Straight Talk in NYC

One of the reasons that one of last night’s speaker, Senator John McCain, is so popular -- especially with the press -- is that he usually avoids the mealy mouthed rhetoric that most politicians affect. He has demonstrated in these last few years that he is often willing to offend some as reflected in his “straight talk express.” Senator McCain’s choice of style as a politician contrasts markedly with both President Bush and Senator John Kerry. President Bush, following the theme the Republicans articulated during the summer, is using the convention to stress his profile as a decisive leader. He is making a clear contrast with what the Republicans have labeled as Senator Kerry’s flip-flopping. Stylistically, Senator Kerry also offers a clear contrast to both President Bush and Senator McCain, usually preferring to stay on scripted talking points and long-winded answers.

What are most Americans to think? After all, Americans historically have been attracted to candidates who come off as the plain-speaking populist. The vast majority of politicians in America fall into the habit of sticking with blow-hard political rhetoric, a special sort of double speak that leaves them hard to pin down.

At the same time, however, American political discourse has been forced more into black and white positions. Early on, candidates become labeled as pro-choice vs. anti-abortion, as pro-labor vs. anti-labor, as pro-tax vs. anti-tax, etc. Is there any room for being anything in between? This trend has become more pronounced as political consultants have become more powerful in American politics. This development is most clearly reflected in political television ads where snippets of comments or particular votes are turned into clear demonstrations of unworthiness.

As a result, it is next to impossible for a candidate running for office in America to do nuance. So strong is the hunger for “straight talk” in American politics that certainty and certitude are becoming the measure of candidates. What about wisdom and judgment? What about room for a true middle?