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Commentary on the rhetoric of one bit of Biden's acceptance speech

Craig234

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Biden opened his speech with something that sounds like generic political speaking, so much that it's almost invisible in defying the listener to pay attention to it:

"Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light, not of the darkness. It's time for us, for We the People, to come together."

Instead, I'd like to consider what the language is saying.

"Here and now": a sort of empty rhetorical phrase to increase the listener's attention, and make the message sound more important, without saying anything. "Waitress, I'd like to order a cheeseburger." "Waitress, here and now, I'd like to order a cheeseburger". Sounds more historic.

"I give you my word". This is image building, making the politician sound like a thoughtful, principled, person you can count on, who thinks that "word" is a critically important thing with the trust it's built on. It can be thrown around a lot. "I'll bring milk on the way home." "I give you my word, I'll bring milk on the way home." 'Giving his word' is implicit in the fact he's giving a speech. But it makes it sound like he really cares. You can TRUST him.

"If you entrust me with the presidency" - pretty generic candidate phrase, painting the picture that boy oh boy does he know HE works for YOU, he humbly recognizes that he is being honored with your trust and will do his darndest to respect that. Sounds a lot better than "I'm about to be the most powerful person in the world! Politically of course, we all know money really rules."

Leaders have used false modesty as long as their have been rulers, I suspect, at LEAST as far back as the Roman emperors.

"I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. "

Think about just how empty that phrase is. What does it even mean, he will 'draw on' the public?

It's an empty, yet rhetorically effective, phrase that is really just gushing, 'you know the things you don't like people do? I'm against that. And you know the things you like that people do? I'm for that. So take the emotions you feel of hate, disgust, disappointment about some ways people act, and the good feelings you get from others, and let me get your vote by claiming the feelings for myself."

And if that was too specific, not vapid enough, he goes full vapid with the language of "I will be an ally of the light, not of the darkness." It doesn't get much more generic political talk than that. It's Star Wars caliber. It basically means nothing, but again, tries to borrow on the account of people not liking dark so much, and liking light better.

"It's time for us"

More of the "Here and now" type flourish.

"for We the People"

You know those feelings or patriotism and awe you feel about the founding phrase "We, the people"? Let me borrow on that, too. "We the people" = Joe Biden, "We the people" = Joe Biden, ya, he's like the founding fathers, if you like "We the people" and the founding of the country, you like Joe Biden.

"to come together."

It's like a vapid phrase reunion. Even the Beatles knew the appeal of the phrase "come together", which was, in fact, a song for written to be the theme song for a presidential political campaign (of Timothy Leary). Again, it appeals to people's vague good feelings about the people of the country 'coming together'. For something.

At least while it's usually used for no particular reason but the general appeal, this time it fits the messaging about running against the great divider.

1/2
 

Craig234

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Now, my bigger issue with the text above isn't the text, it's the context.

What a presidency is really largely about are real and hard choices about who gets what. Do you support more money for the big military contractors? Do you support universal healthcare? Do you support the Green New Deal? It's really about raise this rate 1% and cut that one 1%, cut billions here and put billions there. It's about interest groups.

But voters don't seem to want to hear a lot about what the presidency will really do. Which makes them suckers for anyone who wants to take advantage of that, which is almost every presidential candidate.

When I watch this process, I think of an old folk singer, who says to the audience, "us coming together to listen to these folk songs, we can change the world." It makes them feel good; and it seems like nonsense. Like it's delusional in the face of actual, powerful, forces.

Which isn't to criticize the music, and to say it isn't fine to listen to and help people care about issues, but no, it's not likely to really address powerful forces.

What does this ritual of demanding the presidential candidate talk about 'shining city on a hill' and 'Here and now I give you my word' and 'I will ally with the light' and 'come together' empty phrase instead of the more real issues do?

I think it creates cynicism, and makes the people less powerful. Ya, there's another president, light, together, got it. Meanwhile, the deficit and inequality are up more.'

