Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 16. Nr. Juni 2006

1.4. Reproduktionen und Innovationen in Sprache und Kommunikation verschiedener Sprachkulturen / Reproduction and Innovation in Language and Communication in different Language Cultures
Herausgeber | Editor | Éditeur: Rudolf Muhr (Universität Graz)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

Americanising the Election Campaign:
The Rapid Response Module as a New Political Text Type

Heiko Girnth / Sascha Michel [BIO]
(Universität Mainz, Germany)



Under US-American influence and in the course of the medial revolution, a new political text type has developed. It combines aspects of traditional text types on the one hand and exploits the technical possibilities of the New Media on the other hand in order to achieve the greatest effect, i.e. to convince the voters. Its innovative potential lies in the simulation of dialogicity, which, facilitated by the quasi-synchronicity of the internet, can be considered as a dynamic mode of suggesting objectivity. The voter, as the user of the internet, slips into the role of the audience and perceives this quasi-dialogue as a more or less neutral defender of one party against (allegedly false) statements of the other. On a deeper level, the research shows that the carefully selected quotations are rather communication fragments designed to upgrade the self-group and downgrade the foreign-group and thus implicitly direct the observer's (voter's) forming of an opinion.


1. Introduction

In recent years, the medial revolution brought about new communication facilities, which had and still have a noticeable influence on the way people communicate with each other.(1) The rapid development and expansion of the internet has lead to the emergence of a variety of new text types, which are partially constituted only by some of the very characteristic and well-known aspects of internet communication (in contrast to the "traditional" way of communication): (quasi)-synchronicity and conceptual orality in combination with medial literacy.(2)

A closer look at these text types shows that the postulated innovation is only realised up to a certain degree and more or less restricted to particular aspects (e.g. stylistic matters), whereas structural and functional analyses yield discernible parallels (in a slightly modified way) to established and conventionalised text types.(3)

Such "exploitations" and expansions of modelled text types can be observed in all spheres of live (e.g. advertising, private vs. business) in the internet. One sector, which strategically makes use of these textual transformations, is the sector of politics. Here, political parties explicitly fall back on all sorts of familiar text types (e.g. political postcards(4), flyers) and communication modes (e.g. chat-communication) in order to combine 'tradition' and 'innovation' and thus appeal to a wide range of potential voters. What is striking in this context is the fact that due to the Americanisation of the election campaign, more and more (electronically transmitted) text types are adopted and, in the course of the campaign, (culture-specifically) modified.

One of these text types that has developed under US-American influence is the so-called Rapid Response module. Functioning as an important instrument of political advertising in the online-campaign in the USA, it was initiated on the occasion of the election campaign for the German parliament 2002 in Germany as well. Since then, Rapid Response has been able to increase its field of application considerably; it reaches from interviews of top-politicians up to state elections and even beyond.(5) The central idea behind this instrument can be seen in the (ideally) concomitant rejection of statements of the political opponent, for which purpose a speech of the opponent is carefully observed and commented on section-wise.

Only a few weeks after the introduction of Rapid Response by his party, the then secretary general of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU), Laurenz Meyer, highlighted the success of this new election campaign instrument:

"I am particularly proud of one point: We are the party which is dominating the internet: we are t h e internet party of Germany. We have just recently proved this again [...] with our new election campaign instrument Rapid Response that we have adopted from experiences of the industry and of American election campaigns. Within half an hour after chancellor Schröder's speech, we were able to take apart all arguments. For you being able to grasp the importance of this instrument, I say: within a period of four days only, 30.000 people have struggled through the answers. That's a great thing. How else can we involve so fast so many people?"(6)

This paper analyses the Rapid Response module from a linguistic point of view. Since Rapid Response cannot be considered as an established element of known text types - due to its still young history and its medial features - we will present the characteristics of this "new" text type, based on a multi-level model, in a first step. For this purpose, particularly modern methods of pragmatics and text type-linguistics in its linguistic-political specification will be applied. After that, the question of what the persuasive potential of Rapid Response consists and how it is developed will be answered.

The text-corpus contains 34 texts from 2001 to 2005. Exclusively only one political party - the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) - produces this kind of texts, which is due to the fact that other parties use this instrument only sporadically and not systematically like the CDU.


2. A multi-level analysis

The basis of the following analysis is constituted by a multi-dimensional model of text analysis, which integrates several typology levels.(7) Hence, what is necessary is a multi-level analysis, which equally includes pragmatic (situative-functional), semantic and grammatical (structural) criteria.(8) From a text-linguistics point of view, these levels are represented by the text-function, text-coherence and text-cohesion with the functional level being considered as primary, since the other levels serve the text-producer's intention.

