And because progressives have lost the gift of rhetoric, which was once a staple of a university education, because they naively believe in the Enlightenment ideal that facts alone can move people towards justice, they are largely helpless.
Psychologist Drew Weston once opened a seminar by asking his audience, “How many here remember Martin Luther King’s “I have a plan” speech?
Weston is the Author of The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation that criticized both Kerry and Gore for allowing the Republican smear machine to blow them out of the water by remaining aloof from their attacks.
King didn’t have a plan, he had a dream, and he articulated that dream with language that soared and inspired. Yet his example has been lost on a left that has been reduced to mumbling facts and statistics with the expectation that these alone will be enough to stir the masses to rise up in revolt.
The Left has torn a page from the free market manual that clings to the delusion that markets are self regulating because of rational individuals making rational decisions based on the best data available.
The Left must stop educating and start inspiring. The Right is light years ahead of them. Because of the success of the Right’s rhetoric, an incorrect assumption is made that all rhetoric is bullshit, and in the hands of the Right, it is. But there is an important difference between the two. The Right’s rhetoric conceals reality; the Left’s, illuminates it.
Here is an example of what the rhetoric of the Left has done in the past. Karl Marx’s statement that religion is the opium of the people has been repeated ad nauseam until it has been drained of its fire. Here is his full statement:
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
There’s not a single number to be found.
Numbers and facts have their place, but unless they are carried along on a torrent of rhetoric, they sit unnoticed in a dark corner where they gather dust.
Words, to inspire, must speak to contemporary conditions. This is why socialism’s constant reference to the “working class” falls on deaf ears. No longer can we speak of a working class, that nineteenth century term born of the Industrial Revolution. Now we must speak of the disempowered class, those robbed of their dreams and aspiration, for whom life has become a blind alley from which there is no escape except to crawl through a basement window into a dank cellar of oblivion and despair, while stories above, in a glittering penthouse, ice tinkles against crystal as the plutocrats celebrate their victory over the masses. Trickle-down economics has triumphed, though the only thing to trickle down is the urine of the rich.
The left needs piss and vinegar in its gut and fire in its breath. Without either, it will remain a beggar crouched in a doorway hoping to be tossed an occasional stale crust from the masters of rhetorical bullshit.