Kenneth Burke, Democratic Party, Rhetorical Submission, The Brilliances of Study Groups, Scapegoating, Tragic Frame, Comic Frame

Will two entries make up for a week’s laps? Most likely not, but what the hell. I am writing to avoid doing any real studying. Procrastination—yeah baby.

*Interruption for refilling of coffee which has fiber in it*
While meeting with my study groups last night, we, my brilliant comrades in arms, discovered why, rhetorically, the Democratic Party was smashed by the Republican Party in the last presidential election.

I am sure many of you loyal blog fans, I think there are two including myself, remember how the Liberals, among us, changed their label from “Liberal” to “Progressive.” Why the change? Well the “Conservatives” out there were very successful in making the name “Liberal” out to be a very, very naughty word, right up there with other naughty words such as poo-poo or Ka-Ka (my favorite swear word as a five year old).

Rhetorically this was done with the form of “repetition,” a technique examined by Kenneth Burke. Over and over again, “Liberal” was used in such a negative light that the word transformed literally into Ka-Ka. Once the word, a type of living entity itself, was transformed, the use of the word became deadly for the Democratic Party. This did not have to happen. Nevertheless, the Democrats out there allowed this transformation because they did noting to rebut the rhetorical magic.

Ok, there were complaints. People called into “Liberal” radio talk shows to say: “how dare them!” Or “What do they know.” Or “That’s unfair.” Or “I have to go the the bathroom.”

Such rebuttals are not like wine, they do not age well but only drop off—waste away—and are flushed with less ceremony then a dead cockroach found after tenting your house.

Rhetorically speaking, one must be creatively alert when a word or idea is being rhetorically reconstructed. By laying down and taking the change, and then changing the name from “Liberal” to “Progressive,” we basically, silently, admitted that “liberal” was bad and, indeed, “Ka-Ka.” We ran away from the fight, we allowed a word to control us.

Kenneth Burke would have suggested that we fight back, reclaim the word for ourselves and not allow a “negative” transformation. We could have used his “comic corrective,” and thereby avoided the image of the “Liberal” as a “Scapegoat” placed into the “Tragic frame.”


This is easy to state, of course, but I am sure my two fans, one of which is myself, would like to know how I suggest this true rebuttal, this real work for rhetorically fighting for the right of “Liberal.”

First, let us reflect upon, for a moment, the rhetorical image representing the Republican party:

Here is the elephant, a noble creature by all accounts: huge, powerful, strong and . . . a circus animal! Yes, that is correct, today when we think upon the elephant, we think of the circus and how the elephant is led around, encouraged to do tricks: Balance a ball, walk in a circle, stand on its hind legs. Only tricks. Tricks that they can’t even accomplish themselves but, instead, need a trainer to lead them around. Enticed by food and other “gifts” for their circus act. Imagine an image of the elephant as the conservative who, like elephants in a circus, can’t think or fend for themselves but are only motivated by and through “gifts” and promises of “rewards.” Here is a rhetorical construction which transforms conservative into “circus.”

Now think on the rhetorical image representing the Democratic Party:

Granted, when we think of the donkey, the term “Jack-ass” comes to mind. However, so too does “stubborn” and therefore, strong and consistent. “Won’t give up,” or “give in” to the promised gifts tempting the elephants.

I am sure there are wittier ideas floating around out there, far more enlightened than my silly image campaign, which could easily be seen as undignified—but what would you expect from a woman who tells you about her fiber intake? However, the point is not my fiber, which I have almost finished, but rhetorically we do not have to allow the image of “liberal” to be transformed into “Ka-Ka” or “Flip-Flopper.” What we need is to fight rhetoric with insightful rhetoric.

Signed: A booga-booga

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