Kinfolk, We Must Become Grammarians

Recently, as we all know by now, a certain duck hunter caused a bit of a kerfluffle with certain remarks regarding sexual orientation. I do not think there is a need for my thoughts on the subject of the remarks themselves.

However, said remarks are an occasion for me to remark upon something I’ve noticed among my conservative kin–namely, an inability to remember that one of our biggest talking points–that the mainstream media hates our guts–is true. I’ll go a step further and say that most of the internet, due to being largely inhabited by twenty-to-thirty year old members of the upper middle class and intelligentsia, also hates our guts and wants us gone. Yesterday, if possible.

Well, yes, but why is this new information? Here’s why: People in conservative circles don’t talk like this is true, because true things keep being said in ways that are fantastically dumb. Not that some things that are just genuinely dumb don’t get said by conservatives (I’m looking at you, the candidate from Missouri), but there have been multiple occasions where a true thing was said…poorly.

Consider, for example, Mitt Romney’s infamous 47% quote. What he was trying to say, that there is a portion of the population that is dependent on government spending, provides very little to society in  return, and does not pay into the system much of anything, and are therefore unlikely to vote for someone planning on cutting the largesse from Uncle Sam, was true. Unfortunately for the candidate from Massachusetts, he managed to say it in such a way that managed to completely dismiss massive swathes of folks who don’t fit all, two, or even one of the above statements.

Consider also the unfortunate case of Richard Mourdoch of Indiana, who went down to defeat based on two things: A state Republican party that couldn’t accept that their candidate had lost, as well as some unfortunately worded remarks on pregnancy as a result of rape (one of the biggest sticks used by the left to beat the anti-abortion movement, by the way), made only two weeks before the election. Said remarks were phrased in such a way as to be easily soundbited to make it sound Mourdock thought sexual assault was the will of God, or some such nonsense.

Now, what is my point here? Simple: for all of my conservative friends who may become speechwriters, political candidates (and, by the way, this is also good for liberals as well), do not speak in terms that could be easily soundbited when discussing controversial issues.

For example: Any Republican candidate in a close race will be asked his or her position on abortion–especially if it’s a he. If he should say that he is against it, he will then be asked if he supports exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother. The important thing here is to never mention a one-word response, such as yes, or no, or maybe, in the response, as well as to use trigger words or phrases that can be seize upon. Rather, respond in such and such a form: To abort a child produced under such circumstances is to pile injustice upon injustice. This may be phrased however you like.

Take note of that sentence: it can be paraphrased and twisted thereby. But it’s a lot more difficult to twist that than using the words “God” and “will” in relationship to sexual assault.

Now, here’s the other thing. Unlike most politician-speak, this does not obfuscate your meaning at all, but instead, makes it a lot more difficult for someone to obfuscate your meaning in order to make you look like a massive jerk. The hyper-partisans will, of course, scream and squawk–but the middle won’t freak out nearly as bad as they would otherwise.

Speechwriting is both harder and easier. Harder because it doesn’t allow you to address a question, easier because you have a script (have a mental one prepared for impromptu occasions). Have English majors diagram your sentence to figure out the soundbite possibilities. If you can’t say something a certain way without offering such, say it in another way.

Now, here’s the thing. Conservatives shouldn’t have to do this. But we must, because of the issues that I mentioned above. We have three choices: we can complain, whine, and have the entitlement mentality we so decry; we can withdraw and let the foe win; or we can do the best we can with what we got.

I know it’s not easy–I mean, I’m pretty sure I’ve said some things on this blog that could get me in trouble if quoted out of context. But, for those who will be politicians, making decisions that affect the lives of thousands if not millions of people, there is a greater responsibility. Live up to it.

For all our sakes.

‘Til next time,

Lowell Van Ness


2 thoughts on “Kinfolk, We Must Become Grammarians

  1. Though not a conservative myself, I wholeheartedly applaud your support of clarity when expressing opinions and ideas. Verbal ineptitude, impolite or excessively scatological speech, and non-answer answers cause unnecessary conflicts and obscure the facts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s