Such metaphorical rhetoric has some place. But it's become overly used. This isn't JFK using a metaphor backed up by hard work on important issues, it's Reagan's 'shining city on a hill' while he actually skyrockets the debt, cuts spending on the American people for important things, and increases spending for Latin American death squads.

It's like a restaurant serving the menu, which it makes very attractive and with lots of flowery words, the actual meal experience. You sit down, are elegantly handed a beautiful menu by a waiter in a tuxedo, and see the descriptions of amazing dishes, feel they sound great, and then walk out after paying the bill. No food.

And then, the voters 'pick sides', and nearly everything 'their side' does is right, and the 'other side' is wrong. Big PR operations say so. Meanwhile, the real issues, the money, are operating without much voter visibility or input.

It's that larger context I reach to more about the quote above. Not what it says as much as that it's about empty rhetoric, more than real issues. It's advertising, and the voters are being 'sold', the price they pay being their vote. And it's not about 'actual issues' as much as emotion. See that flag? Make you feel good? That's what you get for your vote.

And frankly, it's pretty dysfunctional, the 'pretend democracy' we've morphed to.

People can criticize 'identity politics' as being less than politics should be, about important issues - but it's hard to deny it can seem more real than the empty phrase about 'coming together'. At least it's 'something'.

The speech served its purpose. It checks the box for the candidate to be ok to vote for, it completes a requirement to look presidential. But how useless is that ritual, while the candidate sings the old folk song, and the audience gets teary about how important it is. Until after the election, when really policies are done, until the next election, and we drag the emotion-laden phrases out to repeat.

2/2
 

Unitedwestand13

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The great Mario Cuomo famously said politicians campagin in poetry, but govern in prose.

Personally I prefer the idealistic vision of Biden’s rhetoric then the cynicism that is destroying our people’s faith in government institutions
 

Redwing

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Biden is an empty suit. The entire democrat platform is get rid of Trump. Not a word mentioned about border security, cities all over America ablaze in those pesky democrat run cities, and out of control government spending.
The Trump presidency really has them in a dither. His second term ought to be a hoot.
 

Craig234

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The great Mario Cuomo famously said politicians campagin in poetry, but govern in prose.

I'm not familiar much with the 'great Mario Cuomo', but it was one observation on the issue that has a point.

Personally I prefer the idealistic vision of Biden’s rhetoric then the cynicism that is destroying our people’s faith in government institutions

That's a false choice. I hesitate to agree it's even 'idealistic'. 'Idealistic' is JFK telling the nation, sure, we've had racist laws for a century, but we can end them, with long odds against his success. The word vapid seems closer to this. The funny thing is, though, it's not entirely pointless. trump probably does represent 'the dark' more than any president if not federal politician in history.
 

Unitedwestand13

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I'm not familiar much with the 'great Mario Cuomo', but it was one observation on the issue that has a point.



That's a false choice. I hesitate to agree it's even 'idealistic'. 'Idealistic' is JFK telling the nation, sure, we've had racist laws for a century, but we can end them, with long odds against his success. The word vapid seems closer to this. The funny thing is, though, it's not entirely pointless. trump probably does represent 'the dark' more than any president if not federal politician in history.


What does the country stand for? What does it mean to be “American”? What are the ideals that this country value and hold as precious? The past four years have attacked the very ideals we as country hold dear, and most nights I don’t know what this country stands for.

Is trying to find something to believe in “vapid”?
 

Grandpappy

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Biden is an empty suit. The entire democrat platform is get rid of Trump. Not a word mentioned about border security, cities all over America ablaze in those pesky democrat run cities, and out of control government spending.
The Trump presidency really has them in a dither. His second term ought to be a hoot.

You aren't supposed to mention any problems or God forbid, any fixes. (that would actually work, anyway) Just blame everything on Trump. C'mon man......Are you a junky or something? :lamo
 

Craig234

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What does the country stand for? What does it mean to be “American”? What are the ideals that this country value and hold as precious? The past four years have attacked the very ideals we as country hold dear, and most nights I don’t know what this country stands for.

