Monday, January 07, 2008

Words, Words, Words...

There is, of course, an enormous and exhausting amount of text being written on the U.S. presidential primaries right now, but I found these comments from Ezra Klein to be astute:

There's been a lot written about the rhetoric of the Democratic primary lately (much of it on this blog), and for good reason. Words are playing an atypically central role in the Democratic primary [...and] the race has really come to center around three distinct speaking styles, each being used as a stand-in for actual accomplishments. There's the soaring, spirit-of-history narration offered by Obama. The workmanlike, knowledgeable, wonkery of Hillary. And the fiery, people-focused populism of Edwards. In all cases, the candidate is using this rhetoric to argue that they are the true "change" agent. But none of them have a particularly distinguished record enacting change at the national level. This is, the reality of a campaign where the three viable candidates are Democratic Senators who all served after George W. Bush's election -- which is to say, during a period when they lacked a president willing to sign their legislation into law. So realistically, they had neither the time nor the alignment of forces to get very much done.

But the end result has been an election heavily focused on the rhetoric of getting things done. Hillary proves her advantage by overwhelming you in details, and multipoint plans. Edwards proves his by flashing his passion, his outrage. And Obama proves his by being the most inspirational, the most elevating.

I've not quite decided which style I'd most prefer to listen to for the next four years (though I'm tending Obama-ward). On the other hand I'm feeling rather more distant from the whole thing than I have in the past: the leader with the most relevance to my current life speaks a different set of words entirely (and these more in the vein of 'workmanlike' and 'knowledgeable' than 'soaring' and 'inspirational'.)

Any of them, however, would be more euphonious than what the other team has to offer.

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