Grammar and rhetorical skills are the most important qualities American voters use to decide who they will vote for in presidential elections. Beth Fouhy’s article, “Campaigns Find That Some Truths Are Inconvenient“, brought back something I’ve been pondering for a long time now: our habit of parsing the comments of politicians and business leaders, looking for hidden truths in the words chosen, and interpreting what was not said as much as in what was said. You’d think that all that examination would make us incredibly wise and thoughtful voters. I’m not so sure that’s the case.
I think that in our intense scrutiny of the words chosen, we’re missing the meaning in the means. As a writer, I’m all for correct word choice when communicating, but I think we’re getting carried away in the political sphere. We’re asking our political candidates for substance, but when it’s given to us, we choose the fluff. I agree with Fouhy that we tend to punish candidates and others who tell us unvarnished truths. Remember Presidential candidate Walter Mondale’s speech at the 1984 Democratic National Cenvention: “By the end of my first term, I will reduce the Reagan budget deficit by two-thirds. Let’s tell the truth. It must be done, it must be done. Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.” Mondale lost the election, and Reagan raised taxes
So….where’s the fix? How do we tell the truth and make it acceptable? Is it even possible?