2.1 The situative level of text description

For the text type Rapid Response, a digital medium like the internet is a necessary prerequisite. In contrast to traditional mass-media like newspapers, radio and television, the internet has the advantage that it facilitates the immediate reaction to the political opponent. The action sector is public, the communication takes place mass-medially conveyed. Rapid Response belongs to the communication sector politics and shows the speech-constellation of the dichotomy between self- and foreign-group, which is typical of political action. Within the communication sector politics, Rapid Response is an instrument of the special action field "political advertising", where the involved parties, unions and organisations are interested in influencing opinions and in gaining power. In the action field "political advertising", other text types are used as well: election campaign speeches, election slogans or flyers.

What are the conditions of production of the Rapid Response text type?(9) Internet performances of the party are - among others - pursued by members of the section "Marketing and Internal Communication" of the CDU federal office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Haus in Berlin.

Via a central TV-set, the political speech of the opposing party is transferred into and observed in the so-called Rapid Response centre. More TV-sets and video recorders are installed at more working places with employees sitting there and entering selected quotations into the computer, which are then combined with appropriate counter arguments (the so-called facts) from the CDU-archives. Afterwards, the quotations and "facts" are put online to the internet. The result of these efforts is depicted in the following illustration, which shows the text type Rapid Response on the example of the TV-duel between Rüttgers and Steinbrück from 17.5.2005.

In front of a blue background, the web site consists of an outer frame and the actual text part in the inner frame. Up to the beginning of 2005, blue dominated the web site as background colour; with the beginning of the election campaign for the German parliament 2005, blue has been replaced by an apricot-coloured background, which - to a great extent - has also been used in election campaign posters showing the leading candidate of the CDU.

Illustration 1: Text example of Rapid Response

In the first place, the outer frame consists of the headline at the upper rim: the letters are embedded into a panorama picture of the distant skyline of Berlin with a detail of the Reichstag at the left picture rim. The other parts of the outer frame appear at the left hand side of the screen and serve for navigation. The Reichstag- picture reaches into this frame part and forms an optical bracket. The current date and time appear at the top. Thereby, the claim of Rapid Response, namely to react to statements of the political opponent as current and topical as possible, is emphasized. Aside, the hyperlinks facts and archives are situated, where one might either search for up-to-date or older contributions via criteria in content. The most recent document cannot be found in the archives, but is shown immediately at the opening-page. In the archives, all texts are to be found that have been processed since November 19 2001, which amount to 34 presently.

The link "Was ist" leads to information on the function of the web site and the e-mail service provides the user with e-mails containing the latest election facts. In a smaller type size below, there are links, and hints for using. On the lower part of the web page, the user can click on permanently updated links and get to content-related pages of the party. The Rapid Response texts appear in the inner frame which constitutes the textual core of the web page. Citizens and journalists, who show interest in current political developments interested especially use this offer as a tool for investigation, are the primary addressees of Rapid Response. A corresponding hint can be found under the link Was ist

" is an offer of the CDU of Germany to specifically inform about the statements of politicians. On the occasion of important political events, the arguments of the political opponent are confronted with facts as soon as possible and in detail on this page. Journalists and politically interested citizens can quickly form their own opinion on the basis of the different arguments and facts without having to investigate for a long time. The archives, which are little by little filled with statements and facts, make it possible to inform at any time and in detail." (

2.2 The grammatical-structural level of text description

With the grammatical-structural level of description, the cohesion of a text is covered.



31.7.2005, 21:52 o'clock, TV-programme Sabine Christiansen

  1. Head part
    date, time, place
    of the statement

Gerhard Schröder:

"Es geht darum, dass die Menschen entscheiden sollen, soll der Kurs der Reformen vernünftig, sozial ausgewogen, der uns zu mehr wirtschaftlicher Effizienz ohne soziale Balance aufzugeben führen wird, fortgesetzt werden."

  1. Quotation part
    emitter specification


  1. Response part

Nach sieben Jahren Rot-Grün gibt es weder mehr wirtschaftliche Effizienz, noch mehr soziale Balance

core messages

Fast fünf Millionen Arbeitslose

Heute sind 4,77 Millionen Menschen ohne Arbeit - so viel wie noch nie in einem Juli. Die Arbeitslosigkeit ist seit dem Regierungsantritt von Rot-Grün 1998 deutlich gestiegen: Sie lag im Juli 1998 bei 4,14 Millionen und im September 1998 bei 3,9 Millionen Menschen. Selbst bei Berücksichtigung des "Hartz-IV-Effektes", also der Einbeziehung der erwerbsfähigen Sozialhilfeempfänger in die Statistik, liegt die aktuelle Zahl immer noch weit über der von 1998 (Quelle: Bundesanstalt für Arbeit, Monatsbericht Juli 2005).


