The truth, of course, is that political campaigns get interesting only when the candidates stop speaking in ringing generalities and infuriating phrases, which doesn't mean that they therefore become successful or even good for the country. Sen. John McCain's 2000 campaign appealed precisely because he eschewed pre-prepared gobbledygook—though that wasn't enough even to win the Republican nomination.While I am quick to point out the art of political speech, I think the writer has a point here. Indeed, my memorable introduction to the difference between the art of rhetoric and the art of poetry came when I attempted to analyze a political speech for the beauty of the language. While some speeches certainly have a beauty of rhythm and image, the training I had from English Department New Critics (the irony of calling this method new criticism is that to me it is the oldest) did not suffice. While truly great political speeches create new paradigms, inspire, and persuade, the vast majority, perhaps, aim simply to not alienate anyone. Especially in a media environment that searches for a good clip, repeating phrases that are generally agreeable seem to be in a candidates interest.
Is this sad or just the way of things? Is there a way to train the public to wade through the tired cliches and discover policy differences? Can politicians find a way to grab attention without ruining their ethos?