Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Lyricism of Politics

Ah, I love it when politicians wax poetic in their constant effort to keep the herd hypnotized.

Bush: "They [terrorists, presumably] hate our freedoms." But not as much as the Bush administration hates them, apparently. Warrantless wire-taps, suspended habeas corpus, executive power stretched to tragi-comic limits (the people have no right to hear what Cheney said to "energy" executives?), "signing statements" ("I laugh at your legislation, elected legislators! I am Texas's answer to Mussolini!").

Obama: "The Audacity of Hope." Has a nice ring to it. But if to hope has become audacious, then hope is probably just a lovely gesture. I think one aim of government might be to make hope commonplace. "Change you can believe in." Is that Obama's or Clinton's? I can't remember. I'll believe it when the next president completely revamps the machinery of secrecy and executive privilege started by Eisenhower and made worse since then. I'll believe it when the next president breaks up media and oil conglomerates, with the help of Congress. I'll believe it when the military tribunals (which Obama supports) go away. Etc.

McCain: As I've mentioned, if a person really favors straight talk, he or she doesn't lyrically refer to a bus as the Straight-Talk Express. McCain is also a self-styled "maverick," a poetic word that appeals to Americans' fondness for frontier independence. Oddly enough, here's the original meaning of maverick, according to the OED:

1867 in J. G. McCoy Hist. Sketches Cattle Trade (1940) 83 The term maverick which was formerly applied to unbranded yearlings is now applied to every calf which can be separated from the mother cow.

To be fair, we must acknowledge that the connotation of "maverick" has changed; nonetheless, the bar of independent thought is set pretty low when all you have to be is weaned and a year old--but still a part of that herd on the Chisum Trail. And what is McCain independent from? Not from any major policy-decision Bush has made, with the possible exception of torture. Not from lobbyists. Not from all the Anti-Trust abuses. With regard to the ever-expanding "privileges" of the Executive Branch, I suspect McCain would be like a pig in--I mean a maverick in manure.

It's a measure of a) my befuddlement and b) the blurring of campaign slogans that I don't know whether "Change you can believe in" belongs to Clinton or Obama. In any (or either) case, the phrase would have been trochaically more interesting (but far more nerdy) as "Change in which you can believe," which has roughly the same rhythm as "Tyger, Tyger, burning bright." Anyway, one can still believe in change with which one disagrees, so I'd need to hear more about what changes the person has in mind. I think "Good change you can believe in" is a more persuasive phrase, potentially.

I think that among Obama's most audacious moves is to decide to (and demonstrate the capacity to) raise a lot more money than McCain. When was the last time a Demo was that audacious? LBJ v. Goldwater? "Change (as in ka-ching) you can believe in."
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