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Exceptional Emotional Evocations…

September 10, 2012

Winning American Hearts with Exceptional Emotional Evocations

The recent speeches at the Republican and Democratic conventions were quite notable, less for what substance of policy facts they contained, but rather for what emotional tunes they played. During prime-time TV, we heard Ann Romney, wife of the Republican presidential candidate, talk of the days of eating tuna fish for dinner on an ironing board for a dining room table. We later learned during the Democratic convention how the first lady had to ride in Barack Obama’s rusty car when they were first dating. While some might appreciate the substance of Romney’s humble dinner meals, it would have far better served Americans, and the rest of the world, to learn about the substance of some of the not-so-humble foreign policy issues, such as the drone attacks in Yemen (most recently on September 4th that killed 13 civilians), the presidential kill-capture lists and the policy proposals in the Syrian civil war.

The balance between politician’s personal histories and concrete policy discussions should not be tilted toward trivial nonsense. However, one may argue that the emotional, rather than fact-based talks at both conventions is critical in order to win the hearts (maybe not so much the minds) of many Americans. The national conventions exist for two reasons. First, to nominate a candidate and in that regard it is reasonable to get to know that candidate a little better. But, the days of brokered conventions in which the nominee was unknown at the start of the convention are long over. As such, the second purpose of a convention seems all the more important, namely the adoption of the official party platform.

Sure, foreign policy does play a secondary role in national campaigns but they are still part of the party platform. As a foreigner observing the circus-like conventions with melodramatic and overly emotional performances, with tic-like fist pumps a la-Granholm and empty chair stand-up comedy sketches, foreign policy did not even have a secondary role. It had no role. Rather, speaker after speaker verified their humble beginnings (translation poor), their love for the United States (in case anyone was unsure) and may God bless America (as if God plays favorites). Ironically, in the case of the Democratic platform, three-floor voice votes to re-add references to God and Jerusalem produced no clear majority and yet passed regardless. This is odd since a continuing purpose of the national conventions is to approve the party platform even if in most cases it is a formality.

While such emotionally filled speeches boast a wave of belief in American exceptionalism at home, that same wave will have a hard time in reaching foreign shores. The current increasing deployment of drones, the targeted killings with no judicial oversight and the toothless rhetoric against the Assad-regime is far from winning any hearts and minds against Jihadism and far from cultivating a strong belief that America is the most exceptional nation for the world to follow.


From → The Skeptical

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