April 30, 2007

Tag clouds from the Democratic debate.

These seem meaningful, especially if you're into woozy, intuitive impressionism. (Nice, clear PDF here.) Make what you will of the particular words that a particular candidate repeats -- like Obama and "women" and Clinton and "president" -- but what I noticed is the propensity to repeat words. I think that using a more varied vocabulary -- producing a tag cloud with more tiny words -- is a sign of subtlety of mind and intelligence. Who wins by this measure? Why, Dennis Kucinich. Of course, I know plenty of really smart people who end up in a position that is too far left for the Presidency, but still, the guy deserves some credit. Now, it may simply be a candidate who knows he can't win has more freedom to range from a pre-set formulation of his message.

Or it may just be that tag clouds are absurd. Hmmm, well let me make a tag cloud of the current front page of my blog as if that means something about me:


created at TagCrowd.com


34 comments:

Robert said...

Now, it may simply be a candidate who knows he can't win has more freedom to range from a pre-set formulation of his message.

I think this is true. And it is unfortunate, since I think you're probably right that a varied vocabulary is an indicator of intelligence. But the sad truth is that staying on message is absolutely key for candidates. See George W. Bush's very effective use of repetition in debates against Gov. Ann Richards.

Kirby Olson said...

I think humor is a better indicator of intelligence.

This is why most correctly chose Bush over Kerry.

You can do a lot with a small vocabulary, or you can use a larger vocabulary (as Kerry did, I think) but use it stiffly, and trip all over it.

Kucinich is a self-righteous little prick and I don't think his hair is his.

The only Democrat in recent years who's had a sense of humor is Sharpton.

The Republicans are so appealing not so much because of the words that they use but because of their humor. I sometimes think the entire left has simply forgotten that a sense of humor is a sign of being human, and is a sign of having a perspective that can articulate the difference between utopian potentials and human realities.

The Democrats for whatever reason have lost that ability. The last mainstream Democrat to have this distinction down was Senator Paul Simon of Illinois.

I wish we could see a return of a sense of humor to the Democrats, and to the left generally. They just get more and more distorted as they increasingly turn up the holier than thou knob.

Humor is also a sign of being able to connect with people. Oddly the Democrats go instead for a different rhetorical style that seems to scream autocratic while the Republicans have a rhetorical style that is folksy and pleasant and realistic.

I think that the Jacobin influence from the French revolution has bled into the Democrats via French theory seeping through the universities. The Jacobins had that weird aristocratic exclusionary rheoric and weren't big on humor.

The Republican language base comes out of a more distinctly American populism. Just a rough guess.

But would you agree that humor is more important than vocabulary?

Doyle said...

This is why most correctly chose Bush over Kerry.

LOL. It was a slight majority and you don't hear too many of them bragging about it these days.

Also, check the party ID numbers these days and see if your premise that "the Republicans are so appealing" holds any water whatsoever.

Kirby must be the dumbest rat on the sinking ship.

Fen said...

Also, check the party ID numbers these days

All that tells me is that Democrats are conformists who want to tag along with what they believe is the hip/cool/tolerant crowd, so they can feel better about their wretched lives [just look at all your own angst].

Most Dems I meet are ignorant of all policy issues. They rely on feel-good platitudes and simplistic jingoism like "Give Peace a Chance".

Doyle said...

All that tells me is that Democrats are conformists

Fen, the changing party ID landscape reflects more Americans coming to identify with the Democratic party. If you call that "conformity", your beef is with Americans, not Democrats.

What we have now is a national consensus that Bush is a nightmare. Less popular than Nixon, and a far worse president.

You stand no chance of winning in '08. It's simply a matter of which poor Republican schmuck is going to try unsuccesfully to run away from Bush while maintaining the support of the brainwashed base.

I know I'm looking forward to it.

Mike said...

Doyle said: "...you don't hear too many of them bragging about it these days."

Well, bragging is more your style, but I don't regret voting for Bush. I continue to think Kerry would have been a disaster.

Richard Dolan said...

Ann says: "what I noticed is the propensity to repeat words. I think that using a more varied vocabulary -- producing a tag cloud with more tiny words -- is a sign of subtlety of mind and intelligence."

