Friday, October 3, 2008
Personal Aside: Palins Down Home-Style Conversation with Winks May Have Won for Her More than Usual Political Staccato 19th Century Recitation of Pomposity.
Her Style Won It.
Carding the Palin-Biden debate, initially I made a mistake. As an old geezer, I showed my fondness for political tradition and was impressed with Joe Bidens staccato recitation of facts and statistics even lies because that has been what I have grown up with. Having lived a span that extends from Franklin Roosevelt through most legislators who orate in that cavern known as the U.S. Senate, I have become at ease with those who rip off verbal paragraphs even if they have little relevance to the question involved. But I should have remembered. Ronald Reagan brought a new style of argumentation to modern politicsthe conversational tone, the deferential bob of the head, shy smile and there you go again. So initially I was giving the debate to Joe Biden, albeit very thankful that Sarah Palin wasnt gumming it up.
But midway through the debate I knew I was far wrong and that Palen was winning. Three reasons.
First, , I realized the horrendous anti-Palin propaganda meted out from the mainstream liberal media actually helped her by lowering expectations. By the time the late night TV talk show hosts and most commentators finished, one was expecting her to stumble onto the stage and wipe her nose on the drapes. She gained terrifically through lowered expectations.
Second, It came to me as she made the wry comment about the joke that she and Biden both attempted which the audience didnt get: this woman is a speech-making revolutionary! Just as Reagan had brought a new style of conversational informality to politicsalong with a light touchPalen has restored it and has added a fascinating new touch. You dont realize how both Reagan and Palin have changed the style of political speaking until you look at the old clips of politicians. FDRs public speeches (excluding the brilliantly conversational fireside chats delivered in the Blue Room with no audience present, just radio engineers) were all bombast, orations which owed its allegiance to the late 19th century (notably Bryan). The same with Truman, Ike, JFK
JFK: Remember Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty? Beautiful words but oracular, hearkening back to Bryan.
These all echoed the 19th centurys Bryan: LBJ (excessively so), Nixon (heavily so), Ford (ponderously so), Carter (boringly so), G.H.W. Bush (mechanically so), Clinton (unendingly so), George W. Bush (largely unimaginatively so). All 19th century-indebted. That same style carries over to the U.S. Senate of today. The senators Ive heard and admired for speaking styleHumphrey, Dirksen, Simon (but only as an orator), Ted Kennedy et alall owe their flavor to old 19th century orations. John McCain is resolutely 19th century as a speaker. And the epitome of the 19th century boffo, expansive, almost a caricature of pompous Senator Claghorn is Joe Biden. Hes so out of date next to Palin who is of this era, he seemed to be almost embarrassing.
To continue: Now when you got to Reagan, you realized he had abandoned the old 19th century ponderousness and rarely raised his voice (notable exception: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!). Reagans most notable speech as president (to my mind) was his remarks at Pointe du Hoc, France commemorating the 40th anniversary of D-Day. There he signaled a break with the 19th century oratory. He spoke conversationally like the radio actor he was. Remember? His voice was soft. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs.
Winding up this second point: Biden was good, the emblematic 19th century senatorial orator. Against another 19th century figment he might have won the debate. But he lost it to a woman who applied not just Reagans conversational style but her own 21st century youthful cadence which even a Reagan couldnt have been expected to imitate. Palin has brought back the Reagan conversational tone but added something of her ownwhich is the next point.
Third, Palins style is contained in the youth and down-home twang (yes I heard a twang: does Alaskans have a twang or is it unaccountably western or midwestern?). Remember how she acknowledged the presence of her Dad in the audience with a self-confident wink? Notice how she drops her ings? She connected overwhelmingly with her audience as Frank Luntzs focus group later showed. In essence, no other reasonable choice that McCain had for vice president Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal could have done it like Palen.
My prediction is that her victory will not be recognized by the liberal media or intelligentsia but they know she has won. Therefore she will continue to be their target until November 4.
Now what has to happen now is this: The House will have to pass the rescue package. It should calm if not subordinate the markets. The long nightmare on the economy may subside for the campaign to continue on its normal basis.
Which means that since Palin has redeemed herself from the unjust attacks from those who were appalled at the Katie Couric-Charlie Gibson interviews she will continue to be herself will surround herself with a new staff which will understand her homey jargon and the campaign will continue apace even approaching the possibility renewed that this thing can be turned around.