Politics, Uncategorized

Donald Trump and George Orwell Walk into a Bar…

Most liberal arts majors are familiar with the essay “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell. For those who haven’t read it, here’s the link to the short essay here. It’s not that long but for those who don’t want to read… Here are some of the key rules he discussed in his short essay.

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Orwell thought complexity and obtuse language equated to smoke and mirrors, hiding the reader or listener from the real point at hand. “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.” His essay was an attempt to provide a set of guidelines to increase the accessibility of  topics discussed in political discourse.

As an undergrad, I was a total champion of Orwell and his teachings. I thought academic writing was too complex, policy wonks used technical jargon to keep their jobs, and simplicity was the ultimate measure of intelligence. In all honesty, a majority of my resentment for complexity and complicated stemmed from my hatred of the unreasonably long research papers I had to read and write…But I digress. In theory, yes, less is more in the political sphere, but what we’ve seen in recent years is the deliberate use of simplistic thoughts and talking points to create false and sometimes dangerous arguments for political benefit.

To be clear, both sides of the political isle use simplistic frameworks, analogies, plain talking points, and basic language to shape and frame their positions. This election cycle, we’re exposed to a great case study of how simple language can be detrimental to political discourse.

Exhibit A:

At 4:02- Donald Trump begins to discuss one of the central parts of his immigration policy…building a wall between Mexico and the Southern Boarder of the United States. Politics and practicality aside, listen for the words he uses. “We’re going to build a big wall… and its going to be beautiful.” Using Orwell’s set of rules, this passes for great rhetoric. He uses short and straight to the point words to define that he’s building a wall. Its going to be a big wall and it will be beautiful. From a listeners point of view, it leaves a lot to interpretation but it also assures the listener that it will cover their requirements… Big and beautiful. Take a step back for a moment at the implications. How many states does the wall go through? What is its height? How beautiful are we talking about here? I used this as an elementary example of Mr. Trumps word selection in policy and his speech. They are simple words but they leave leeway for creativity when put in the position to execute.

 

Exhibit B:

Bernie Sanders is known for his progressive politics and hard line stance on Wall Street. Politics aside…Listen to around 1:18…

“We bailed out Wall Street”

A couple of things to think about here. Who are Mr. and Mrs Street and why did they name their child Wall? Is wall street an established entity? If so, can we go talk to them about how they feel about being bailed out? The truth of the matter is that Wall Street and similar labels simplify the complexity of parties involved and the outcomes. Labels make it easier to vilify people or groups and create an us vs them mentality. We all know its way more complicated than we bailed out “Wall Street” but we allow and celebrate rhetoric that makes us feel like we are on the “right” side.

 

I could go on and on. There’s a lot of even better examples that happen everyday on CNN, MSNBC and Fox. We do ourselves a disservice by allowing elected officials (or those aspiring for it) to simplify complex issues so it can fit into sound bite or to hide the actual challenges involved. If Orwell is one extreme on a continuum and politicians today are all the way on the other end, I’m sure everyone would agree we need to move toward the middle ground where we respect the complexity of the issues we face.

Current Events, Politics

White House 2012 Guide pt 1: For Republicans

The play for the white house in 2012

Keep these stats in mind:

  • Congress ranks last among 16 other institutions  in the “2010 Confidence in Institutions” poll. 11 percent of respondents gave have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress.  Gallup Poll
  • The presidency ranks 7th with 36 percent.
  • Military is ranked first with 76 percent

Lets assume a couple of things. (Follow me here…some of these assumptions are basic but there’s a reason for laying it out like this.) Lets assume that November 2010 comes around and republicans win back seats in the house and the senate. The public is unsatisfied with the party in power in congress and its safe to assume that the democrats will lose seats. Republicans, like it or not, will have to acknowledge the tea party as a legitimate force to be reckoned with and if they have any intention at the white house in 2012, coöperation is necessary. Lets also assume that President Obama intends to run for a second term in 2012. Most incumbent presidents do. Also:

  • Liberals will vote for democratic candidate because they fundamentally disagree with Republicans
  • Conservatives will vote for republican candidate because they fundamentally disagree with democrats
  • 2012 presidential election will primarily be decided by moderates on both sides and independents. (DUH)

So the main question is how do you get the fringe moderates on both sides and independents to vote for a republican candidate for 2012? Here’s what we can assume from the Gallup poll:

  1. The voting public lacks confidence in Congress. A presidential candidate that comes from congress will not be able to align themselves with the anti-establishment voting electorate (Large group which include independents, moderates and angered democrats)
  2. They are not looking to vote for an incumbent president, especially if ECONOMY does not get better.
  3. A presidential candidate with substantial military ties would be enticing to moderates and independents.

