A Job too Big for a Wordsmith

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The debates on the nature of Bush's mandate and on why the Democrats lost go on.

First of all, vindicating my assertion that religious morality was not the main issue of this past election is this article by Paul Freedman. Freedman ticks off each of the three origins of the mistaken belief that this election was not about the war, and then refutes each in turn. "The morality theory rests on three claims. The first is that gay-marriage bans led to higher turnout, chiefly among Christian conservatives. The second is that Bush performed especially well where gay marriage was on the ballot. The third is that in general, moral issues decided the election." It was the war, silly donkey! In the meantime, Church Lady has nothing to fear from Arlen Specter on the judicial appointment front, if she takes his word. Now, this is not to say that moral issues do not matter to the American electorate. Mark Davis, of the Dallas Morning News has this to say in his nice piece on myths that this election debunked: Myth #1: "Bush won on wedge issues. The Honest Democrat Political Lexicon defines 'wedge issue' as 'any issue, usually in the area of personal morality, where we get our brains beaten in.' Critics say the Bush administration's focus on protecting the definition of marriage was a brazen attempt to divide America. Have we forgotten who started this? The broad (11-for-11 on state ballots) objection to opening the state sanctioning of marriage to include homosexual unions was not something a bunch of people just decided to do. It was the direct reaction to activist courts sparking the debate by drawing an equivalency between gay and straight marriage that most Americans clearly oppose." As an atheist, let me say, "Amen." And yes, it's still the war, silly donkey!

Meanwhile, Democrats who aren't busy screaming about secession are trying to figure out what they should do. Tony Blankley half-jokingly suggests a purge: "This dominant sentiment of the Democratic Party elite — that scores of millions of Americans are categorically unacceptable as fellow countrymen — is evidence of a cancer in the soul of that party. ... Fortunately, most rank and file Democrats are not infected with such secular bigotry. Democrats don't need to secede. They just need to purge their party of such of their leaders and intellectual vanguard as spew forth such rubbish." While an actual purge might not be the answer, that party does need to get out of the death grip of the far left. If this column by Walter Shapiro is any indication, they won't any time soon. He claims that there are four "factions" of the Democratic Party and that the party must decide which will revive them. But these "factions" of the Democratic Party simply represent splinters of the leftist agenda! They are, "The Party of Cultural Permissiveness, The Anti-War Party, The Party of Economic Justice, and the Status Quo Party." The formulation of the third of these is itself a bad sign: how can you question an entire big-government agenda when you regard it as "just?"

I am currently in the middle of an interesting correspondence (that started before Election Day) with a liberal friend who is a big fan of George Lakoff, whom Mother Jones calls the "linguistics guru of the left." This article about/interview with Lakoff (I remember his name by using an obscenity.), starts with this revealing blurb: "The left’s linguistics guru says liberals have to watch their language." There is lots of psychobabble here, but Lakoff says, in essence, that liberals need to use language that appeals to voter's emotions. That, in essence, they are losing elections because Republicans have been better at "framing" issues. For example, the phrase "tax relief" implies that taxes are somehow harmful. But this is really nothing new: the Democrats have been renaming the same old big government programs for years. Remember how "socialized medicine" morphed into "Health Care" during the start of Clinton's first term? People like Lakoff are just giving the Democrats more excuses to put off reexamining their agenda rather than, say, considering the idea that maybe taxes really are harmful, and further, that Joe Beercan has figured that out. Or that maybe average Americans have heard of the horror stories about socialized medicine from around the world and actually reject it on more than bare emotional grounds. My friend's response to my point that socialized medicine was discredited long ago was to point to the flu vaccine shortage. I pointed him to an article that does a great job of explaining how our flawed concept of legal liability and a Clinton-era program colluded to bring this on. And round and round she goes.

Oh yeah, the Fourth Estate still doesn't get it, either. CBS News attacks blogging as, "more reminiscent of [a] school paper or a 'Breaker, breaker 19' gabfest on CB than anything approaching journalism," in its Election Day coverage. Ummm. Didn't this guy's esteemed coworker, Dan Rather, get caught with his pants down by bloggers? This whole article would sound like sour grapes if it weren't so funny. So some bad exit polls (I think leaked by the Kerry campaign.) showed up on blogs. "The bloggers, obtaining through leaks partial, in some cases suspect snippets of information from the early 'cut' of data gathered by MSM through exit polls, were spreading a story that the network and wire service bosses knew to be incorrect because their own experts – and their journalistic experience -- had warned them of the weaknesses in such data." Well, then, why didn't your old network call Ohio for Bush sooner? And then there's the matter of the fact that journalists are (supposed to be?) doing this as a profession and the bloggers are hobbyists for the most part. And then there's Dan Rather. What happened to the bloodhounds there? Or were the whole lot on that story being dishonest? Incompetent or dishonest, CBS stacks up unfavorably to that high school paper. The nerve of this guy! Look, Mr. Engberg, you're retired. You obviously have more time than you know what to do with. Start a satirical blog in defense of CBS. It'll be a rollicking success! Seriously, I don't think bloggers expect to take over from the journalists as Engberg says. It's too much fun catching them with their pants down!

If the journalists would do their jobs rather than running political campaigns, the bloggers would leave them alone. And if the Dems would rethink their crusty old socialist agenda, maybe they could win an election or two without infomercials posing as network newscasts and news magazines.

-- CAV

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Gus, you say you remember George Lakoff's name with an obscenity. Well, perhaps you're far in advance of my hellrake tongue and know words I wish I did, but his name's pronounced LAKE-off. --The favorite linguist of the Left? What, did Chomsky go into an occultation? Ah, it must be because of his _Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things_. Sexy title with a quirkily feminist feel to it, so yeah, he'd make a solid second-stringer. But speaking as one in his field, I'd have to say a linguist contributing to political retrenchment and haranguing is about as justified and sensical as a biochemist advising the Republican Party on how to grab the Buppie vote. Maybe he could, but not because he's a bloody biochemist!

As a linguist, he's occsionally interesting. He's really big on metaphor, which he sees as lurking everywhere around the foundations of language and likes to tie in with categorization (in a grumbling mood I'd say he consistently confounds the two)--an invalid move, but it does offer up some striking analyses, occasionally quite interesting. _Metaphors We Live By_ by him and Johnson is especially useful, at least in its first half, in teaching foreign learners about English phrasal verbs and schemata; he even has co-authored a book on poetic metaphor, _More Than Cool Reason_, that I haven't read nor intend to. Is he big in linguistics? Not in my fields. In general? Maybe, but there are much bigger and more interesting linguists around, so I pay him little attention. Perhaps he's finally found his metier as a siphon from linguistics to politics--but to get a siphon working, you have to start it off by sucking.