The Equanimist

On the Art of Power Consolidation: considering language on the campaign trail

Posted in Language, Politics by equanimist on November 4, 2008

I begin to think that politics and voting likewise have become the art of power consolidation.

Modern US politicians have appropriated language to stir powerful emotions and in so doing (1) imply that they are the opposite of whatever they trash, (2) build trust, (3) emotionalize susceptible constituents against the other guy and (4) justify policies of power consolidation.

So-called “conservative” constituents on the “right”, for example, conflate socialism and fascism (probably because the Nazis had the audacity to call themselves National Socialists and nobody challenged the language that they used to define themselves.) These same “right”-wing “conservatives” conflate the philosophy of Marx with the rule of Stalin.

When Barack Obama talks about “spreading wealth” it sounds like socialism. Ergo, he sounds like a fascist because fascism and collectivism are part and parcel. When Sarah Palin draws a connection between Sen. Obama and socialism and Marx, the “conservative” “right”-wing knows what she means. Moreover, they must feel validated. (That’s what they were thinking!) Validation furnishes Gov. Palin with additional credibility establishing improved trust. Repetition rouses the rabble. And, in the coup de grace, these particular conflations lend themselves to justification of power consolidation itself (a singularly un-American public policy). If it’s wrong to collectivize then it’s right to capitalize. If it’s wrong to redistribute wealth then it’s right to concentrate it. And so forth.

Delineation, indoctrination, motivation and justification accomplished.

The tactic cuts both ways. This happens to be a particularly elegant example but, Barack Obama uses terms like “spreading wealth” to the same ends. Substitute “Europeans” for “Nazis”, “Lennon” for “Stalin”, “left” for “right”, and so on. It will amount to about the same thing.

I suspect that campaigning and voting then solidify support among voters. After all, when the Electoral College (or the Supreme Court) will choose the next President, why campaign? Why vote? Advocacy enhances loyalty: Indoctrinating others effects ownership of the party line!

And, the result is an extraordinary consolidation of power.

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