Bernie Sanders, the Socialist Senator from Vermont, has given an old-timey rip-snorter of a speech that’s gone viral among true believers. Figaro declares it a rhetorical failure.
Everything about the speech is off: the timing (better to stir up the troops before the election), the accent (Bernie, who grew up in New York, sounds like a Socialist), and the metaphor. Especially the metaphor: “There is a war going on in this country.”
Politicians love war metaphors. War brings people together to join forces and battle evil. Or it’s supposed to, anyway. But even the sexiest metaphors don’t work if they fail to match the subject. You can declare war on poverty, but poverty doesn’t fight back. It just sits there, a passive-aggressive enemy. You can declare war on drugs, but drugs just retreat back into their dens, where they do drugs. The “war” Bernie talks about isn’t a war at all. It’s a vast shift of wealth from 99 percent of the nation to the richest one-tenth of one percent, as Bernie himself points out.
It’s Label Monday again, so let us suggest a different rhetorical strategy for Bernie and his gauche-wing compatriots: label your opponent, not the phenomenon. Call the super-rich the Vampire Class. They suck the life force from the American economy, hide their identity behind anonymous political ads, and glamour independent voters with their mysterious mock-patriot charm. The Vampire Class. They’re coming to a Main Street near you.