Thursday, November 04, 2004

A Most Superlative-est Campaign

That our political climate is full of venom filled pens and keyboards is of little surprise to anyone who is paying any attention at all to print and television MSM. What is of note is the reliance on the superlative tense in speaking of one’s opponent. Anecdotally, my own recollection is that the popularity of the superlative can be traced Bill Clinton’s use of the phrase “worst economy in 50 years.” The effectiveness of this phrase in the 1992 campaign has unleashed a torrent of the most superlative-est campaign language in history!

A quick tour of Google returns the following results:

Historical Test Search

Reagan Worst 348,000

Clinton v. Bush Superlatives

Clinton Worst 993,000

Bush Worst 1,780,000

Clinton Greatest 1,080,000

Bush Greatest 2,250,000

Recent Invective Presidential Labels

Clinton Lied 278,000

Bush Lied 537,000

Clinton Failure 1,090,000

Bush Failure 1,920,000

Obviously not every hit in each search is directly on point and this is hardly scientifically certain data. In fact, Bush’s numbers will contain references for his father’s 4 year term, but Clinton’s numbers (which would equal the time period of 2 Bush Presidencies) are also diluted somewhat by references to Hillary or even funk-a-delic songster George. However, I believe the trends are indeed indicative of a strong reliance among campaigns and supporters of each party relying more and more heavily on the superlative to make their case for them. Until voters reward candidates who eschew the superlative for a more reasoned and tempered language we can expect nothing but more of the same.

A final Note: Are you jaded enough by the modern political language that you missed that the link to the “worst economy” Clinton quote was entitled “Bull Clinton”?


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