I get it: “Unity” is a PoliticianWord. It’s right up there with “hope,” “duty,” “folks,” “confidence,” “respect,” “accountability,” “change,” “empathy,” “connect,” “decency,” “patriotism,” “reform” and “character.”
They’re words that, if you or I use them, mean something. They have discrete definitions and are the building blocks of a substantive linguistic exchange between individuals.
When deployed as a PoliticianWord by a public figure, however, they’re little more than tenuous links that make up inchoate chains of words that — while technically grammatically correct sentences in the English language — mean nothing other than that the utterer wants your support for something.
Thus, it wouldn’t ordinarily irk me when former first lady Michelle Obama, in her post-election message, tweeted this about the people who voted for President Donald Trump: “We’ve got a lot of work to do to reach out to these folks in the years ahead and connect with them on what unites us.”
It’s entirely consistent with the rest of the Democrats’ rhetoric — which usually wouldn’t be irksome, either.
The problem is that those who traffic in PoliticianWords never seem to grasp irony. The Democratic side in the 2020 election was a master class in this, particularly when it came to the word “unity.” Democratic nominee Joe Biden would often underline it in the same speeches in which he called Trump and his supporters traffickers in lies, bigotry and cruelty.
Obama did him one better on Saturday, doing it in in the very same tweet:
I’m not a politician and I’m not an expert in communicating with the other side.
I know, however, that insulting the 70 million people who “voted for the status quo, even when it meant supporting lies, hate, chaos, and division” and then saying that Biden supporters need to “connect with them on what unites us” shows an amazing capacity for setting up an incendiary straw man depicting Trump supporters as zombie-like collaborators in intolerance and calumny, while simultaneously displaying a shocking ineptitude at creating an environment in which uniting with them can occur.
This would be bad enough if it happened in isolation, but it was merely the worst part of a stupefying Twitter thread in which the former first lady patted liberals on the back for being themselves and not those ugly, vile creatures they eventually have to unite with.
In it, Obama trumpeted that there were a record number of votes cast while at the same time bemoaning impediments to voting.
She talked about Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, restoring “dignity, competence, and heart at the White House” without the self-awareness that it’s undignified, when declaring victory, to trash both those you’re declaring victory over and their supporters.
And, for someone who told voters that “you know I hate politics” during her speech at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Obama certainly spent plenty of the thread electioneering.
Note the theme throughout the thread: This can never happen again, America. The left needs to keep winning elections until those — shudder — conservatives finally get it together and become the kind of good opposition they want, the type of Republicans who do what the Democrats want but hem and haw a bit before they do it. You know, just like Mitt Romney, the man the Obamas tore apart during the 2012 election cycle.
This pathetic overuse of “unity” is oozing out of every pore of the Democratic Party right now, which is uproarious when you consider these are the same folks who just spent the last 18 months or more comparing the other side to literal Nazis.
When Biden used PoliticanWord sentences like “I sought this office to restore the soul of America, to rebuild the backbone of this nation, the middle class, and to make America respected around the world again and to unite us here at home” during his speech on Saturday, yes, one felt a certain contemptuousness.
This was a man who began his candidacy by repeating the lie that Trump called the white nationalists at Charlottesville “very fine people” and ended it with the same incendiary rhetoric.
When he called on Americans to “lower the temperature” politically, it would have been funny were it not so serious.
At least, however, he didn’t call for unity one sentence after he said the other side had voted for “lies, hate, chaos, and division.” That was all Michelle Obama. It’s almost an accomplishment.
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