A different way to think about all of this is to view the candidates as reciting their version of the Great American Epic -- this is how they see America, where it's been and where it should be going (if the voters will only pick them). Granted, a contemporary policitian-generated epic is often a focus-group tested, sound-bite driven sort of things. That adds its own layer of endlessly repeated words and phrases, as the politician tries to press all the subliminal verbal buttons that some consultant is telling him/her will move the electorate. None of the great epics of old -- Homer's poems, say, or the Chanson de Roland -- were composed that way. But they were certainly honed and sharpened by constant retelling. Do you think a smarter poet than, say, Homer would have come up with ways to avoid repeating "wine dark sea" and all of the familiar metaphors that are constantly repeated in those epics?

A politician who didn't use lots of stock words or phrases would probably come across as vague, unfocused, unsure. So I'm not sure I agree with Ann's view that a more varied vocabulary would necessarily be a "sign of subtlety of mind and intelligence." It might just be a sign of an incompetent politician who really didn't understand what he was doing or where he was at.

Doyle said...

On the subject, you'll notice Bush doesn't appear once in Ann's "tag cloud."

Must be hard to do all this political writing without the President of the United States coming up at least once.

If I didn't know how fiercely independent Ann was, I'd suspect she was avoiding the subject, as one might hide an unsightly scar.

Doyle said...

I don't regret voting for Bush.

You really should.

MadisonMan said...

I don't regret voting for Bush.

I know several Bush-voters who actually don't regret not voting for Kerry -- but that's about as far as they go. Neither choice was particularly overwhelming.

Ann Althouse said...

Doyle: I noticed that too. Also, I have Democrats but not Republicans. And the candidates named are all Democrats. But it's actually true that I rarely talk about Bush!

Mike said...

I know several Bush-voters who actually don't regret not voting for Kerry -- but that's about as far as they go.

Fine. Semantics.

Doyle said...

Well thanks for acknowledging it, I guess. It is a little bit curious, though. I mean he’s kind of a unique specimen from a constitutional standpoint, no? Between the signing statements, the National Security Letters, the Terrorist Surveillance Program, the Hatch Act violations, the USA purge… his administration is at least an interesting study in executive power. Obviously you’re untroubled by those issues, and must have good reasons for being so, but you never share with us why exactly he’s not a tyrant who should have been impeached years ago.

Oh, and w/r/t this post, could anybody be shorter on specifics than Bush? So he’s pro-freedom and anti-surrender, huh? Good stuff. Sure gives me a lot of confidence he has the slightest clue what’s going on.

al said...

I don't regret voting for Bush.

You really should.


I don't regret voting for him either time. Far better choice than Gore or Kerry.

Of course in my state it doesn't really matter as the clueless in Chicago generally carry the state for the Dems.

reader_iam said...

...Obviously you’re untroubled ....

No, not obviously.

Doyle said...

Reader-

Yes, obviously. Did you read her NYT op-ed on the Judge Taylor decision re: illegal domestic surveillance?

The short version: "How very partisan!"

Fen said...

Dolye: You stand no chance of winning

Heard the same from the Gore and Kerry people [yawn]

reader_iam said...

Between the signing statements, the National Security Letters, the Terrorist Surveillance Program, the Hatch Act violations, the USA purge

Damn, I don't remember that editorial covering all those areas!

Doyle said...

Really? I didn't hear that at all. Usually incumbents are hard to unseat during wartime, and many voters still thought Saddam was involved in 9/11 (Thanks, Rupert!).

But hey, don't take my word for it, or the hint that the 2006 elections provided. Just watch and learn.

Doyle said...

She's hardly covered those areas at all. That's my point.

reader_iam said...

That editorial was written months before the United States Attorneys story broke, by the way, and I also think you missed the main point of the editorial. I bet you make one helluva vegetable soup, Doyle. Seriously.

The editorial itself is not evidence of what Althouse believes about the surveillance program itself. (Even if she's a 1,000 percent supporter of that program, and I don't know either way, the editorial is not good evidence of that.)

Doyle said...

The editorial is good evidence that she was less concerned with the lawbreaking than the language the judge used in her ruling.

Had she wanted to explain why it's important that the president not be allowed to violate statutory law, that was a good opportunity, but she chose to cry partisanship.

reader_iam said...

To preclude an ill-founded assumption that I support certain policies, see here and here, for example.

A quote: To hand these types of people the cloak of secrecy and opacity is to also give them a loaded gun pointed at our most cherished freedoms.

reader_iam said...

The editorial is good evidence that she was less concerned with the lawbreaking than the language the judge used in her ruling.

