Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Owl of Minerva Flies at Dusk...

Its a truism with me that Great Age of Political Oratory is Behind Us. The power to persuade a nation as to a course or action or a particular policy has largely atrophied in the Age of the Soundbyte (where a great deal of rhetoric would be dismissed as mere heckling back in the day). Fifty years ago great speeches made whole careers, a happy talent for rhetoric was considered a key qualification for public office.
Not so much.
So its a little ironic that two of the best pulpit speechiers left in the game are both democrats and either former or incumbent US Presidents. I refer of course to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
They have contrasting styles to be sure...
With Bill Clinton it is all about creating a vast coherent energy field of pure intimacy "come here sit by me and I will tell thee a story" that is The Former President's most reliable schtick. The peculiar nature of his communion with his audiences literally inculcates the belief that he speaks to you and you alone.
If Clinton was a vocalist he'd be Elvis Presley softly resolutely crooning "Kentucky Rain" or perhaps in a more dramatic vein "Suspicious Minds".
President Obama on the other hand is an Apostle of Expansiveness and Optimism, speech last night to the DNC was a virtual blockbuster sequel to his 2004 Keynote in Boston.  Literally, Obama beckons his listeners to come to the Top of the Hill With Him and Behold The Vast and Glorious Vistas Before Us.  If Obama was himself a vocalist he'd be Louis Armstrong singing "Wonderful World", low and with boundless infectious confidence.
Now Trump on the other hand is very much a product of our degraded rhetorical times, a heckler whose syntax occasionally resembles pidgin english, his core go-to is always to incite in as few words as possible.
But lets also remember that talent for invective, so comforting to the perpetually aggrieved is what got him the GOP nomination so we dismiss it at our peril.
And I muse on in this fashion merely to point out the particular scope of the challenge for Hillary Clinton and her Acceptance Speech Tonight. She has to connect the dots on all the cliches and soundbytes, reassure, inspire but also reach even lower to commune with the audience & electorate within and without the convention center.
It is a reintroductory moment, programmed literally for making what is hoped to be an excellent second impression, it should not be squandered by any means.
Lastly the challenge for Secretary Clinton tonight is unusually acute because at least in the Democratic Party at this moment, the rhetorical bar is set high, good luck to her sez I.

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