September 24, 2004
New York Times Op-Ed section has a great piece today: The Candidates, Seen From the Classroom. Stanley Fish clearly and concisely describes what I believe to be the key problem facing the Kerry campaign.
If you can’t explain an idea or a policy plainly in one or two sentences, it’s not yours; and if it’s not yours, no one you speak to will be persuaded of it, or even know what it is, or (and this is the real point) know what you are. Words are not just the cosmetic clothing of some underlying integrity; they are the operational vehicles of that integrity, the visible manifestation of the character to which others respond. And if the words you use fall apart, ring hollow, trail off and sound as if they came from nowhere or anywhere (these are the same thing), the suspicion will grow that what they lack is what you lack, and no one will follow you.
I have a theory that it is essential for a candidate to switch from a campaign-style speech to one that sounds as if he is already in office. I think a great part of this is the clarity that Fish discusses in the article. Having clarity on positions, strategies, and policies comes across as strong leadership, which might be a more important quality election-wise than having the “correct” views.
We’ll see how Kerry does here in Philly later today.