Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Republicans refine their vocabulary, not their ideas

Frank Luntz is too expensive a political consultant to be asked to spend billable hours crafting new policies or even complete arguments to elect another wave of Ronald Reagan apostles. He is literally a wordsmith—he offers individual, precious words that Republicans of any intelligence can use.
This week the Republican Governor’s Association met in Florida and asked for his ideas on how to navigate the changing political scene, including the grievances of the Wall Street Occupiers, and new questions from constituents about "income inequality" and "paying your fair share." Here are a few of Luntz’s telling suggestions:
Don't say 'capitalism.' 

"I'm trying to get that word removed and we're replacing it with either 'economic freedom' or 'free market,' " Luntz said.” The public . . . still prefers capitalism to socialism, but they think capitalism is immoral. And if we're seen as defenders of quote, Wall Street, end quote, we've got a problem."
“Don't say that the government 'taxes the rich.' Instead, tell them that the government 'takes from the rich.'
"If you talk about raising taxes on the rich," the public responds favorably, Luntz cautioned. But "if you talk about government taking the money from hardworking Americans, the public says no. Taxing, the public will say yes."
“Don’t talk about 'jobs.' Talk about 'careers.'
"Everyone in this room talks about 'jobs,'" Luntz said. "Watch this."
He then asked everyone to raise their hand if they want a "job." Few hands went up. Then he asked who wants a "career." Almost every hand was raised.
"So why are we talking about jobs?"
“Don’t say 'government spending.' Call it 'waste.'
"It's not about 'government spending.' It's about 'waste.' That's what makes people angry."
“Don't ever say you're willing to 'compromise.'
"If you talk about 'compromise,' they'll say you're selling out. Your side doesn't want you to 'compromise.' What you use in that to replace it with is 'cooperation.' It means the same thing. But cooperation means you stick to your principles but still get the job done. Compromise says that you're selling out those principles."
So let’s get this straight: The Republican counter-revolution will take back America by being against waste, compromise, and socialism. It will tell the jobless to get a career. It will be for free markets but won’t defend the profit-seekers who drive the system—and greatly determine which careers will exist. It will promise to balance the budget while talking around the business of budgets—spending or taxing.
Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
Luntz is not a brilliant writer. He’s a brilliant hack with a doctorate from Oxford: he uses words to refresh clich├ęs, not to inform. The last thing he’d recommend would be a word that casts too much light. It might create a shadow.

No comments:

Post a Comment