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A  Pianonoise Guide to Political Rhetoric

Once again, dear reader, we find ourselves in the midst of another election season in America, with all the attendant political rhetoric. The air is cleaner, the birds sing louder, a bucolic smile rests on the visage of every citizen of this great land. But for those of you who are confused about who to vote for, or how best to exercise your civic duty, fear not. We here at Pianonoise have a long tradition of public service, when we have nothing better to write about, and we are here to help you with all of those confusing television commercials, press accounts, stump speeches and debates you will no doubt ingest over the coming weeks, months, or years as you diligently press onward in your quest to determine who will make the best assistant comptroller to the undersecretary of sanitation in your township, as well as making your feelings known on vaguer, and therefore more important, philosophical issues pertinent to the future of the country itself (you've been told).

Having so often seen the hazards that come about when people argue over nomenclature itself, when they could be bludgeoning each other over some meaty political issues, we will define our terms. The following is a simple glossary of phrases with which you are being inundated this election season. (note: the emoticons are there to help younger voters)


politics as usual-- this is very bad. Politics is always in a deplorable state, as everyone automatically knows whether they have taken any time to investigate personally. We know this because we have been told many times. The phrase flows naturally out of the lips of the challenger in a political race; the incumbent tries to have as much political experience as possible without actually having had anything to do with politics. Because the incumbent has more connections, more money, and more experience winning elections, it is only fair that the challenger gets more phraseology.  :-(   :-(    :-(

Special interest groups-- You and I do not belong to any of these. We are able to see the big picture, and be fair-minded and equable to everybody. But, as astonishing as it may seem, there are some people who are only out for themselves.  :-(  

Those people have an agenda. Anybody who has an agenda is a troublemaker. It is not necessary to trouble yourself about the agenda. Good people don't have one. Horses good, agenda bad.  :-(

Those of us who do not have an agenda are not in any way disorganized. We are acting on principle. Here's how this works:

Principle--what motivates you   :-)
Politics-- what motivates your opponent (see special interest groups)    :-(
(see also "political advantage" "political self-interest"--although it is not necessary to define "political" since it always means something bad when spoken by a politician. Or an average American.)

Average American-- these are very, very good, especially in an election year. They are very clever, and can always see through the soiled motivations and misanthropic scheming of the other party without being told (says the person telling us). There is nothing average about them, except that they will all vote the same way--on principle. And, of course, with the person using the phrase.   :-)   :-)   :-)   :-)   :-)

Defending your principles (from vicious attacks by the other guy)--American politics is the most passive, halcyon system in the world. There are no cases on record of anyone ever having started a fight over a single issue. There are multiple instances of persons defending themselves from their opponents once such an argument has been started. An aggressive stance would not be desirable to the public; fortunately, no one ever has to adopt such a stance because, to a man (or woman) they are always defending themselves from unprovoked attacks. Scientists are currently looking into the "spontaneous generation of political argument" hoping to win a Nobel Prize.    :-)

The issues--Nobody has ever been able to determine what exactly these are, although scientists at Cal Tech are currently engaged in a very expensive, government-funded study to find out. Every candidate who has ever lived has had to battle the intense frustration of trying to talk about them, but his/her opponent is constantly deflecting the public's mind away from them. However, when the situation is reversed, the same thing happens. See also: the elephant (or donkey) in the room that no one is talking about.    :-0

Most of the people running for office are "independent" and "working for us" because, if you didn't know, politics is a big football game where one side plays for the people and the other side represents giant, impersonal institutions, like "big government" or "big business" which is in no way composed of actual persons like you and me.

If you decide to run for office, you'll want to remember to promise to "create jobs" because people like having those, and your opponent will likely be against job growth and for crime. Nobody ever says that, but their opponents like to define their own platforms with these stunning pronouncements.

