Sunday, August 24, 2008

Public Speaking

It is fashionable about this time for commentators to complain that political conventions have lost their function. With nominations decided months in advance, conventions are said to be little more than four night political advertisements—as if telling citizens how they propose to govern is of no greater value than selling cars or toothpaste.
Even in this age of television, blogs and text messages, the speech remains the most basic element of campaigning and governing—just as it was in the age of Pericles. The fundamental political act in politics is standing in front of people and speaking. This is true whether the group is a small gathering in a neighbor's living room or 75,000 in a football stadium.
This of course offends the instincts of political commentators, who see their job as explaining politicians to the public. In this view, politicians are so devious in their use of the English language that professionals must be called in to deconstruct or translate their arcane utterances for our untrained ears.
The Pew Research Center published a poll last week that found that 59 percent of Americans will be tuning in the Democratic convention this week, despite the dismissive comments from those who would have us believe it’s all a waste of air time.

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