Illustration 2: The structural text dimension of Rapid Response

From the numerous cohesion means, the typical text-structural elements of Rapid Response will be worked out in the following. The above survey shows the characteristic text components of the text type Rapid Response on the example of a Rapid Response extract dealing with statements of the former chancellor Gerhard Schröder in the TV-programme "Sabine Christiansen".

In the head part, one can find the date, the time and the specification of the event. Below, there is the statement of the political opponent formed as a quotation, the quotation part, which is followed by the response part from the emitter's point of view, who in this case is the CDU. This response part which is titled "fact", is further subdivided via bold-typed headlines conveying the core messages. These core messages are very often elliptical and simulate spoken language. They resemble headlines in the print media and are similar in form and function. Typical of the so-called "facts" are the numerous source references, which are partially designed as hyperlinks. A careful consideration of the structural dimension must also include those elements, of course, which are not texts in the narrower sense. Especially when dealing with multimedia, audio-visual elements play an important role. What is striking is the fact that the quotations of the political opponent are written in black colour on a grey ground, while the own arguments appear in black colour on a white ground. The references to the sources are also pointed out in colours, namely in red colour. As for the vocabulary used, there are mainly lexical elements that are typical for politics. In the above text-example, lexical elements of different lexical fields can be found: the social field (erwerbsfähige Sozialhilfeempfänger [employable welfare recipient], Hartz IV-Effekt [Hartz IV-effect), the field of ideology (soziale Balance [social balance]) and the field of interaction (Effizienz [efficiency]).(10)

A comparison between the quotation section and the response section shows that the text type Rapid Response is structured like a dialogue. A statement of the political opponent in the quotation section is answered by a reaction in the response section. That this is an artificial dialogue with speech and counter- speech structure will be demonstrated further below.

2.3 The functional level of text description

For text types belonging to the field of politics the majority of them represent realisations of the directive communicative function of language. Nevertheless, it is important to distinguish between the realised text function in the actual text, which is decisive for the recipient, on the one hand and the text producer's intention on the other hand. Intention and realisation need not be identical. As for Rapid Response, this distinction is highly relevant, since the realised text function is pretending to be informative. The persuasive function takes effect only covertly in Rapid Response by trying to activate people, invalidate the opponents point of view and to legitimate ones own standpoint. The following section shows the characteristic text components of the Rapid Response text type by an extract dealing with statements of the former chancellor Gerhard Schröder in the TV-programme "Wahlarena" [election arena]:



main function: informative; intention: persuasive

24.8.2005, 21:08 o'clock, Schröder in the WDR/NDR-programme "Wahlarena"


Gerhard Schröder claims:

"Ich halte das, was wir gemacht haben, für sozial gerecht."

[I believe that the measures we introduced as socially balanced.]



Fast fünf Millionen Arbeitslose sind nicht sozial gerecht

Heute sind 4,77 Millionen Menschen ohne Arbeit - so viel wie noch nie in einem Juli. Die Arbeitslosigkeit ist seit dem Regierungsantritt von Rot-Grün 1998 deutlich gestiegen: Sie lag im Juli 1998 bei 4,14 Millionen und im September 1998 bei 3,9 Millionen Menschen. Selbst bei Berücksichtigung des Hartz-IV-Effektes", also der Einbeziehung der erwerbsfähigen Sozialhilfeempfänger in die Statistik, liegt die aktuelle Zahl immer noch weit über der von 1998 (Quelle: Bundesanstalt für Arbeit, Monatsbericht Juli 2005)

[Today 4,77 Mio. people are out of work - more than ever before in July. The unemployment rate has risen considerably since the red-green government took power in 1998. In July 1998 there were 4,14 Mio. unemployed, in September 1998 3,9 Mio.. Even if the Hartz-IV-effect is taken into account and the employable social welfare recipients are included in the statistics, the actual numbers are still far above the ones in 1998. (Source: Federal agency for work and employment, monthly report July 2005).]