Also, don't forget that the children are our future. Our future is always better than our present.

momentum--something the media assures us is vitally important in a campaign. Hoping it will swing back and forth so they can wring as much drama and viewer attention to their 24/7 newscasts, media outlets love to tell us that a candidate is doomed one week and then gleefully report what a surprise it was to see them storm back to win the nomination, or the election. Those of us who don't like to admit we were wrong should look to media establishments for examples--since it helps their story to have something new and exciting to report each day, it actually works to their advantage to be wrong so they can run stories the next day about how wrong they were!

going forward--forward is the direction every politician who ever lived wants to take us. If you are running for office, it is important to make sure everybody knows you aren't planning to throw the whole operation into reverse. Going backward is a bad idea, and your opponent obviously wants to take us there. Although the phrase can begin to seem much like the term "um" used by nearly everybody else, namely, something that tumbles out of one's mouth to kill the silence while you are, um, trying to manufacture more words to, um, finish your thought, it is also a convenient way to deflect attention from your current scandal, See also "Getting on with the business of the country."

Getting on with the business of the country--going on the theory that it is impossible to pay attention to both vital national issues (whatever they are) and the latest political scandal at the same time (Lord knows there isn't enough cable news broadcasting to possibly do justice to two stories on the same day!) it is imperative that politicians in the midst of, going forward, embarrassing and potentially damaging "situations" keep our national attention on what is really important, namely, ignoring what they are doing behind the curtain.

comparing people to Hitler-- If I could figure out a way to get royalties every time someone compared a politician to Hitler, I would be richer than the Sultan of Brunei. Given how close Donald Trump came to actually being able to trademark a common phrase in English a few years ago ('you're fired'), this seems a realistic possibility. The reason this is such a priceless line of argument is that practically everybody knows that Hitler was a really bad person, even if they are not quite sure why. Perhaps I sell the American electorate short, but I've never heard anyone get compared to Pol Pot or Stalin or Ghengis Khan or some other genocidal maniac. Possibly 75% of the younger voters have never heard of these guys. In politics the rule is always to keep it simple and not to worry about whether your statement makes any sense. In an election year you can't afford qualms about scale. Therefore, any bad person is just like Hitler, whether or not he or she is actually responsible for killing 6 million Jews and millions of other Europeans while blitzkrieging his or her way through most of a continent and upsetting psyche and social order on a massive scale. As long as he or she is "ruining the country," which they are (you can do a simple test to check this by determining whether they are of a different party affiliation than you), they are every bit as much of a curse to humanity. If you are a true ideologue you can say this with a straight face.

Consistency-- If you want to be involved in politics you need to get this out of your system right now. What you say one week has nothing whatever with what you will say next week, except that if it is about your guy it will be positive, maybe based on the same reasoning that you used to trash the other guy. Don't worry--most of us won't notice. We get so much vitally important information force fed to us every day through our various forms of media that our brains are no longer able to process that quaintly old-fashioned 'long-term memory'.  Sure, there is a possibility that someone from the opposing camp will actually find these recorded clips and try to make you look silly, but this only adds to the general noise level of our political discourse and the other side won't see it anyhow. This too will pass.

Cynicism-- a major religion of the electorate. There are four pillars.  "Politicians say whatever they think will get them elected." "There are no real choices: both of the major political parties are basically the same."  "They are all crooks." "The government can only mess things up and we are better off without it." In its more fundamentalist versions, complaining becomes an excuse for apathy and a substitute for any kind of involvement whatsoever, as the disenchanted voter daily pursues a closer walk with his disillusionment and shuns any contact with his fellow man except to remark about the weather and complain about massive spending in Washington.

Taking our country back-- At present, nobody seems to know who has our country. Both political parties seem convinced that the other guys have it, and are determined to wrest it from them. Such promises when delivered during political speeches are always accompanied by much hooting and hollering. Meanwhile, since it is obvious to everyone involved in the political process that we can't all have it, I am offering a reward for knowledge of the whereabouts of our great land. You will have to do more than furnish a diatribe about how it is all going to Hades in the hands of the Republicrats.

Redistribution of Wealth--when rich people are encouraged/coerced into giving some of their money away, usually to the government,  for a purpose which will not directly or only benefit themselves. When the process works in reverse, that is, when poor or middle class persons' money goes into the pockets of wealthy individuals through any combination of legitimate business transactions, subsidies, various degrees of exploitation, or outright illegal or inhuman activity, it is known as free market enterprise.