Or, for example, it could be that Althouse was concerned about how the judge framed her ruling precisely BECAUSE of her (Althouse's) concerns.

I don't know which it is, for a fact, and nor do you, for a fact.

Doyle said...

Good stuff. I wish you and Ann could switch traffic stats.

I wasn't suggesting that you support expansive (and I would say illegal and un-American) claims of executive power. I was merely suggesting that said claims do not, by all appearances, weigh heavily on Prof. Althouse.

Putting the op-ed aside, do you really think she's dedicated much writing to these issues? Or has she mostly cowered, hinted, and occasionally linked to Volokh?

reader_iam said...

She's hardly covered those areas at all. That's my point.

That part of your point I don't dispute.

Are you telling me that the other point you're making is NOT that her not covering those areas is automatically evidence, much less sufficient evidence, that she agrees with the policies in all those areas?

Because I thought that's why you keep bringing up what she hasn't covered.

Doyle said...

Well I think it's more plausible, especially given her vote in 2004 on vague "national security" grounds, that she endorses the domestic trappings of the War on Terror (forgot Jose Padilla, btw.) than that she really objects strongly to them but chooses not to for fear of undermining the objections made by others.

You seem to be hinting at the Mickey Kaus defense: "I attack the side I agree with to make sure they're on their toes" and I think it's disingenuous on Mickey's part (he admitted he wanted the Rs to win in 2006). Plus Ann hasn't even really deployed it herself.

As is the case with Mickey, I'm less interested in what she thinks than what she writes.

Kirby Olson said...

Doyle implied that I am a Republican. I'm not. It's just that Kerry was an actual zombie. I think the whole Democratic party at this point with few exceptions (Lieberman, Zell Miller) are zombies.

We only have two choices.

There ought to be a third party -- that of the tertium quid.

Definition: Tertium Quid -- Something that cannot be classified into either of 2 groups considered exhaustive; an intermediate thing or factor.

A third person or thing of indeterminate character.

From tertius (third) and quid (something).

Althouse fits into the tertium quid category. Probably most thinking people do. It's just the zombies who get identified with one party and then play football their whole lives against the other party. It must be a very dull life.

I've only voted Republican once, and I am hoping the Democrats will give me a candidate who at least has a sense of humor. But they're mostly pious self-righteous pricks at this stage of the game. I hate the whole rhetorical style. Sharpton's style occasionally flames out of the average rut of unsmiling pc zombiedom that the Democratic party is now heir to. What a bunch of losers.

I wish the left would get real.

I miss Senator Paul Simon of Illinois. He was a real man who had his own style, and his own hair.

Doyle said...

Aren't Democrats usually attacked for not being sufficiently pious? I seem to recall the derogatory term being "secular progressives."

They do seem to be pretty serious about getting out of, or ideally not starting, disastrous wars. And doing something to prevent the widening income gap. What killjoys, huh?

What we need now, more than ever, is funnier leadership!

Kirby Olson said...

The Democrats are pious about themselves, which is the wrong thing to be pious about.

At least in my opinion.

What was the best joke in the first debate? I think it was Biden not going on and on for once. He looked so completely pleased with himself that it ruined everything.

Democrats should stop being pious about themselves. They just look so self-satisfied. It gives me the creeps.

REpublicans are monsters perhaps, but at least they're being themselves. I love that!! It's so authentic!

There is another semiotics beyond vocabulary which has to do with body and facial language.

The piety!

It reminds me of Shakespeare's Henry VIth.

I'd really prefer Richard III in office. At least he wasn't a pious noodlehead about himself

Doyle said...

I respect that you're very serious about the sense of humor issue, but we've had 6 years of a president who takes himself so unseriously that he can't even manage a straight face during press conferences. I can't say the results have been stellar.

Also, doesn't he basically hint that God tells him what to do? Maybe he's carefree because he's abdicated all responsibility for his actions, which isn't something I think we should look for in a president.

Plus I hear he's on the sauce again.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

I find it very odd that anyone would tune in to a debate looking for chuckles.

Hair, body language, jokes... Kirby, why is style so much more important than substance to you?

Bob said...

Wow. Vortex didn't make it into your cloud.

blake said...

Althouse--

As Bob notes, no vortex.

You should run your whole blog through it.

Then you should run the whole blog through with the comments.

That'd be interesting.