That's not what I am here to talk about, I am here to talk about language. Watching these pundits, effectively for the first time during this election, a few things stand out for me. Republican pundits tend to talk in terms of 'battlegrounds' and 'ground to cover' (and Anderson Cooper seems to emulate that to look neutral instead of like a spoiled rich kid with a bias) while a Democrat pundit just used the term 'political physics'.
Language fascinates me because its precision should make it more transparent but its colloquial nature makes it opaque. While George Bush was talking about a War On Terror he still used the term 'battle' in Iraq, for example. His opponents instead talked about being in multiple wars. Both sides were choosing their terms specifically.
Who came up with a 'War on Cancer'? Not Republicans, though they came up with a War on Drugs. Military metaphors abound. George Orwell in Politics and The English Language outlined two rules I certainly live by: Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print; and Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
War analogies and metaphors would certainly be covered in the first and I was aghast to hear a pundit use the term 'political physics', in violation of the second, regarding what Democrats might do with an overwhelming majority and a President in the same party. A Republican pundit speculated it would be a terrific orgy of spending while the Democrat said the political physics did not allow that. Obviously it makes no sense in language but colloquially we get what he means - some law of the physical univere would prevent them from spending a lot of money. Which makes no sense unless you are a political pundit.
We see biology get bastardized all the time, what with 'evolution' and 'theory' and 'junk DNA' thrown around with reckless abandon but, hey, that's biology. When people start using physics metaphors I have to draw a line. It isn't just there - words like 'science' , 'values', 'progressive' and even 'equality' have what we can call private definitions, so they are mostly meaningless.
David Houle, our future thought columnist, was in California a few weeks ago. While we dined on Burger King (because, you know, I take care of our writers just that well) I noted that while we watched the McCain-Obama debate that evening, conversation ceased when Obama spoke but we chattered away when McCain talked, mostly about how badly McCain spoke. He loved Obama, to a point where he seemed to have lost his mathematical senses, predicting a 53% popular vote for Obama due to the power of his speech. Language had a different sort of power when wielded by Obama, he believed. I saw a guy who spoke well but really wasn't all that different from McCain - or Bush, for that matter, though his zealots must say that is not so.
It was an interesting concept. I predicted an Obama win also, but 51% and 350 electoral votes. But I was not as enchanted with Obama's speech. We'll have to see if I end up able to beat out the best future thinker I know. It will certainly say a lot about the power of language if I lose.
One prediction I can make with certainty, and without being a future thought guy - the same people who said they disliked the country in 2000 and 2004 will talk about 'coming together' now that their guy won. And they will think they are being magnanimous. If only we knew why 'coming together' means something different when you are the winner.