The Scientific Indian

The rhetoric of modern politics

I found the below from historian and writer Ramachandra Guha’s book India After Gandhi to be of interest given the current US election campaign (Note that Mr Guha was talking within the context of Partition).

“The world over, the rhetoric of modern democratic politics has been marked by two rather opposed rhetorical styles. The first appeals to hope, to popular aspirations for economic prosperity and social peace. The second appeals to fear, to sectional worries about being worsted or swamped by one’s historic enemies.”

India has, I think, held up pretty well with Mr Guha’s observation over the decades. The secular political parties can still be – albeit with much strain – identified with the Hopefuls. The nationalist political parties work with Fear (needless to say, all Nationalistic parties do this, world over).

As for the US election campaigns, I don’t know if this observation is true. While Democratic campaign can be clearly identified with Hope and Peace, I think it would be unfair to identify Fear with Republican campaign wholly, regardless of the posture assumed by some in it. I could be wrong. I haven’t really understood Republican campaign in this election.


  1. #1 Ethan
    September 16, 2008

    I think it would be unfair to identify Fear with Republican campaign wholly, regardless of the posture assumed by some in it. I could be wrong. I haven’t really understood Republican campaign in this election.< \i>

    I think you should read more US papers. In any case, I have no difficulty identifying the Republicans as the party of fear. Since the 1970s they have been the party of racial fears. The current administration has simply broadened the scope and intensified the fear.

  2. #2 No hope in Obama, capitalism
    September 25, 2008

    Can the Democratic Party campaign be so “clearly identified with hope and peace”? Come on Scientific Indian—be scientific in matters of society and politics too! Listen to the Gandhian prose that the Obama campaign is very clearly and repeatedly driving hope to us Americans (and the world):

    Obama’s running mate Joe Biden at the Democratic National Convention last month:

    �Should we trust John McCain�s judgment when he said only three years ago, �Afghanistan�we don�t read about it any more in the papers because it�s succeeded�? Or should we trust Barack Obama, who more than a year ago called for sending two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan?�

    Obama in his (in)famous speech to AIPAC, the Israeli lobby in the United States:

    “…(W)e must preserve our total commitment to
    our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs.”

    Indeed—ask a Palestinian in the ope-air prison known as Gaza what kind of “hope” they can look forward to with such a condescending savior in the White House.

    As a U.S. Senate candidate (i.e. before he even was elected to this office!) Obama was already threatening missile strikes against Iran. And Obama is even to the right of Bush in his support for strikes against Pakistan.

    And to top it off, his conciliation with and sucking up to dangerous Christian fundamentalist lunatics in the U.S. should set off alarm bells to many in the rational-thinking community.

    If the Obama campaign were truly a binary opposite of the politics of fear, why would he vote for the FISA spying bill that gave retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies who slavishly cooperated in Bush’s illegal spying on (now we’ll never find out how many) Americans? Oh well, I suppose a police state will keep us safe from Muslims and Mexican immigrants who want to kill us…

    This is the false “hope” of empire and fascism. The U.S. cannot run an empire without it, and it’s all the more effective if well-meaning secular progressives take in the rhetoric religiously. Let’s not facilitate monstrosity— which is sure to come no matter who wins the “election” for U.S. President. Let’s bring back the tradition of radical truth-telling, moral clarity, and social struggle worldwide.

  3. #3 Z
    September 30, 2008

    Sitting in UK, its very easy for you to label “nationalism” with fear in India. Even though India’s 2 big parties are god-for-nothing, leave nationalism out of this.

    In US, at least parties agree that they have to go after the guy who attacks USA. What happened to your logic??

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