Is it 2016 yet? With the presidential election beginning to loom over us, like, say, a tsunami rising slowly from the sludge pond outside Hell’s backdoor, I was inclined to say that we’re approaching rhetorical season. With politics, though, when does that torrent of bullshit ever stop?
I’ll also say—and this is my academic training insisting on being heard—that while politicians use rhetoric, so do we all, every day. There’s a reason why we choose one word over another, to be persuasive (even if it’s just persuasion that we know what we’re talking about). That’s what rhetoric is.
Still. You know, politicians crave the rush of their own rhetoric the way meth addicts shove needles in their arms, waiting for the high to hit. And now we have several declared candidates for president, so woohoo! At the moment, there are four serious candidates who have declared (I think, I’ve already lost count), and with every declaration the tsunami waters rise. Let’s dip our hands into that murky water and see what we can take hold of. Since this is my blog, I’ll pick and choose randomly, so I might miss your favorite.
Even after decades of watching politics, it still amazes me to hear what falls out of the mouths of politicians. Take this excerpt from Rubio’s announcement that he is running: “Too many of our leaders and our ideas are stuck in the 20th century…” This comes from a man who is declaring his adamant support for the 55-year-old embargo on Cuba, because it’s… OK, it’s not actually working, and Castro has grown old and is dying and nothing has changed, but the embargo might work. Right? If we give it another 50 years? Otherwise, Rubio says, “Yesterday is over and we’re never going back.” Tell it, Marco. What else is brand new?
Out of a population of 300 million people, America has found one who can run for president as a Democrat. From Clinton’s announcement: “Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion.” The word “champion” is used twice, so that’s a word to note, perhaps meaning she’ll fight for us (against, I don’t know, bad guys, she didn’t say). Also note the phrase “everyday Americans”—that’s me, by the way, and maybe you, but is it Bill Gates? Are rich people everyday Americans? I also found an interesting phrase from her economic platform: “Create the economy of tomorrow, not yesterday.” Uh, well, yeah.
Compare Clinton’s phrase “not yesterday” to Rubio’s “yesterday is over”. I think both of these candidates are basically agreed that time only moves in one direction. Bipartisan physics aside, the rhetoric of presidential politics makes frequent reference to the future, so in coming days, weeks, months, until we just want to kill ourselves, watch for talk about the future. The people who get hired by politicians might have been English majors at some point, because they seem to like a slightly poetic language. Thus we may see references to “tomorrow”.
Other than the future, here are several motifs that always seem popular, so let’s see what clever and imaginative things they do with them:
- country (which can be better than it is, and it will be!)
- change (only the bad things, and all the changes will involve technology)
- da people (that’s us scratch-and-sniff trogs)
- economy (whatever the hell that is)
Wait, didn’t we agree that if you’re born in another country, you can’t be president? Or was that only if you’re imaginarily born in an African country? I forget how it works. Now that we have a candidate who actually was born in another country, let’s watch how fast the racist birther loons shut their yap. Ted Cruz is not exactly a white guy, is he, but at least he’s not black. So maybe it’s OK for him to run.
Oh, and by the way, I think Ted Cruz actually is a zombie. I saw a photograph of him on the internet (so I know it’s true), killing and eating someone. I think it was an illegal immigrant.