Quote: “I am not a big believer in smoke-filled rooms.” Minnesota State Senator Amy Klobuchar, in the New York Times.
Figure of Speech: metonymy (meh-TON-ih-mee), the scale-changing figure. From the Greek, meaning “name change.”
Who would disagree with Senator Klobuchar? Is anyone for smoke-filled rooms? But hazy as it is, the smoke-filled room clearly demonstrates the power of figures. It takes a political concept out of thin air and obscures it with sheer rhetoric.
Our dusky room is a metonymy, a figure that takes a part of something and makes it represent the whole (White House for the presidency, the throne for grouchy old queens). The metonymy breathes poetry into our daily speech; but when we internalize it, the figure can suck the wind out of rational thought.
Senator Klobuchar wants the Democratic primaries, and not the super delegates at the convention, to determine the party’s presidential candidate. But party hacks in smoke-filled rooms produced an Abraham Lincoln.
Imagine if the senator had said, “I’m not a big believer in knowledgeable political activists determining who would be the best, most winnable candidate.” That makes the smoke-filled room sound a lot healthier, doesn’t it?
Snappy Answer: “Do Democrats smoke?”