105 Ways to Give a Book

Political Words

Feel free to skip this post on the political nature of words. I wasn’t going to write it, but I can’t stop myself from writing it any longer. Forgive me.

The new lines have been drawn in this race for the White House, and they are no longer about the concepts of experience and change. They are about the words.

Not terribly long ago, regardless of your party affiliation, the decisions were fairly clear-cut. The Republican and Democratic candidates were in line with their parties’ platforms. Sure, people could argue about a maverick reputation or a liberal bias — and that’s pretty much what we’ve been doing for the last few months — but in essence, each candidates represented his party’s platform.

But not everyone votes on party, so focusing on the two candidates themselves, you could decide which was more important to bring to the White House in 2009 — experience or change. Again, people could argue about the details of these concepts — and they did — but the essence of the argument remained the same: Is it more important that our next president have lots of political/governmental experience or that our next president bring change to our current policies?

That’s a real choice. Certainly I’m simplifying, but that’s what it boiled down to for this election. Experience or Change.

So, now McCain/Palin have decided that they want change as their agenda. Not actual change, mind you, but the word. Because apparently, repeating the word is enough. People now believe that the Republican party is going to bring change — to the office held by the Republican party — and it’s all because the McCain/Palin ticket is running on “change.” Again, the word, not the actual concept.

And this scares me. Because the words that candidates use have to matter. They have to be true, and they have to mean something. If candidates can just make stuff up, then hell, I could have run for president. (Perhaps I can also be thin if I just say it enough. Thin... thin... thin... Poof! Size 6!)

On that topic comes this article from The Washington Post today: “As Campaign Heats Up, Untruths Can Become Facts Before They’re Undone.”
John Feehery, a Republican strategist, said the campaign is entering a stage in which skirmishes over the facts are less important than the dominant themes that are forming voters’ opinions of the candidates. “The more the New York Times and The Washington Post go after Sarah Palin, the better off she is, because there’s a bigger truth out there and the bigger truths are she’s new, she’s popular in Alaska and she is an insurgent,” Feehery said. “As long as those are out there, these little facts don’t really matter.”
Somewhat related (but mostly included because of its great headline) is this article from The Wall Street Journal, not known for its liberal bent: “The GOP Loves the Heartland To Death.”
[McCain] seems to think that small-town people can be easily played. Just choose a running mate who knows how to skin a moose and all will be forgiven. Drive them off the land, shutter their towns, toss their life chances into the grinders of big agriculture... and praise their values. The TV eminences will coo in appreciation of your in-touch authenticity, and the carnival will move on.
Then there is this article from The Guardian, which offers a frightening global view alongside its acknowledgment of the facts about Palin: “The world’s verdict will be harsh if the US rejects the man it yearns for.”
We know one of Palin’s first acts as mayor of tiny Wasilla, Alaska was to ask the librarian the procedure for banning books. Oh, but that was a “rhetorical” question, says the McCain-Palin campaign. We know Palin is not telling the truth when she says she was against the notorious $400m “Bridge to Nowhere” project in Alaska — in fact, she campaigned for it — but she keeps repeating the claim anyway. She denounces the dipping of snouts in the Washington trough — but hired costly lobbyists to make sure Alaska got a bigger helping of federal dollars than any other state.
And just to remind us that words can also bring us hope, and yes, make us laugh, from The Onion we get: “Obama Modifies ‘Yes We Can’ Message To Exclude Area Loser: ‘Yes We Can, Except Nate Walsh,’ Obama Says.”
“I have always said that the change we seek will not come easy, that it will not come without its share of sacrifice and struggle,” Obama continued. “And the last thing we need is dead weight like Nate Walsh adding another 20 or 30 years to the process.” The speech, entitled “A More Perfect Union Minus Nate Walsh,” was 26 minutes long and contained the words “change” 12 times, “hope” 16 times, and “Nate,” in conjunction with the phrase “with the exception of,” 34 times.
I’ll try to get back on the books, and writing, and libraries. Really, I will. But I had to get this out of my system. I hope you understand.


Kelly said...

Sing it, sister! I feel your frustration. Words should mean something.

jama said...

Thank you for articulating my feelings.

Laurel said...

I'll meet you at the barricade, my sister in arms.

It's funny how little anyone pays attention to language, when theyre so easily swayed by words.

Here's mine:



Laini Taylor said...

Right there with ya, Pam. Great selection of articles. This lipstick on a pig thing makes me want to SCREAM. Here's a great overview of the whole thing on Salon:


Looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks!

Jackie Parker said...

The Bush administration has based so much of their communication on what they WANT to be true, I can't say I'm surprised that McCain/Palin have adapted it, but I'm disheartened that so many people seem to be buying into them. Frankly, Palin frightens me far more than McCain, and I'm legitimately scared that those base Bush supporters will simply outnumber us. Here's pinning my hopes on the Electoral College...

What disturbs me though, is the fact that since Palin was announced I've heard/seen so little media coverage of the Obama campaign that it feels truly off-balanced. At least until the lipstick controversy today (which, seriously?) And whatever happened to Joe Biden?

I look forward to the debates, in those moments I'm able to tamp down my fear.

MotherReader said...

I wrote this before I was aware of the stupid lipstick thing - I would have gone nuts if I'd read about that first. I don't know that I could have put together a coherent thought. But, Laini is right that the Salon article is great on it and a number of other points.

Glad to share and moan, and with any luck, to hope again.

Anonymous said...

Excellent essay
Thanks for opening your heart and pouring it on the page.

Your colleague in mind and political disposition,
Another Pamela

Charlotte said...

You go, girl!

Palin scares the pants off me.

Anonymous said...

You took the words out of my mouth...I couldn't be more frustrated with the politics of the last 2 weeks. I don't understand anyone who doesn't vote based upon a PLATFORM (versus voting on WORDS!). How can everyone be so easily played (schnukered as my dad would say). My hope is that the hooplah dies down in the next few weeks and that everyone gets back to what actually matters....substance, not words!

Mother Reader fan in Ohio

Jennifer Thermes said...

Awesome post. Thank you for saying it so well.