Dec 04 2008
‘The winner takes all’ – all attention: the race is over, and while everyone is waiting for the newest appointment for his cabinet from the President Elect, nobody talks about McCain’s campaign anymore.
Nobody, except us.
There are, of course, several explanations why McCain did not win: he did not get the Latino / Asian-American vote, he failed to attract the young, his version of ‘change will come’ to Washington did not convince all those who wanted change, and maybe he even did not have the better politics to offer.
Whatever it was that made more people (yes, I know the American voting system is intricate and mysterious) vote for Obama, all these explanations do not address what after all is the basis for the decision to vote: conviction. For, even if you’re deciding to cast your lot with what you think is the less worse option, you are still making a choice based on a (probably wobbly and wavering) conviction.
This conviction has been formed – that at least is the ideal – over a long period of political campaigning. Unless you had a conviction already, and were unwilling to change it, the campaign is the time where you form certain opinions about the different candidates – that goes for both the primaries and the final struggle for the national vote. And at the basis of your conviction is the image you form, the information you accrue and the gut-feeling you develop in regard to this or that candidate wooing you for your vote.
One central instrument of wooing is rhetoric – and one of the favorite pastimes of scholars or rhetoric is to point out to anyone why candidate X, Y or Z could not possibly win since he or she was obviously less successful moving the voter by rhetorical means. These explanations can even reach the point of satisfactory explanations some times, but as they say, we are all wiser after the fact.
Nevertheless, it may be an instructive endeavor to compare the rhetoric of Barack Obama (of which you will find ample evidence on these pages) with the speeches of his opponent, a man named John McCain. Starting out from the observation that successful rhetoric for a good part results from the effective use of metaphors and metaphoric connections, one could base a comparison on the question: whose metaphors are more effective and why?
So, here is an example for McCain’s rhetorical style (and of course we know that not all of it is actually his).
The most interesting aspect to look into, however, is not how different they are but, rather, how differently they interpret the same or similar root metaphors of American political discourse – like ‘hard work,’ ‘faith,’ ‘dream,’ ‘family,’ and so on.
Watch it and read it (use the link to download the transcript).