Slippery slope arguments--The simplest way to defuse any proposal by your opposition is to show how, extended to infinity, his or her idea would be ridiculous. An early and laudable example of this was put forth by an ancient politician who complained that the law against murder was taking away individual freedoms by saying "Where is it going to stop? Today you can't kill a person and the next day you get sent to prison for life for stepping on an ant on the side walk? When are these 'rights' going to end?" Slippery slope arguments are the bread and butter of political discourse. Because engaging an idea on its own merits would be too much like work, an idea is quickly and quietly yoked to all sorts of other ideas which are too imaginative for today's elitist ivory tower fiction writers to invent.

Lemmings--these are brought in to replace thinking Americans during political rallies. They are trained to applaud vigorously whenever they hear a good cliché, bob their heads metronomically in rapt agreement with their beloved candidate (there is usually one a few rows behind the candidate and to the right a little who can barely keep his/her head from tumbling off his/her shoulders in worshipful consensus with every spoken word that drops like honey from the candidate's lips, even the indefinite articles) refrain from laughing out loud when the 'egoless' speaker tells them that his/her entire purpose in running for office is to make their lives better, and boo lustily as soon as the name of an opposing candidate is mentioned, as if they are attending a midnight screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. They can also rise to the challenge of making a three-syllable rhythmic chant (two short, one long) out of either the candidate's name, or their slogan, or something out of the Manhattan Phone book, so long as it is intoned with all the monotonous passion of a tribe of cannibals in the South Pacific (my apologies to the cannibals).

Worst President Ever--whomever is in office at the time, if he/she is of the opposing political party. This individual can do absolutely nothing right and is a threat to completely ruin the country. Also, he/she never ever listens to reason or compromise, unless you are of the same political party as our president, in which case that is all this individual ever does, thereby giving away the company store to the other guys, all of whom unilaterally wish to ruin the country. And, in an intensely related subject, why the heck can't our leaders put away their politics and act bipartisan for a change? Sheesh!

Era of Bipartisanship/new tone in Washington, etc.--that period between the election of the next president and when they assume office.

They're all bums--the best way to reach bipartisan agreement, if you are engaged in a political 'conversation' with someone of differing views is to stoutly declare that all politicians are rotten, which includes both parties, and shows just how willing we are to put the good of the country ahead of our own partisan bickering, particularly when it comes to throwing all of our leaders under the bus. It is also a statement which, like a good cuss word, can function anywhere, and needs no further explanation.  Grumbling that everybody with any ability to affect legislative change is a crook is a statement we can all get on board with, since we know that politicians are not in any way like the good regular people of this great land of ours. If they would just wave their wands and fix everything we wouldn't have this problem.

Common sense--The amazing inborn sense given to ordinary Americans that enables them to be smarter than those so-called "experts." Common sense not only eliminates the need to thoroughly investigate an issue, or to go to school for years to learn how something complicated works, studies have shown (trust me) that spending all of that time, money, and effort in the pursuit of so-called understanding only turns you into an idiot who knows far less than the untutored electorate. Therefore, don't waste your time or money.  The bad news about common sense is that it can be definitively shown after every election that only about half of Americans have any.

Race--Race has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with politics in America. Oh, there was a bad old time, a long, long, time ago, when some bad people did some bad things to some other people. Everybody knows that. But, really, we've all gotten over that, and we all treat each other quite fairly now. Still, there are a few malcontents who keep bringing it up. Case in point: a while back, some folks decided to get unhappy with the name of their school, which had been named in honor of a certain confederate general who also happened to be one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan, which apparently did some bad things to black people. After a lot of pressure by some special interest persons, a vote was taken. Now it might seem like a complete coincidence that all of the white people on the school board voted to keep the name, and all of the black people voted to change it. (The white people being in the majority, the name stayed.) When asked why they voted the way they did, some of the white people said that it was just time to "get on with it." Unfortunately, the black folks just didn't get it, apparently. For some reason, they are still under the impression that getting on with it, and rubbing salt in their racial wounds, up to and including honoring mass murderers, are very nearly the same thing. It's all about tradition, after all, and has nothing at all to do with racial discrimination, which hardly had anything to do with our storied history anyway. Besides, only about a decade after the Supreme court required the south to desegregate its schools, and a mere handful of national guard troops later, everyone gladly opened the citadels of education and let everyone in regardless of race and a few other things. Today over half that student body is African-American, and most of them aren't even bothered by the name of their school. Said one, "It's no big deal. We're used to being treated like that." And if that doesn't make your heart swell with inter-racial pride, what on earth would?

