Monday, October 20, 2008

On Endorsements

The news cycle is being ridden by Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama, which naturally had us putting on our semiotic hats (they are quite stylish).  The semiotics of an endorsement force us not only to look at the two parties involved in the endorsement but also the questions that the arise when receiving or giving an endorsement.

It does not take a rocket scientist (nor an English professor) to observe that an endorsement is a form of high-profile vouching--Powell is essentially saying "he's with me" in the common space of the election. Besides the obvious electoral consequences, there are other questions that arise with an endorsement. Is the endorsee connected with everything that the endorser has done? How much does the context of the endorser's past matter? For the endorsee, are there new obligations that arise with the new affiliation with the endorser--and vice versa?

You can see in the coverage of the Powell endorsement various responses to the above questions, but it's also true that the same contexts surrounded the endorsement from Hilary Clinton, which led us think about the question on a more abstract level. If an endorsement matters, rarely does it come without connections to a high-profile past--if the person endorsing matters, then something they have done has mattered to someone.

Am I leaving out other questions?


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