Is trying to find something to believe in “vapid”?

Your questions are right, but if you find answers in vapid phrases, I don't think you have found much.

Trying to find the answers is not vapid at all; but some vapid phrases offered to you are, and why you have the hard time at night, I suspect. I sympathize with your trying to find better values - this presidency has revealed a lot of ugliness in the country, and there are no easy fixes, just easy improvements, especially votinhg out the toxic guy.
 

ultmd

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Biden is an empty suit. The entire democrat platform is get rid of Trump. Not a word mentioned about border security, cities all over America ablaze in those pesky democrat run cities, and out of control government spending.

Ignorant comments, Redwing.

  • -the Democratic Platform? You clearly haven't read a word of the Democratic Party platform.
  • -Border Security: Border crossings were at a 50 year low BEFORE Trump assumed the office. They actually INCREASED under Trump.
  • -"cities all over America ablaze"??. You do understand that all of the protests and unrest you're talking about have happened in TRUMP'S AMERICA, don't you? You do realize that Trump's own FBI has reported that virtually EVERY arson incident over the last several months has been attributed to WHITE NATIONALISTS, not #BLM protesters, don't you?
  • -GOVERNMENT SPENDING? You do realize that the deficit and debt have skyrocketed under Trump (who inherited a strong, growing economic expansion), don't you? You do realize that Government spending ALWAYS increases more under GOP Presidents, than under Democratic presidents, don't you?

Btw, what exactly is the Trump platform?
  • Where is that Health Care plan to replace Obamacare that Trump keep promising us? Last time he promised, he said it would be coming out in 2 weeks. That's was late July. What happened? Where's Trump's plan to address COVID-19?
  • Where's Trump's plan to address infrastructure?
  • Where's Trump's immigration plan?
  • Where's Trump's plan for....ANYTHING?
  • Where is the GOP Platform?


The Trump presidency really has them in a dither. His second term ought to be a hoot

Not as much as your reaction when he loses and is frog-marched out of the White House on Jan 20, 2021.
 

Paradoxical

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Biden is an empty suit. The entire democrat platform is get rid of Trump. Not a word mentioned about border security, cities all over America ablaze in those pesky democrat run cities, and out of control government spending.
The Trump presidency really has them in a dither. His second term ought to be a hoot.

If Biden wins, get ready for the biggest depression in the entire history of the world and people being depressed. He an Kamala couldn't excite two teenagers in heat.
 

Luckyone

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Biden opened his speech with something that sounds like generic political speaking, so much that it's almost invisible in defying the listener to pay attention to it:



Instead, I'd like to consider what the language is saying.

"Here and now": a sort of empty rhetorical phrase to increase the listener's attention, and make the message sound more important, without saying anything. "Waitress, I'd like to order a cheeseburger." "Waitress, here and now, I'd like to order a cheeseburger". Sounds more historic.

"I give you my word". This is image building, making the politician sound like a thoughtful, principled, person you can count on, who thinks that "word" is a critically important thing with the trust it's built on. It can be thrown around a lot. "I'll bring milk on the way home." "I give you my word, I'll bring milk on the way home." 'Giving his word' is implicit in the fact he's giving a speech. But it makes it sound like he really cares. You can TRUST him.

"If you entrust me with the presidency" - pretty generic candidate phrase, painting the picture that boy oh boy does he know HE works for YOU, he humbly recognizes that he is being honored with your trust and will do his darndest to respect that. Sounds a lot better than "I'm about to be the most powerful person in the world! Politically of course, we all know money really rules."

Leaders have used false modesty as long as their have been rulers, I suspect, at LEAST as far back as the Roman emperors.

"I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. "

Think about just how empty that phrase is. What does it even mean, he will 'draw on' the public?

It's an empty, yet rhetorically effective, phrase that is really just gushing, 'you know the things you don't like people do? I'm against that. And you know the things you like that people do? I'm for that. So take the emotions you feel of hate, disgust, disappointment about some ways people act, and the good feelings you get from others, and let me get your vote by claiming the feelings for myself."

