The importance of knowing how to spot political rhetoric 2023

When I consider the strategies of the Democratic and Republican parties, lines from a Buffalo Springfield song from the 1960s come to mind.

“Something is occurring here.

It is not entirely apparent what it is.”

Nobody is correct if everyone is wrong.

Regrettably, what is occurring in American politics is all too obvious, and both parties are in error as they fuel the political circus rather than focusing on good administration.

This would all be humorous if it weren’t for the grave consequences. In lieu of attempting to govern, politicians toss red-meat rhetoric at their base to earn political points, so manifesting the dysfunction. It is far simpler for them to make remarks that elicit a strong emotional response from voters than to debate rationally the complex decisions facing our nation.

Unfortunately, this strategy is effective!

I am astounded by the unchecked continuation of demagogy on all sides, and I wonder how this is possible until I understand that the $14 billion spent on the 2020 election cycle will just fuel further division, deception, and dysfunction. Our democracy is in peril, and the promise of robust self-governance appears to be receding.

If you watch Fox News, you will be bombarded with commentators criticizing intellectual elites, the deep state, socialist Democrats, illegal immigration, and, of course, cancel culture. Switching networks to MSNBC on the same day would make you believe you are living in a whole different universe. Without a closer study, terms such as Wall Street corruption, big oil, police brutality, and crony capitalism are thrown around carelessly.

Dietram Schuefele, a professor of communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, effectively summarised rhetoric when he said:

“Every tribe has its own language, and it becomes more difficult to communicate across tribal fault lines if we cannot even agree on terms.”

Regrettably, the science of politics incorporates linguistic ambiguities. Each party spends millions of dollars on focus groups to determine which emotional messaging and language is most effective. To provide two instances, “exploring for energy” is a much milder word than “drilling for oil” and may appeal more to Democrats, but “illegal immigration” evokes different emotions than “undocumented labor” and is thus more likely to be employed by Republicans. Similarly, the phrases “death tax” and “estate tax” evoke contrasting sentiments… The list continues on indefinitely.

The phenomena of code words is shown by the latest Republican code phrase du jour, which is intended to generate passion and appeal to their audience. The phrase “awake” is used to criticize and disregard everything associated with a respectful dialogue on justice, fairness, diversity, and inclusion.

In 2017, Merriam-Webster defined “awake” as “conscious of and actively attentive to significant facts and situations (particularly racial and social justice issues).”

Instead of discussing the vital intricacies of diversity and inclusion in an effort to foster social cohesiveness, let’s construct a word that appeals to our tribe. Let anything we don’t like being “woke.” It is increasingly sneaking into the language amidst the reaction against ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) as firms include non-financial considerations in their investment strategy and growth opportunity analyses. If a company’s investment plan includes consideration of climate change, lack of diversity, or other social concerns, let’s avoid a real debate and instead appeal to the emotions of the public by dubbing it “awake capitalism.”

In this backdrop, the Senate recently voted to repeal a Labor Department regulation that allows fiduciary retirement fund managers to consider ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) concerns when making investment choices. Instead of debating the issue’s merits, Republicans repeat their new code term, “woke capitalism.” This name dismisses concern about the earth we will leave to our descendants as inconsequential to investment returns.

Despite politicians’ attempts to simplify difficult subjects with sound bites, logic still wins. Notwithstanding the ESG backlash, an increasing number of organisations are adopting an ESG investment strategy and performing fairly well financially. Recently, Barron’s produced a list of the Top 100 U.S. Sustainable Businesses utilising ESG methodology to explain the various measures employed.

As responsible citizens, it is essential to comprehend the strategies employed by politicians and to be on the lookout for the code phrases they employ to excite and anger us. It is our obligation to see through this ruse. If an increasing number of us stop listening to the rhetoric, they may adjust the way they communicate with us in order to effect genuine change.

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