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Narrating the political self in a campaign for US Congress


On the basis of data collected during a year-long study of a Congressional campaign in California in the mid-1990s, this article uses semantic, pragmatic, and narrative analysis to show how candidates for political office construct and defend the coherence of their actions, including their choice to run for office. First, semantic and pragmatic analysis is used to discuss two charges of lack of coherence against one candidate. Second, three discursive strategies used by candidates for building existential coherence are identified: (i) constructing a narrative of belonging; (ii) casting the present as a natural extension of the past; and (iii) exposing potential contradictions in order to show how to solve them. After examining the extent to which each strategy is common across candidates and situations, it is shown that candidates who frame themselves as "independent" tend to use these strategies more than those who choose to identify more closely with a party's platform and ideology.

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