Fearing that any proposal to address the major problems facing America will meet with resistance, the major political parties have turned to hyperbole* in order to terrify the electorate into not voting for the other party. I’m not sure when this began, but my earliest recollection of it was in 1964 as President Lyndon B. Johnson(D) sought to retain the presidency that he had succeeded to in the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (D). Mr. Johnson, never a particularly likeable politician, was suffering by comparison to Mr. Kennedy and the Camelot Era. An April 2016 article in the Smithsonian Magazine described it thusly:
“On September 7, 1964, a 60-second TV ad changed American politics forever. A 3-year-old girl in a simple dress counted as she plucked daisy petals in a sun-dappled field. Her words were supplanted by a mission-control countdown followed by a massive nuclear blast in a classic mushroom shape. The message was clear if only implicit: Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was a genocidal maniac who threatened the world’s future. Two months later, President Lyndon Johnson won easily, and the emotional political attack ad—visceral, terrifying, and risky—was made.”
The Smithsonian article accurately depicted the fear generated by such ads, but failed to identify this as the first in a long line of hyperbole by both parties. The stunning thing about this ad was the absolute lack of questioning its underlying premise – that Sen. Goldwater (R) was likely to trigger a nuclear war simply because he routinely and loudly characterized the aims of global communism and the need of America to not only be aware of its aims but prepared to push back against its hegemony. It didn’t matter. Voters panicked at the fear that the Democrats were correct and we stood on the brink of global annihilation of Mr. Goldwater was elected. In the end, lacking solutions to America’s problems**, Mr. Johnson chose to engender fear.
The “Daisy” political ad was textbook hyperbole. It played on fear without any underlying substance because the “consequences” were so cataclysmic and the ability to retreat from “failure to abide” appeared non-existent. It was a one-way street straight to hell with no choices but one. It also became the standard operating procedure for Democrats – mostly because when tried by the Republicans it was so clumsily handled that its fallibility was immediately obvious.***
President Barack Obama used it successfully against the Republican presidential/vice-presidential nominees (Mitt Romney (R-MA) and Paul Ryan (R-WI) when he deployed the ads featuring a silhouetted figure (Mr. Romney) pushing an elderly woman in a wheel chair over a cliff (defined as the end of Social Security). It was the cruelest in the long running and baseless assertion by Democrats that Republicans are going to end Social Security. Mr. Obama also used it repeatedly in his quest to strike a nuclear deal with the rogue terrorist regime in Iran basically claiming that we had to enter a deal no matter how bad it was or face nuclear Armageddon as Iran raced to develop a nuclear bomb and the ballistic delivery systems.
Hillary Clinton (D-NY) lacked a catastrophic event in her presidential campaign against then-businessman Donald Trump (R-NY) so she made one up. Using a phony dossier created at her behest and aided by Mr. Obama’s State Department, Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mr. Trump was depicted as engaged in a conspiracy with international thug, Russian President Vladimir Putin, to subjugate America’s interests to those of Russia. Without the slightest bit of evidence (other than the contrived dossier, every Democrat and their allies in the mainstream media accepted and broadcast the allegations as if true, documented and proven. It met the test of this new form of hyperbole by suggesting an act so heinous that it could not be rectified once it began. And while it did Ms. Clinton no good for the 2016 election – she lost – it became an albatross for Mr. Trump during his term and allowed the Democrat controlled Congress to avoid addressing critical issues such as deficit spending, border security and Social Security reform by focusing on impeachment without substance.
Mr. Biden and his allies in the Congress and mainstream media have now seized upon a new hyperbole – electing Mr. Trump will spell the end of democracy and use another hyperbole in support of the former. First of all there is nothing in Mr. Trump’s term as President, nor in his campaigns – other than the overwrought protests of political class – that he will seek to end democracy. In fact, and true to the psychological theory – projection – it is the liberal/progressive drive to limit speech with which they disagree that poses the greatest threat to democracy. In other words, it is the liberal/progressives that are in pursuit of that which they claim the Republicans and conservative are intending. It is so stunning that it would make Lewis Carroll spin in his grave as the imaginary Alice in Wonderland is given reality by the liberal/progressives.****
The hyperbole used by liberal/progressives in their “end of democracy” screed about the January 6, 2022, Capitol riot which they have labeled as an “insurrection.” There was no insurrection. In fact, the Capitol riot would have been labeled a “minor disturbance” or a “mostly peaceful demonstration” had it occurred on the streets of Portland and/ or Seattle during the 100 days of protests in 2020 under the leadership of Antifa and/or Black Lives Matter. An insurrection connotes an organized, and usually armed, uprising. And while there were probably those within the crowd of slightly over 1,000 people who perceived it to be the opportunity for an armed rebellion – they forgot to bring their arms, or for that matter their supporters of rebellion. In large part, those attending that were arrested and charged with a crime were there for the protest – just like the majority of people the participated in the summer riots following the death of George Floyd. The only difference being that less people were injured, less property was damaged, and fewer liberal/progressive politicians excused the episode as an understandable reaction to a history of repression. In point of fact there was no difference.
And while the liberal/progressives in furtherance of their hyperbole claim the purpose of the riot was to prevent the certification of Mr. Biden’s election, it did no such thing – the states duly certified their election results, the electoral college accepted the results and certified their votes and Vice-president Michael Pence accepted and certified the election. Unlike the riots following the killing of Mr. Floyd, there were not follow-on demonstrations, riots, or armed confrontation following the January 6 riot. But declaring the January 6 disturbance as a riot would not make it sufficiently calamitous and thus the liberal/progressives labeled it an “insurrection” which purported to assume the end of democracy if it succeeded. Another text book hyperbole and one that continues to do damage to the idea of Free Speech.
And while it is principally the liberal/progressive wing of the Democrat Party that has seized upon the hyperbole as a substitute for policies to address the nation’s problems, the Republicans have their own purveyors of outrage and their advocacy are likewise coupled with visions of catastrophic consequences. The primary difference is that even most Republicans and all real conservatives have dismissed their claims, not as hyperbole, but rather as just bat guano.
So, in the end, if you are listening to some politician screaming about that this election, or that piece of legislation, will lead to the end of the world, check your “bu****it meter and relax. Life changes, but those who utilize hyperbole never do.
* For those of you forced to endure a teachers union led education in the Portland public schools, hyperbole refers to exaggerated statements that are meant to, but should not, be taken literally.
** Mr. Johnson went on to engage in the “War Against Poverty” which despite having lasted for over fifty years and spending trillions of dollars has had little if any material effect on the percentage of Americans facing poverty and more importantly still lacks a definitive means for assisting those in poverty with a pathway out. Like so many other government programs it was something you could throw money at without any results and claim that the reason it failed was that not enough money was thrown at it.
*** A prime example was the attempt to cast former President Barack Obama (D) as foreign born and thus ineligible to be President of the United States.
**** If you don’t know what that means, you should get out more often. Read a book.