Searching for the Perfect Metaphor | Arkansas Blog

Searching for the Perfect Metaphor

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It's clear that the Barack Obama reelection DNC will center on a "future versus past" them that has worked so well in American politics at least back to 1896. Starting with future-oriented Republican William McKinley's pro-industrialization attack on Populist/Democrat William Jennings Bryan as a purveyor of the bleak, rural, agrarian past, candidates who have gotten on the side of the "future" have performed quite well in US politics.


Since the GOP convention, the rhetoric of the President and his surrogates has centered on a critique of Mitt Romney's message from last week as a "back to the past" campaign. As Obama himself said, the RNC was like watching "black-and-white TV" from "the last century."
The key for this week, particularly in Obama's Thursday night acceptance speech, is capturing a compelling metaphor that cements this future-oriented messaging in the public's mind.


Some of the best one's have already been used. The strongest convention speech in recent years centered on "the future" was that of Bill Clinton—who highlights the DNC on Wednesday evening—in 1996 laying out a plan to build "the bridge to the 21st century." That speech was an explicit counter to the speech given just weeks earlier by Senator Bob Dole in accepting the GOP nomination. As Dole said: "Let me be the bridge to a time of tranquility, faith and confidence in action. And to those who say it was never so, that America's not been better, I say you're wrong. And I know because I was there. And I have seen it. And I remember."


Can Barack Obama and his speechwriters find the ideal metaphor that is cognizant of the doubts that Americans feel about the direction of the country at the present but embracing of the future? Ironically, considering the events of last Thursday, perhaps the best one offered to date was that of "Halftime in America" Super Bowl ad for Chrysler featuring a certain octogenarian actor. Ideas on the perfect metaphor for Thursday night?

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