Political Speeches As Mass Shout-Outs

by Bob Schwartz

Some political audiences still get fired up by pandering platitudes and principles, even if the words are not backed up by any substantive proposals, or by any proposals at all.

This is sometimes punctuated by the occasional mention of a target interest group, just to show that the politico is paying attention to them. Once again, this might not be attached to anything concrete, but it often does the trick.

It is time for this to be taken to the next level.

A really bold and innovative politician could skip the platitudes, principles and proposals. Instead, entire speeches could be built out of the names of places, organization and people. If this sounds too much like reading an atlas, almanac or phone book out loud, without context, that is precisely the idea.

Depending on the crowd, this would be a string of guaranteed cheer and applause phrases. Las Vegas. Wichita. National Rifle Association. Veterans of Foreign Wars. Latinos. Blacks. Women.

This is far from an uncreative exercise. In fact, it is a sort of minimalist poetry, idea and intention reduced to the smallest possible expression. Obviously, there are a few pitfalls, so care must be taken. Saying the word “Nazi” out of context can be trouble; saying it in relation to saying “Jews” may be more or less trouble, without the benefit of further explanation.

All in all, this would be an exciting and enlightening direction for our politics to take. We can stop wondering and fretting about speeches filled with air and little more. The pretense would be gone; speeches could once again be rooted in reality, or at least in one political reality. That reality, which lives alongside the genuine value of getting things done, is the value of getting elected or getting someone else defeated. And then there is the value, if just for a moment, of giving a little harmless recognition to folks who are waiting, maybe quixotically, for much more.