and at the same time


Illustration 3: The functional text dimension of Rapid Response


2.4 The semantic level of text-description

The semantic level of text description covers the coherence of a text. Coherence is, among other things, generated by the kind of topic development, with the argumentative topic development being characteristic of the text type Rapid Response. For political actors, the argumentative topic development primarily serves for justifying actions resp. action-related attitudes of the self-group and for attacking actions resp. action-related attitudes of the opponent-group. According to Klein (2003: 1468), actors give their view on certain topics by referring to situational data from their point of view and by evaluating these situational data, adducing then leading principles or values, name aims and point to (negative) consequences of the action in focus. From these action categories, action topoi, i.e. explanatory schemes for the justification of actions or action-related attitudes and attacks on these, are argumentatively used. Argumentation topoi serve the function to legitimise certain positions and are "thought structures of approaching a political question" (Wengeler 1997: 129). Political actions are justified by aims (final topos) and motivated by situation evaluations (motivation topos). The situation evaluations are again based on certain assumptions about the situation (data topos) and their consequences (consequence topos) on the one hand, but also on principles or values (principle topos) on the other hand.(11)

The following section shows the characteristic argumentative steps of topic development of the Rapid Response text type by a Rapid Response extract dealing with statements of the former Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia, Peer Steinbrück, in a TV-duel:



Type of topic development: argumentative

17.5.2005, 21:09 o'clock, TV-duel Rüttgers/Steinbrück on 17.05.2005

Peer Steinbrück:

"Ich bin ein Garant dafür, dass auch im Sinne von Wachstum und Beschäftigung hier Politik gemacht wird."

[I am a guarantor for a kind of politics which is oriented on economic growth and employment."]


(= final topos)


NRW hinkt beim Wachstum hinterher. Wo die Union regiert, läuft's besser.

Beim Wirtschaftswachstum hinkt NRW seit Jahren hinter Unionsgeführten Ländern her: Während die Wirtschaft in Bayern 2004 um 1,9 Prozent wuchs, war NRW mit nur 1,4 Prozent nicht einmal Durchschnitt (1,6%). (Quelle: Volkswirtschaftliche Gesamtrechnung der Länder).

[North Rhine Westphalia lags behind. CDU governed provinces perform better.]



(= motivation topos)



(= data topos)

Illustration 4: The semantic text dimension of Rapid Response

People who are trained in rhetoric are little impressed by the patterns used in Rapid Response. The motto is clearly defined as: modest means - greatest effect possible. These means are mainly constituted by situational assumptions, i.e. the data topos, and the situational evaluations (i.e. the motivation topos). Situational evaluations are typical characteristics of the core messages, which are even highlighted graphically.


3. The persuasive potential of Rapid Response

In order to describe the persuasive potential of Rapid Response, the dichotomy between self- and foreign-group as one of the three constitutive characteristics of communication in the field of politics. The following analysis takes this as a starting point. In addition to the dichotomy between self- and foreign-group, there are other basic principles like legitimisation and ‘production’, which constitute the basis for the persuasive potential of Rapid Response.

In this text type, the political conflict does not - at least not on the surface level - take place between the foreign-group (the quoted one) and the self-group, which means that the dichotomy between self- and foreign-group, which is typical of political language action, is disguised. On the surface, the text producer slips out of his/her self-group role, whereas the role of the foreign-group is maintained. What is contrasted is not the self-group with the foreign-group, but the foreign-group with the "objective" reality. It is a typical strategy of the text type Rapid Response to personalise the foreign-group. By using the literal quotation in combination with a bold-printed text type on the data of the quoted person, the political opponent is personalised and thus made liable for his/her statements. Arguments in this text type only become important through persons, who are associated with these arguments. The text type Rapid Response aggravates the increasing personalisation in present politics by linking the arguments of the foreign-group to a specific leading personality. This personalisation is supported by the fact that preferably those quotations are selected, which show a self-group reference with the personal pronouns ich [I] or wir [we].

Apart form the self-/foreign-group dichotomy and the personalisation of the political opponent, it is the principle of legitimisation with the communication-ethical maxims that constitute the persuasive potential of Rapid Response texts. Politicians appear as representatives of the party and thus of the self group. In this role, they get into conflict with certain communicative maxims.(12) Therefore, they are under the pressure of normative communication-ethical maxims (be true, be informative) on the one hand, on the other hand they have to represent strategic maxims (downgrade the opponent, upgrade yourself etc.). Rapid Response makes use of the effectiveness of these maxims by imputing strategic maxims to the opponent, but assigning communication-ethical maxims (be true, be informative) to the self-group. Via an implicature, either a violation of the maxim of quantity is imputed to the opponent (he/she does not have enough facts, which would not be very flattering), or he/she tells the untruth, which means a violation of the maxim of quality in the Gricean sense. Qua implicature, the foreign-group is thus accused of telling a lie, while the own arguments are considered as the truth, realised via the presentation as a "fact".

