Stay On message

Well, the mid-term elections are over. Let’s all be thankful. There were some runoff races, but who cares at this point? Broadcast companies, flush with election-cycle revenue, can now turn their attentions to more pressing issues, such as developing the next reality show or not-too-funny sitcom.

But sometimes, something sticks with us, like the roasted garlic on the fettuccine you had last night. Like words. Like the words and phrases that characterized much of the mean-spirited dialogue found in the election rhetoric this year. Some of my favorites:

“Feckless” is a word I’m growing to like. I’ll admit I didn’t know much about it until recently. It’s sort of like using Greek mythology in your writing — few people outside academia and the Percy Jackson & the Olympians fan club understand the references. “Feckless” sent me scrambling to the online dictionary. It was Fox News’ word of choice for describing President Obama, though it appears they found it at an orphanage for outdated terms. It simply means worthless. But somehow, it seems kinder — most people will think it has more to do with complexion than competency.

“War on women” has a nice ring to it. Alliteration and brevity are always appealing. It seems the Republican Party has been identified as a combat force deployed to destroy the vast gains made by women in recent years. Forget the fact that we’ll probably have our first female president soon, and that many of the real winners in this election are women. But still, the words just float off the tongue. A beautiful thing.

“Playing the race card” was a phrase as common in this election as dandelions are in my springtime yard. It has some very interesting aspects: It’s an action phrase (playing), a declarative statement, and it offers up some very, very deep-seated feelings. Certainly a winner in the “got my attention” category.

“Staying on message” is a term very near and dear to my heart. Not only do I create messaging packages for clients, I know the real danger for candidates when they go “off message.” It seems the pundits are full of PR expertise, too, for they kept issuing such comments as, “She’s got her messaging down pat,” and, “He’s struggling with his messaging trying to distance himself from the president.” I expect this term to linger for quite some time.

“God bless America” has withstood the test of time and is hard to beat for a candidate winding up a stump speech. How can you lose with this winner tacked on the end of a real stem-winder?

So, let’s not be feckless. Stay on message, halt the war on women and avoid bringing race into the equation. Les Nessman, a newscaster at “WKRP in Cincinnati,” created the perfect political patter:

Les Nessman: The secret is to appear to answer all the questions, when in truth it’s all mumbo-jumbo. Here, let me show you. Herb, ask me this question.

Herb Tarlek: Surely. “Mr. Candidate, what is your energy program?”

Les Nessman: Right now, I’m devoting a great deal of time and study to that problem. And I intend to issue a position paper on that. A position that is at once simple, yet complex, flexible, and above all else, fair to every American.

Nice going, Les.

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