Jayne: Republicans have made political rhetoric into art form

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

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photoGreg Jayne, Opinion page editor

The rhetoric is better in this part of the newspaper. More powerful. More articulate. More insightful and yet often more insipid.

In Sports, where I spent my formative years, when you get basketball player Rasheed Wallace answering five consecutive post-game questions with nothing more than, “Both teams played hard,” it meets the low sports standard for memorable rhetoric.

But politics? Well, in politics you get gems such as Clark County Commissioner David Madore talking about chickens pecking at each other and saying, “If you have ever watched that sort of behavior, it’s very motivating that we should never behave like chickens.” Now that is truly memorable rhetoric. And a good life lesson, as well.

While it’s no secret that rhetoric is the linchpin of politics, I have found myself pondering the fine art of persuasion this week. And I have found myself considering how Republicans undeniably, unequivocally, unquestionably are winning the war of rhetoric.

This, too, is no secret. Just look at how conservative discussion dominates talk radio. Why, in Portland — one of the most liberal cities in the country — it took a Kickstarter campaign to revive progressive talk radio and land it on a station (91.1 FM) that can’t be picked up unless you have a communications satellite strapped to your hood. Conservatives like to complain that the media is liberal — a specious argument born of a persecution complex — and yet they own (literally) the airwaves.

Anyway, back to rhetoric. You see, I happened to catch a radio interview the other day on the Lars Larson Show with Allen West, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and former U.S. Representative, and I was struck by how effectively he articulated conservatism.

“My dad always taught me that your color is not an obstacle, your color is not a crutch that you try to use to get ahead,” said West, who is African-American. “You find out what the standard is, and you exceed that standard so no one can hold you back. . . . I never saw myself as black, ‘I’m from the inner city so the standards need to be adjusted for me.’ I just saw what the standard was and I did my best to blow it out of the water.”

Larson then asked about the perception that some people in government advocate for adjusted standards as a form of reparations for past injustices.

“What you just described,” West said, “is the difference between equality of opportunities and the equality of outcomes; the difference between a government that allows people to go out and try to pursue happiness and a government that guarantees happiness.”

Game. Set. Match. Conservatives win the rhetoric war.

Hypocrisy reigns

Now, practical application might be a different matter. Republicans in Congress, who insisted upon cutting food stamps in this year’s Farm Bill, are the same ones who used the bill to lavish government subsidies on wealthy farmers. And Red States that consistently vote for such representatives generally have higher rates of government assistance than Blue States. And Republicans threw a hissy fit over Obamacare, even though it mirrored a proposal by the Heritage Foundation — which is so conservative that it bleeds red, white, and blue. And the guess is that you didn’t hear many talk-radio hosts discussing those things.

So, yes, there is plenty of hypocrisy to be found, just as there is on the side of the aisle inhabited by Limousine Liberals. But when it comes to talking the talk, Republicans have turned it into an art form.

“We’ve been duped ever since The Great Society programs of Lyndon Johnson,” West said of American blacks. “We need to go back to the old school black community that families were there. We only have 28 percent of our children that have mothers and fathers in the home; that is genocidal.”

Over and over, West — who is promoting a book and might make a presidential run — made salient points that made a lot of sense. And it sure beat the heck out of “Both teams played hard.”