III) language and political power.

The first two documents are newspaper headlines referring to the capacity of politicians to convince the public. The aim of politicians is to change people’s minds and in order to reach this goal they need to say what people want to hear. The message or the slogan / motto needs to be strong, short and punchy, for example “Yes we can” or “Make America great again”.

During a political campaign, politicians deliver speeches to have the people’s vote. If they lose the election they don’t have political power at all. But it doesn’t mean they stop talking because they have to be ready for the next election. After they have won the election, they keep talking in order to increase their popularity rate. Speaking is what they do, whether they are in office (en poste) or not.

In times of crisis, politicians keep addressing the nation to say that everything is under control and that they are going to take measures, to take action. If one politician doesn’t say anything in times of crisis, people will think that he/she doesn’t care about the situation. For example, after the Charlottesville violent incidents last year, President Trump didn’t say anything until several days: the press blamed him for being too slow to respond, as we saw in another newspaper clipping. The role of politicians is to speak to the nation when there is a crisis. When they don’t, something is wrong.

The word “Parliament” in itself is very instructive. Parliament is the legislative branch of political power, in other words, MPs (Members of Parliament in the UK) make the law, so to a degree Parliament is at the heart of political power. The thing is that etymologically, it is just a place where people speak. Moreover, a law is sometimes called an “act”, as if for politicians, speaking was acting. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama explained why words have power in politics in the sense that they can have a positive impact on people, and can push them/drive them to take action, provided that they are the words that people want to hear.