And if that was too specific, not vapid enough, he goes full vapid with the language of "I will be an ally of the light, not of the darkness." It doesn't get much more generic political talk than that. It's Star Wars caliber. It basically means nothing, but again, tries to borrow on the account of people not liking dark so much, and liking light better.

"It's time for us"

More of the "Here and now" type flourish.

"for We the People"

You know those feelings or patriotism and awe you feel about the founding phrase "We, the people"? Let me borrow on that, too. "We the people" = Joe Biden, "We the people" = Joe Biden, ya, he's like the founding fathers, if you like "We the people" and the founding of the country, you like Joe Biden.

"to come together."

It's like a vapid phrase reunion. Even the Beatles knew the appeal of the phrase "come together", which was, in fact, a song for written to be the theme song for a presidential political campaign (of Timothy Leary). Again, it appeals to people's vague good feelings about the people of the country 'coming together'. For something.

At least while it's usually used for no particular reason but the general appeal, this time it fits the messaging about running against the great divider.

1/2

One of the problems that exist now in the 2020's is that words have lost their value. Speech writing is not as important as it was in the past. Trump has been the cause of words losing most (if not all) of their value. Lies are so prevalent and now accepted, that anyone can say anything and it won't be believed. The old statement about "My word is my bond" has lost all value.

This has also led to people hearing what they want to hear and not what is being said.

WhatIsaidwhatImeant.jpg

WhatIsaidwhatImeant1.jpg
 

Unitedwestand13

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Your questions are right, but if you find answers in vapid phrases, I don't think you have found much.

Trying to find the answers is not vapid at all; but some vapid phrases offered to you are, and why you have the hard time at night, I suspect. I sympathize with your trying to find better values - this presidency has revealed a lot of ugliness in the country, and there are no easy fixes, just easy improvements, especially votinhg out the toxic guy.

We have to restore faith in the institutions of government, that government can work for the people, prevent those with power from abusing their power in order to enrich themselves. End corruption, punish injustice.

So I ask again “what should America stand for?”
 

Craig234

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We have to restore faith in the institutions of government, that government can work for the people, prevent those with power from abusing their power in order to enrich themselves. End corruption, punish injustice.

So I ask again “what should America stand for?”

I'm going to give you some bad news. The battle is a lot harder than I think you think it is.

There is a concept that has dominated human history of tyranny. Of course it's usually a matter of degree, but the principle is the same. Society is organized into a few powerful, who require everyone to largely serve their interests. Whether it's a King collecting taxes for his own use, or corporations employing people to create wealth for their owners, there are forces trying to 'take as much as they can'.

America at its core is an attempt to fight that tyranny, to put the people in charge. It has always fallen short of that, and it has always had the same war, with forces doing the same things. Louis Brandeis said a century ago, " a society can have great concentration of wealth, or it can have democracy, but ut cannot have both." They are in conflict. Americans are used to thinking of OTHER countries having that tyranny. Now it's here.

When that conflict is more balanced, the public largely think that's better. In the FDR era of about 1933-1969, there was less concentration of wealth and more democracy. Since then, there has been ever-increasing concentration of wealth and less democracy. Our 'democracy' is now made of citizens who are hugely manipulated by billions of dollars spent on an industry to shape their opinions - not exactly 'in charge', except still having a free vote of a very limited choice of candidate all of whom have to win in a system designed to give money a huge say in who can get nominated.

In other words, there are powerful forces opposing the things you said, which I agree with. They do things like search for and exploit any differences between groups in order to 'divide and conquer' and keep the public from uniting to push for FDR-like policies. I think that is what America is about; our plutocracy is more 'America in name only'.
 

Unitedwestand13

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I'm going to give you some bad news. The battle is a lot harder than I think you think it is.

There is a concept that has dominated human history of tyranny. Of course it's usually a matter of degree, but the principle is the same. Society is organized into a few powerful, who require everyone to largely serve their interests. Whether it's a King collecting taxes for his own use, or corporations employing people to create wealth for their owners, there are forces trying to 'take as much as they can'.

