Presidents and Protesters: Political Rhetoric in the 1960s

By Theodore Otto Windt Jr. | Go to book overview

stead, the advocate concentrates on moral issues and thus reminds us of the Old Testament prophets, especially Amos:

Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation O house of Israel.

The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise: she is forsaken upon her land; there is none to raise her up.

For thus saith the Lord God; the City that went out by a thousand shall leave an hundred, and that which went but by a thousand shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth by an hundred, shall leave then; to the house of Israel. . . .

Seek the Lord, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel.

Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth.38

In using the lamentation Noam Chomsky presented himself as a latter-day prophet calling upon Americans to redeem themselves by confessing their political sins and returning to the path of righteousness embodied in the original democratic ideal.


Conclusion

The move to ideological politics among some protesters represented a move to a different kind of thinking about politics and policies. The catalyst for that change was the escalation of the war in Vietnam. For some, that escalation symbolized the futility of using procedural means for protest and deliberative rhetoric for voicing that protest. Moreover, they believed they needed a new political framework and a new political language to interpret the refusal of authorities to change politics as quickly as they thought they ought to be changed. Thus, some turned away from procedural politics to ideological politics in protesting the war. Soon, others in other protest groups--those opposed to racial discrimination or sexual discrimination--joined this transition. They named the system as the cause of their problems and focused on denouncing authorities or advocating overthrow of the system. Specific problems and policies became only examples of the architectonic corruption of the overall system of government.

As this transition from procedural politics to ideological politics proceeded, protesters changed from deliberative rhetoric to ideological rhetoric to accommodate that transition. Ideology changed the purpose, nature, and topics of protest rhetoric and, in doing so, changed the meaning of both the protest and the rhetoric. The pur-

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