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The Performance of PoliticsObama's Victory and the Democratic Struggle for Power$
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Jeffrey C. Alexander

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199744466

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199744466.001.0001

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Working the Binaries

Working the Binaries

(p.89) Chapter Five Working the Binaries
The Performance of Politics


Oxford University Press

As election campaigns work the binaries, they try to simplify the meaning of every issue that comes up, bringing it into semiotic alignment with one side or the other of the great divide. Candidates are purified so that their characters can be folded into heroic narrative arcs of a democratic kind. Hillary Clinton came to symbolize equality and mobility, wisdom and maturity, a modern enlightened woman breaking the glass ceiling. Barack Obama became the great emancipator. John McCain was the wounded prisoner of war who breaks the bonds of enslavement and comes back as a corruption-fighting maverick. By election time, citizen voters make the crucial decision about the civil and uncivil qualities of candidates. However this voting public as such is not physically active in the democratic struggle for power. Democracy is representative not only in the exercise of power but also in the struggle for it.

Keywords:   election campaigns, binaries, candidates, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain, election, voters, democracy, power

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