Finally, Rapid Response is a text type whose persuasion potential is determined by "produced" (made up) communicative processes,(13) which are the case if a realised communicative process on the surface level does not correspond with the text producer's real intention. The political opponent is forced into a virtual dialogue without giving him/her the opportunity to counteract. The monologue text form of the quoted person is transformed into a dialogue, although these are only fragments of a dialogue. With this dialogue form, a communicative process, which is positively evaluated in public, is applied to parliamentary-democratic institutions. As 'produced' one also has to consider the argumentative topic development. The quotation of the political opponent only serves as a cue-supplier for the activation of the own arguments and not at all as a starting point for a rational argumentation. The subjective, ideologically coloured arguments of the opponent, which are based on strategic group maxims, are confronted with "objective" arguments, which are committed to communication-ethical maxims. As far as that goes, a ‘produced’ communication moral, which is meant for public, is realised in the text type Rapid Response.


4. Conclusion

Rapid Response - as a new text type within sector of political communication - combines characteristics of traditional (established) text types on the one hand with innovative presentation forms, which are due to the revolution in the electronic media on the other hand. Rapid Response texts belong to the action field "political advertising" and can serve as a research tool for citizens and journalists. The grammatical-structural (cohesion) analysis shows that the dialogical structure is (typo-)graphically divided into a quotation section of the opponent-group and a response part of the self-group. This part has an overtly informative but covertly persuasive function. In respect to the semantic text dimension, the topic development (coherence) can be considered as argumentative, which is realised by certain topoi (e.g. final topos, motivation topos and data topos).

Thus, the multi-level analysis shows that the traditional division into self- and foreign-group and the innovative simulation of a dialogue (due to medial facilities) makes it possible to ‘produce’ a kind of communication process. At the same time, the opponent-group is personalised, since the politician who is quoted stands as a representative of the opposing party and is portrayed as someone who comes into conflict with communication-ethical maxims and strategic maxims.

It can be expected that Rapid Response will be extended in the future and that this new text type will establish itself within the field of political communication. The spectrum of variation is not yet exhausted and it must be assumed that under US-American influence and in the course of increasing innovations in the media, many new forms which broaden our (traditional) knowledge (and experience) about text types, will develop.

© Heiko Girnth / Sascha Michel (Universität Mainz, Germany)


(1) Cf. Runkehl et al. (1998).

(2) Cf. Dürscheid (1999) and (2003); Koch/Oesterreicher (1985) and (1996).

(3) Cf. Kleinberger Günther (2005). Here, innovative realizations of e-mails within enterprises are pointed out.

(4) Cf. Diekmannshenke (2006).

(5) Cf.

(6) Meyer, Laurenz (2001). Original quotation: "Insbesondere auf einen Punkt bin ich stolz: Wir sind die Partei, die im Internet führend ist; wir sind d i e Internetpartei Deutschlands. Wir haben das erst letztlich wieder unter Beweis gestellt [...] mit unserem neuen Wahlkampfinstrument Rapid Response, das wir aus Erfahrungen der Industrie und aus amerikanischen Wahlkämpfen übernommen haben. Wir konnten nach der Rede von Bundeskanzler Schröder innerhalb von einer halben Stunde sämtliche Argumente auseinanderpflücken. Damit Sie die Bedeutung dieses Instruments erkennen, sage ich: Innerhalb von nur vier Tagen haben sich 30000 Menschen durch die Antworten gekämpft. Das ist eine tolle Sache. Wie könnten wir sonst so schnell so viele Menschen beteiligen?".

(7) Cf. for example Heinemann/Viehweger (1991: 145 pp.) and Brinker ( 41997: 134 pp.).

(8) Cf. Klein (2000), who uses the mentioned levels for the classification of political text types ; cf. also Girnth (2002: 72 pp.).

(9) Cf. Goula (2004: 24 pp.).

(10) Cf. Klein (1989: 4 pp.).

(11) Cf. Klein (2001: 1469 pp.).

(12) Cf. Klein (2001: 1590 pp.).

(13) Cf Edelman (1976). As for the term production see also Strauß (1986: 17).


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1.4. Reproduktionen und Innovationen in Sprache und Kommunikation verschiedener Sprachkulturen / Reproduction and Innovation in Language and Communication in different Language Cultures

Sektionsgruppen | Section Groups | Groupes de sections

TRANS       Inhalt | Table of Contents | Contenu  16 Nr.

For quotation purposes:
Heiko Girnth / Sascha Michel (Universität Mainz, Germany): Americanising the Election Campaign: The Rapid Response Module as a New Political Text Type. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 16/2005. WWW:

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