America at its core is an attempt to fight that tyranny, to put the people in charge. It has always fallen short of that, and it has always had the same war, with forces doing the same things. Louis Brandeis said a century ago, " a society can have great concentration of wealth, or it can have democracy, but ut cannot have both." They are in conflict. Americans are used to thinking of OTHER countries having that tyranny. Now it's here.

When that conflict is more balanced, the public largely think that's better. In the FDR era of about 1933-1969, there was less concentration of wealth and more democracy. Since then, there has been ever-increasing concentration of wealth and less democracy. Our 'democracy' is now made of citizens who are hugely manipulated by billions of dollars spent on an industry to shape their opinions - not exactly 'in charge', except still having a free vote of a very limited choice of candidate all of whom have to win in a system designed to give money a huge say in who can get nominated.

In other words, there are powerful forces opposing the things you said, which I agree with. They do things like search for and exploit any differences between groups in order to 'divide and conquer' and keep the public from uniting to push for FDR-like policies. I think that is what America is about; our plutocracy is more 'America in name only'.

So no one in politics actually gets into politics because of a genuine belief of fullfilling a public service.

I don’t like the current system, but I at least try to believe that we are a democratic country

I have to believe that the system can change if we all work towards it. I know the faults of the current system, but the only way to fix the system is to actively be the change that you wish to see
 

Craig234

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So no one in politics actually gets into politics because of a genuine belief of fullfilling a public service.

I didn't say that. Discussion goes better when you don't misrepresent what the other person says.

I don’t like the current system, but I at least try to believe that we are a democratic country

And if the democracy is working very badly, do you want to be lied to about it?

I have to believe that the system can change if we all work towards it. I know the faults of the current system, but the only way to fix the system is to actively be the change that you wish to see

I support your intentions, but they can be a bit dangerous. We're not only a hell of a long way from all working towards democracy, there are powerful forces and billions of dollars at war against everyone else. There's a war on democracy, and very little army defending it.

If a change you want is for billionaires to have a smaller percent of wealth, you can't just 'do that'. I mean, if you had all the money in the country, you could do it. You don't.

What we need is a hard, long war, where people are educated and propaganda they are smothered in is debunked - an effort that has almost no resources against an army and billions. But it's what we need. And we aren't without defenses: you can look at commondreams.org, Mother Jones, and others for outstanding reporting today. But if only 5% do, 5% don't win elections and run the country.

You want good things, but it's a big war. I'm glad you are part of the army for democracy.
 

Redwing

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Ignorant comments, Redwing.

  • -the Democratic Platform? You clearly haven't read a word of the Democratic Party platform.
  • -Border Security: Border crossings were at a 50 year low BEFORE Trump assumed the office. They actually INCREASED under Trump.
  • -"cities all over America ablaze"??. You do understand that all of the protests and unrest you're talking about have happened in TRUMP'S AMERICA, don't you? You do realize that Trump's own FBI has reported that virtually EVERY arson incident over the last several months has been attributed to WHITE NATIONALISTS, not #BLM protesters, don't you?
  • -GOVERNMENT SPENDING? You do realize that the deficit and debt have skyrocketed under Trump (who inherited a strong, growing economic expansion), don't you? You do realize that Government spending ALWAYS increases more under GOP Presidents, than under Democratic presidents, don't you?

Btw, what exactly is the Trump platform?
  • Where is that Health Care plan to replace Obamacare that Trump keep promising us? Last time he promised, he said it would be coming out in 2 weeks. That's was late July. What happened? Where's Trump's plan to address COVID-19?
  • Where's Trump's plan to address infrastructure?
  • Where's Trump's immigration plan?
  • Where's Trump's plan for....ANYTHING?
  • Where is the GOP Platform?




Not as much as your reaction when he loses and is frog-marched out of the White House on Jan 20, 2021.

Everything I said went right over your head.
 
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