Intellectually bankrupt/devoid of all logic--the magical process by which any argument containing even trace amounts of what appears to be logic, as long as it rhymes and sounds like what someone wants to be true, can be pronounced truly superior to people of opposing views because those people have absolutely no conception of logic whatsoever, and no intelligence at all, and therefore anything that sounds good to you has "too much logic" in it for them. If this kind of a priori argument gets them angry it just shows that they are purely emotional creatures who substitute feelings for brains and proves your point (you are so brilliant!). Although setting the bar that low could be worrisome in that it does not incentivize people to develop their arguments very carefully since merely being able to stand on two feet without falling over already makes them the proud possessors of a great political opinion, it more than makes up for this potential shortcoming in helping people whatever their IQ and general cognitive ability feel smug about what they think they think. In the interest of "fairness" Pianonoise would like to assign this phenomenon to both sides of the political divide, but it seems to be mainly the property of conservatives who use these phrases to accuse liberals of not being able to withstand their uncanny logic.

Seriously, if I were counseling a young person I would suggest that they avoid this phrase around persons who might have a reasonable amount of intelligence, since deploying it is a dead giveaway that that person has an inferiority complex and also has a below average intellect. For other persons of below average intellect, however, this is a bulletproof phrase to use around persons who don't agree with you and has the same efficacy as "you're rubber, I'm glue" or "I know you are, but what am I," from which there also are no known effective comebacks. For like-minded persons this phrase is a quick and convenient way of saying to others on the same mental wavelength: look at us, we are the only ones who have brains in our heads. It also saves on the effort of having to demonstrate it.

Personal responsibility--one of the easiest things to do is assign all the blame for all of the bad things that happen in this country, or all of the negative feelings you have about anything, to a lack of personal responsibility. This naturally only applies to other people (you know, those people). Persons who insist that people need to start taking responsibility for their own lives are themselves paragons of virtue and right living, and if everybody else would just start behaving like them we wouldn't be in this big mess. It is quite a coincidence that persons who earnestly wish that everyone would take responsibility for their own lives spend so much time blaming everybody else for their problems.

participation in the democratic process--there will always be persons who, after long and careful deliberation, determine which candidates will best do the job for which they are elected, and whose priorities and goals are most in line with their own. There is even a small possibility these persons will even consider that nationally elected leaders should in fact represent the concerns of the entire country and not simply their own particular constituency. Then there are those who will vote for the Democrat or the Republican without thinking twice about it because at one time in the past they bought the party rhetoric and haven't concerned themselves with a reappraisal of its proximity to reality in the last quarter century. And some people will choose their leaders because they are tall or have nice hair. It has always been popular during an election cycle to encourage everyone to go vote, under the assumption that voting is automatically better than not voting, since it means you are actually participating in this wonderful form of government for which so many have given so much (do they still give out awards for participation?). Pianonoise has a different view. If you've bothered to listen to the candidates and the issues and honestly believe you know who would do a better job running our government, than go vote. If you haven't got a clue and don't plan to get one between now and the election, don't vote. In the end, your qualifications may not matter, since the people who have gotten their opinions honestly probably show as much political diversity (i.e., disagreement) as they would if they chose a candidate based on who can spit farther, but it would still make us at Pianonoise feel better about the direction of the country and the progress of civilization in general if people decided they really could afford to lavish more than the bare minimum of effort on what is really the most amazing system of self-rule in the world.

 

 paid for by the Friends of Pianonoise, Erasmus, treasurer
I'm Michael Hammer, and I approved this message

 

michael@pianonoise.com