Pitching Politics to the People: An Analysis Fo the Metaphoric Speech of H. Ross Perot

By Livengood, R. Mark | Western Folklore, Summer 1997 | Go to article overview

Pitching Politics to the People: An Analysis Fo the Metaphoric Speech of H. Ross Perot


Livengood, R. Mark, Western Folklore


Pitching Politics for the People: An Analysis of the Metaphoric Speech of H. Ross Perot1

Journalists and voters alike commented on the speech of H. Ross Perot during the 1992 presidential race. Writing of the first debate, Robert Shogan of The Los Angeles Times suggested, "With a seemingly unending stock of folksy one-liners, independent candidate Ross Perot came close to stealing the show" (1992:Al). A pair of reporters from USA 70day characterized Perot's speech as containing "biting aphorisms" (Howlett 1992:3A), "down-home slogans," and "folksy one-liners" (Bendetto and Norman 1992:3A). One voter's comment, "He calls an ace an ace," registered her approval. These examples suggest that part of Perot's appeal was his rhetorical approach which apparently provided a noteworthy antithesis to expected political discourse. These comments are impetus for further investigation.

The task of analyzing the discourse of Perot seems particularly suited to a researcher interested in exploring those linguistic phenomena termed folk speech. Perot's language is spiced with argot, slang, colloquialisms, and proverbs, among others. I have two fundamental purposes is this essay. First, I selectively identify examples in Perot's verbal repertoire which constitute traditional ways of talking. Second, I explore how these examples operate as metaphors which convey Perot's "pitch" that he is the candidate that can effectively lead a government "of, by, and for the people."

Politicians may be compared to pitchmen. The skillful use of language required by pitchmen has not gone unnoticed by folklorists. One investigator suggests that "[t]he use and manipulation of language is [his] stock and trade" (Krell 1980:28). One pair of researchers state that a pitch is designed to help achieve the the practical goal of selling a product...to a large number of customers....Pitchmen and talkers must persuade their audiences to buy an untested product." (Dargan and Zeitlin 1983:34). Perot is a pitchman. But instead of peddling Pontiacs or paring knives, he intends to sell a cogently-presented political ideology: You own this country but you have no voice in it the way it's organized now....The facts are, you now have a government that comes at you and you're supposed to have a government that comes from you.2

Perot's pitch is for his conception of a more representative government; implicit in this passage is Perot's assertion that he is the man who can usher in necessary changes. Perot's metaphorical use of language throughout the debate illuminated and reinforced this pitch.

In contrast to the other two candidates, Perot could not run for the presidency based on any official experience in government. In the debate, Clinton consistently used his twelve-year history as governor as a source of authority. Coupled with precise delivery of examples typically presented in threes,3 Clinton's political record created a considerable presence. Perot, however, could not point to past political accomplishments. Because of Perot's lack of experience, metaphorical language became an important vehicle for communicating his pitch.

Perot's speech represents him as an "insider" with the voting public. Central is his need to distance himself from the powers which control the Washington constituency, thereby making himself one of "the people." By using formulaic expressions, Perot repeatedly emphasizes that he is not a politician. He says, "Now I'm not a politician, but I think I could go to Washington in a week and get everybody holding hands and get this bill [the Urban Aid Bill] signed." The success of such a mission was unlikely, but Perot metaphorically dissassociated himself from all the activities to which the word politician refers. Furthermore, because he must go to Washington, he is spatially and temporally separated from the locus of political control, and thus, by extension, not privy to its influences.

An analogous example begins with a familiar introduction: "Now the thing I love about it-I'm just a businessman. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Pitching Politics to the People: An Analysis Fo the Metaphoric Speech of H. Ross Perot
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.