Knowing Your Audience: Political Writing

August 6, 2012

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When writing about politics, realize up front that you will seldom change the mind or convictions of anyone who reads your work. Your effort will either reinforce previously held or be dismissed as irrelevant. Political writing is truly a self gratifying activity. You may find that you have a wide readership that can be very rewarding. In this case, your ability to write well will determine your ability to grow that readership and possibly establish yourself as a respectable (or detested) commentator.

Most long political works are been praised and panned based almost only on the political stance of the author. Books written by political leaders have the most divisive effect. They are the one type of book that can be found in the discount resale book stores.

The purpose of political writing is to establish your point of view as the correct path to follow for the greater population. Sometimes it is to effect near term elections, sometimes to effect legislation through public opinion. Sometimes it is to explain away ill effects of actions taken or events that have occurred.

These books are not new. There have been plenty of recent works that could be discussed for accuracy, writing style, and purpose. Few of these works will be remembered in 20 years. The real political writings of worth emerge with time. Few people remember Barry Goldwater’s book Conscience of a Conservative or John F. Kennedy’s Why England Slept. They are both politically motivated books, both were written or re-released during a campaign.

But what about longer lasting political books? These require some historical grandness to stand the test of time. A modern example is Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. Would it have been famous if he had never risen to power? There is also Das Kapital by Karl Marx. If the Russian revolution had failed, would anyone outside academia have cared? If we look further back, Julius Caesar wrote The Conquest of Gaul to justify disobeying orders and expanding a war for his own benefit.

You will notice that the books that remain are from writers who followed through having major historical impact. These examples are books that have survived because of brutal regimes, but that is not always the case.  The Federalist Papers were written to define the Untied States during its infancy.

Regardless of your motive, writing about politics can raise a lot of attention. The better you can express your ideas, the stronger those reactions can be. If you consistently write and can defend your opinions, you do have a small chance of swaying someone else.


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