Most voters will be looking for someone who is anti-Washington. Why not look for a high-ranking military officer to be a presidential candidate?  Someone with experience in the military and minor experience with D.C politics would have the upper hand in an election based on the confidence polls. Historically, conflicts elevated many officers into the office of the president (Harry S. Truman, Theodore Roosevelt…etc)  Who will be the product of the first Gulf, second Gulf and Afghanistan wars? This is an ample opportunity for a military candidate on the republican ticket. Instead of going with an establishment candidate and splitting the tea party votes, there’s a chance you could have both republican votes and tea party votes while capturing moderate votes too.

Of course, it’s just August 2010.  A lot of things could change before the next presidential cycle. If the economy recovers, which includes the unemployment rate decreasing, the party in charge reaps the benefits and republicans will lose 2012 presidency. The tea party could go mainstream and produce a presidential candidate with the ability to catch moderates and independents. I highly doubt that. Most likely, the republicans will find a rough nose governor to head the ticket.  I guess we can only wait and see.

Current Events, Politics, Self-Revelation

Learn by doing

I wonder why all my jokes always turn into serious conversations.

I was joking around with my brothers  the other day about a need for “president school” . In theory, it would be a school that prepared presidential candidates for the presidency. Every candidate would have to go through it to be able to accept their party’s nomination. Implications aside, it was a pretty funny conversation. Ideas of course topics stretched from diplomacy to family management. I could imagine it now….. presidential readiness certificate.  We laughed about the prospect for a while but inherent in the conversation was where the knowledge to become president comes from. How do you gauge someone as a qualified candidate?

The presidency is a very complex place to start this conversation from. We shifted our focus from being the president to things that you can only learn how to do by doing or being. My brother started off with the most simple question. He asked me how I learned how to be an effective brother. I learned how to be a good brother by watching other brother relationships. I watched how my father interacted with my uncles and aunts, how my cousin’s interacted with their siblings, and watched how my friends interacted with their brothers and sisters.  Secondly, I was in the place to be a brother for a long enough time that I learned what works and what doesn’t. The same goes for a father, mother, sister and brother. We learn from others but most of it is a work in progress. You can never really teach people how to be effective at something. You can only teach certain skills that will help people in these situations learn as fast as possible.

So if I’m picking a list of presidential list of guidelines that I have to draw from every candidate to decide whether they are capable or not:

(Note: These guidelines not exhaustive and don’t bear much weight independent of the list.)

  1. Previous experience in executive roles. Yes the presidency is unique in its challenges but the idea of being in command and responsible for an organization larger than yourself is a skill set that can only be taught by being in a role where it was required. Anything from being a general, governor, representative, senator, CEO, diplomat, or a mayor of a large city is valid. Generally, any where that required you to answer to a large group of people.
  2. Steep Learning Curve. A candidate must possess the ability to understand large amounts of information in a short amount of time  and apply it to current problems. Presidents will face challenges for which they know nothing about. While its understood that you can’t know everything about everything, you have to make decisions like you do. (most of the time will you have the help of experts and others but it comes down to the president)
  3. Empathy and understanding. As president, you are required to manage relationships on multiple levels. (state to state, people to government, etc.) I’d like to know that you can manage these relationships effectively which will probably increase the success of your presidency. Some may say that looking into a presidential candidates life is out-of-bounds but it is important to see how they managed relationships.
  4. Approach life as a life long student. My uncle always use to tell me , ” A wise man thinks himself as a fool while a fool thinks himself a wise man.” Continue to learn and approach the presidency as a student on a scholarship that requires a 4.0 and your grades are checked daily. This is an outlook on life that you can tell whether someone has or not just by listening to them talk.

Okay, obviously I left some things out. Also, it is often difficult to display some of these things during a presidential election because the electorate may look at some of these qualities as weak, but if these are characteristics that every president should have.