Fluffy, Cream-Stuffed Campaign Tricks

You can be sure that campaign tricks are seldom forgotten by people in the business of politics. Obama, McCain, Clinton, Giuliani were once the leading deep-pocket candidates in 2008. Their hyperactive teams worked on new public statements daily. Were there mesmerizing messages inside their statements?

Nothing these three senators and an ex-mayor released matched the powerful prose of Abe Lincoln or ML King, Jr.

But strip off the outer husk of their palaver, though, and you’ll see remarkably similar and persistent subtexts from all four. To do this we’re going to bypass the rhetoric and lay bare what the candidates are repeating most.

We saw how a little device, the EnglishMojo Subtext Process (ESP), cuts through verbiage and exposes underlying subtexts. We’ll use it to examine how each of these front-runners confronted the issues for that election.

First we focus on one of the more traditional campaigners, Hillary. Her web site encouraged the first name familiarity through its heading, “Hillary for President”.

“Hillary for President” offered no summary on the issues, but here’s a look at an item from the middle of her list. It’s titled, RESTORING AMERICA’S STANDING IN THE WORLD. I began reading her team’s statement,

“Americans are ready for a leader who will restore America’s reputation in the world, and Hillary is prepared to lead America back in the right…”

At this point “mego”, which every journalist will recognize as “my eyes glazed over”, and drowsiness began to overtake me. Unable to read further I turned to the ESP, copied the full statement and fed it in. A few seconds later I discovered the following.

Judging from the repetitions of her words, the “world” was important to Hillary, and so was “America”. But her statement repeated another word even more often, and that was “Hillary” herself.

Next, McCain came under scrutiny. The header on his web site called him simply “McCain”. It had an earthy ring, and suggested a Hollywood figure who stands up for justice in a cruel world, like a weather-beaten cowboy or your favorite rogue cop. McCain did have a summary of issues. So, I began reading,

“America’s economic progress requires that the federal government abide by the same standards of common sense and fiscal restraint as…”

Gosh! Overwhelming mego. What does McCain want me to remember most? Feeding his issues into our ESP revealed the most repeated phrase on the page was…”John McCain”.

Perhaps the independent-posed Obama’08 would prove different.

At his Overview of Issues web page, I read,

“Senator Obama has been able to develop innovative approaches to challenge the status quo and get results.”

OK. This sounded promising.

“Americans are tired of divisive ideological politics, which is why Senator Obama has reached out to Republicans to find areas of common ground. He has tried to break partisan logjams and…”

The cliché density proved too much for me and again I succumed to mego. On waking, I scrambled for the ESP. You might guess the results. Warm and fuzzy terms “common ground”, “health care” and “strong families” were repeated, but ultimately yielded to the eight times more persistent term…”Senator Obama”.

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Leaving behind the senators put me on the trail of His Honor, the former Mayor of September 11 New York City. His web site too shouted a first name, “Rudy”. Rudy, had a position summary his team called “On the Issues”. His overview started with “FISCAL DISCIPLINE”,

“Before Rudy was elected Mayor, tax-and-spend policies created billion-dollar deficits and led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in New York City. Rudy restored fiscal discipline by controlling spending and cutting wasteful programs.”

This relatively clear prose for a politician pushed me forward in search of actual issues facing the presidency.

“He cut the size of city-funded government bureaucracy by nearly 20% – excluding the number of cops on the street and teachers in the classroom. Rudy’s record proves he can…”

“On the Issues” appeared to be so much like “On My Resume” that I felt only the ESP could get me to the point under it all. Where was he going with these statements? What did Rudy want me to remember?

Rudy had issues. But the term that defined his points twice as often as any other was of course…”Rudy”.

Two and a half centuries into the world’s greatest democratic experiment brought American campaign prose to this state of affairs.

In countries of younger and more dubious democratic traditions, candidates deliver simple campaign messages driving through city streets in sound cars shouting into loudspeaker systems. Japan, for example, limits campaigning to blaring out nothing more than “hello”, a candidate’s name and “thank you very much”, which beleaguered citizens hear over and over in the weeks before the election.

Ultimately, had the contenders for title of 44th President of the United States, contenders with unimaginable funds and media access, done much different?

Over a hundred million US voters were caught up in a confusing storm of issues, listening, reading and watching the campaign machines of Rudy, of Obama, of McCain and of Hillary serve up new varieties of fluffy, cream-stuffed rhetoric. These billion-dollar campaign bakeries all specialized in a single common filling, with a taste that lingers on the tongue long after the word mass has been swallowed.

Pungent and persistent, it can be described most simply as the tart message “remember me, remember me, remember me”.


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