and ethos often the strongest, to produce compelling arguments.