Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I keep no open comments section on this blog.  They tend to be a mixed bag.  But there is feedback via email and these are often helpful.  I have been told that by evoking rhetoric in the previous post I was wading into old and complicated discussions of "good" vs. "bad" rhetoric

But both are inescapable. I recently posted re Daniel Kahneman's new book which places rhetoric alongside our penchant for lazy "System 1" thinking.  Perhaps the r-word has to be replaced or modified.

Think about Martin Luther King, Jr.  His impact was profound, in part because of his skilled use of rhetoric.  He changed people and history.  He successfully reminded many white Americans that they were not living up to their own cherished values.  He never challanged American values.  To the contrary, he challenged people to rise to their own values.  It worked.  In the current phrasing, King managed to be a game-changer (obviously for the better).

In last Sunday's NY Times, Ross Douthat wrote about the mediocrities who run for office in the U.S. (notably for President).  In today's WSJ, Bret Stephens writes "The GOP Deserves to Lose" (their #1 downloaded when last I checked).

MLK's do not come along often.  But nothing is gained by promising to stand tall for safe nothings.  Most people easily sense it when candidates simply sample from the old cafeteria of cliches.  This works with the candidate's "base", but it does nothing beyond the base.