Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Audacity of Audacity

It is beginning to feel as if one cannot be taken seriously as a Presidential candidate unless one writes a book. These books get a lot of attention, not to mention shelf space at places like Borders or Barnes & Noble; but, f0r the most part, they do not have particularly compelling content. As a result, the only people get stuck with actually reading these books are reviewers and political reporters who have to get their background wherever they can. As far as the rest of us are concerned, the author will be lucky if the general public remembers the title of the book.

The title that is probably most burned into the country's collective memory these days is The Audacity of Hope. From a rhetorical point of view, it is a good choice for a title. It focuses attention on the degree to which the entire country has been consumed by Durkheimian anomie; and refuses to hide behind I-feel-your-pain solecisms. It dares us all to hope for something better and then (and this, of course, is where the politics impose themselves on the scene) promises to back up the hopes with action. This rhetorical stance is likely to attract far more positive attention than, say, It Takes a Village!

Of course it is also likely to encourage other candidate to also "assume the position" of audacity. We have now seen the first sign of camp-following in the Edwards campaign. Former congressman David Bonior has become Edwards' new Campaign Manager; and his first fund raising letter (sent as electronic mail) is also grounded in the rhetoric of audacity. This audacity has been summarized on The BRAD BLOG as follows:

The email --- with the eye-popping, if impolitic, subject line "Total Bull" --- first takes aim at Bush's recent pronouncements, as reported by U.S. News and World Report and elsewhere after Bush's appearance on CBS' 60 Minutes last Sunday, "that Congress does not have the power to stop his proposed escalation of the war in Iraq."

"That's bull," Bonior writes before going on in the email to criticize his former Democratic colleagues in Congress, taking them to task for their failure to "step up to the plate and use their power to stop the president from escalating the war."

(At the bottom of this entry, The BRAD BLOG reproduces Bonior's electronic mail message in its entirety. The message also encourages readers to sign a "petition calling on Congress to block the escalation" of the Iraq war; and The BRAD BLOG provides its own hyperlink to the Web page for that petition.)

My general reaction to this kind of posturing is a general pleasure with audacity being "in." I am hoping that the general political discourse will benefit if Barack Obama does not have a monopoly on audacity! Of course we should all recognize this as familiar territory. About a year before the primary/caucus season begins in earnest, it is not hard to find bold, if not audacious, language, particularly in light of the discontent revealed by the congressional elections. However, most of it gets diffused as the field of really interesting candidates gets filtered down to the same-old-same-old. Still, audacity makes for good press; and Bonior is certainly as credible a source as any. Let's hope that reports of Bonior's initial salvo extend beyond the rarefied environment of the blogosphere and do more than "preach to the choir" (which is basically what has happened when Truthdig covered this story)!

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