Notes.LincolnKingObama

Notes.LincolnKingObama - [This is a draft of an Op-Ed piece...

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[This is a draft of an Op-Ed piece I submitted to the Los Angeles Times for publication in mid-January 2008. It was written in part as a response to critique of Obama for being “just words” and as a way of offering a celebration of MLK Jr. near the holiday in his honor. The essay makes references to various figures we will discuss in AMST 301, including Jefferson Smith and John Wayne and Abraham Lincoln.] Campaign 2008 : The Politics of Eloquence in the Shadow of Martin L. King, Jr. (and Lincoln and Jefferson Smith) Overmatched by Barack Obama’s eloquence, Hillary Clinton fought back after losing the Iowa primary by invoking one side of a deep, venerable tradition in America: a distrust of eloquence that has matched America’s own distrust of government. No sooner had Obama concluded his victory speech in the Iowa primary, a speech some compared to the eloquence of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., than Clinton was out on the campaign trail, calling upon voters not to be seduced by “words, no matter how beautifully delivered” and arguing that while campaigns may be conducted in poetry, we govern in prose. Ironically, however, after Clinton won the New Hampshire primary, she invoked another side of America’s complex relationship to eloquence and the word: she claimed that she had found her voice, and pundits ascribed her victory in New Hampshire to a makeover in her rhetorical style. Like Willie Stark in “All the King’s Men,” she jettisoned policy wonk lectures and began getting down with the people more in the style of America’s favorite talk show host--Oprah Winfrey—than in the style of America’s favorite action hero: John Wayne, a man who famously let actions not words speak for him. America is a country that has a long contradictory relationship to the power of the word. On the one hand, we claim we are a country originally forged, founded and then reconstructed by the word, and we trace the origin of our democratic tradition to that great transformation in classical Greece when the muscle-bound politics of the Homeric epic—the conquering of bodies by the sword--gave way to the conquering of minds by the word in forums of debate. On the other hand, we suspect eloquence as seduction and slick talk as the game of confidence men or a Tricky Dick, and we place our trust instead in doers of deeds and men of action. The life of Martin Luther King Jr. itself reminds us
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This note was uploaded on 10/26/2009 for the course AMST 200 taught by Professor Dumett during the Spring '09 term at UCSB.

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Notes.LincolnKingObama - [This is a draft of an Op-Ed piece...

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