You’ve heard of “Talk Like a Pirate Day” every Sept. 19, but could you imagine a day where we all talked like politicians?
I propose April 1 as “Talk like a Politician Day.” Don’t you think we all deserve at least one day a year to speak in self-serving but so sincere (and bland) near-gibberish?
You’d think politicians, when making public statements, would research and have their staff correct or clarify the intended message. But what if the (sometimes) incoherent, delusional and often contradictory message was in fact the intended one?
Members of Congress are elected to represent us, and perhaps the horrifying truth is that they actually do.
Politicians are required to (at least appear to) passionately care for whatever their constituents care about, and act as if they know and care about things they often know and care nothing about.
Politicians need to convince themselves (and anyone who might be listening) that they deserve the pay, benefits and power the rest of us get to pay for.
They need to speak authoritatively — but not necessarily coherently or consistently — about any subject.
In our era, who needs lofty succinct phrases when we can have slogans and cleverly parsed evasions and explanations? Mix in a dose of hysteria, and you have the perfect political formula.
One of my favorite phrases, which I have heard from multiple sources, shines in luminous incoherence: “I don’t believe in equality of results, I believe in equality of opportunity.”
What does “equality of results” mean? Does it mean everyone has the same income or weighs the same?
It has no meaning or relevance in the real world, but our sincere politician proclaims it in triumph as if discovering some urgent, eternal truth.
But then, the true rarity appears: what the politician actually does believe in.
If you thought “equality of results” was vague and insubstantial, what could “equality of opportunity” mean? Does it mean that everyone does — or should, or even could — have equal access to education, health care, careers or travel?
A minute of thought or a drive through any city will eliminate any fantasy that “equality of opportunity” is possible.
My favorite incoherent phrase this year is “repeal and replace.” It is so common and used with such emphasis that most of us assume it is a logical and necessary process: first repeal, then replace.
This statement makes me wonder about the intelligence of those who advocate such muddled thinking.
“Repeal” as any dictionary will confirm, means to cancel. Prohibition was “repealed” not replaced. Republicans have been talking about “repealing” Obamacare for seven years, but they never wanted to “repeal” it — they wanted to replace it.
Allow me to use a metaphor a child, or in this case, a politician, might understand.
When the oil is changed in your car, your used oil is removed and new oil installed.
But if the station claimed it would “remove and replace” your oil, you would know that they were a boutique service that will do nothing extra but will bill you for the elaborate description. And they would congratulate themselves for completing such a complicated process.
To speak in sincere incoherence is a gift; not everyone can do it.
Lying presumes deliberate deception. But politicians are not liars in the usual sense. They weasel, finesse and fudge. They speak their own language.
Maybe we need descramblers or secret-decoder rings to decipher the clichés and bland assurances.
Next time you hear a politician, pay special attention to the evasive and stalling strategies, the avoidance of simple and direct questions.
When a politician uses a snowball to “disprove” climate change, or testifies against wind power because windmills would slow the rotation of the earth, or asks “why should coal miners pay for PBS?” ($1.35 a year!), or insists that school lunch programs “don’t work,” or refuse to believe that half of the students in his state are below average, you realize that idiocracy is upon us.
And we can always look forward to “Talk Like a Teenager Day.”
M. (Morf) Morford is a Tacoma North End resident and former News Tribune reader columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.