Rand Paul, a U.S. senator from Kentucky, recently announced his candidacy for presidency. He gave a rousing speech announcing his plans to improve the country. While there are many similarities to the short video by Hillary Clinton discussed in a previous post, Rand Paul has his own unique rhetorical style and an interesting set of metaphors. In addition to the obligatory run for office horse racing metaphors, he uses a wide variety of metaphors from personification, body position, sight, machines and journeys. Here are a few examples. As always, the examples are taken straight from the transcript of the speech, the italics are mine to highlight the metaphors in question. You can read the entire speech here.
One of the dominant themes in Paul’s speech is that the United States is a person who is strong but who has been taken over by the wrong people. Paul describes the current state of the country as being ugly and one that discourages people from achieving their goals. He also describes liberty as a woman who clutches the constitution (similar to the Statue of Liberty holding a torch and a tablet), while he argues that the U.S. defense system must be robust and nimble. Collectively, all the citizens of the U.S. are considered to be a sleeping person who needs to wake up and take action. The most forceful metaphor is one in which Paul compares the country to person who has been taken over by malevolent forces and it needs to be taken back.
Example: “In one America, people experience the opportunity of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In the other America, people experience a daily ugliness that dashes hope and leaves only the fatigue of despair.”
Example: “We need to boldly proclaim our vision for America. We need to go boldly forth under the banner of liberty that clutches the Constitution in one hand and the Bill of Rights in the other.”
defense robust and nimble
Example: “We need a national defense robust enough to defend against all attack, modern enough to deter all enemies, and nimble enough to defend our vital interests.”
Example: “We borrow a million dollars a minute. This vast accumulation of debt threatens not just our economy, but our security. We can wake up now and do the right thing. Quit spending money we don’t have.”
take our country back
Example: “I have a message, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words. We have come to take our country back. We have come to take our country back from the special interests that use Washington as their personal piggy bank, the special interests that are more concerned with their personal welfare than the general welfare.”
In a correlated set of metaphors to personification, Paul compares the U.S. to a person whose body position indicates strength or weakness. Our bodies, like those of a boxer in a fight, must be ready to go on the offensive to withstand an attack. He contends that the country needs to stay strong and be wise. Paul also officially announces that he is running for president by saying that he is putting himself forward.
position of weakness
Example: “The difference between President Obama and myself, he seems to think you can negotiate from a position of weakness.”
Example: “We must realize, though, that we do not project strength by borrowing money from China to send it to Pakistan.”
strong and wise
Example: “We’ve brought Iran to the table through sanctions that I voted for. Now we must stay strong.”
Example: “I see an America strong enough to deter foreign aggression, yet wise enough to avoid unnecessary intervention.”
putting myself forward
Example: “Today I announce with God’s help, with the help of liberty lovers everywhere, that I am putting myself forward as a candidate for president of the United States of America.”
There are several interesting metaphors that Paul uses comparing governments to machines. He refers to the U.S. government as the Washington machine which he later describes as broken. He then claims that socialism is a sputtering engine while the United States as an engine of prosperity.
Example: “The Washington machine that gobbles up our freedoms and invades every nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped.”
Example: “Washington is horribly broken. I fear it can’t be fixed from within. We the people must rise up and demand action.”
Example: “Resolutely we stood decade after decade against Communism, the engine of capitalism finally winning out against the sputtering, incompetent engine of socialism.”
Example: “I’m convinced that most Americans want to work. I want to free up the great engine of American prosperity.”
As is common in many political speeches, presidential candidates claim that they will take the American people on a journey with them. Hillary Clinton made this very clear in her announcement video. Rand Paul also compares the U.S. to people or vehicles on several types of journeys, possible boats, trains or walking on foot. He claims that under President Obama is getting off course as if we are on a boat and have lost our way. He also describes the country as being adrift as if we have lost our rudder or engine. He then uses a common metaphor of being left behind, as if Americans have not been able to catch the correct bus or train. Paul also compares the U.S. to a beacon and our cities shining and beckoning travelers.
Example: “President Obama is on course to add more debt than all of the previous presidents combined.”
Example: “Today begins the journey to take America back. To rescue a great country now adrift, join me as together we seek a new vision for America.”
Example: “I have a different vision, an ambitious vision, an ambitious vision, a vision that will offer opportunity to all Americans, especially those who have been left behind.”
Example: “America has much greatness left in her. We are still exceptional and we are still a beacon for the world.”
shining and beckoning
Example: “I see our big cities once again shining and beckoning with creativity and ingenuity, with American companies offering American jobs.”
Finally, the most dominant metaphor in Paul’s speech is that of having a vision. Of course, we commonly have the physical ability to see but we can also have the metaphorical vision to see into the future. Perhaps not without irony, Rand Paul is an ophthalmologist – an eye doctor – so he really does care about vision both literally and figuratively. Paul uses the vision metaphor ten separate times. Here are a few examples including one listed above.
Example: “I have a vision for America. I want to be part of a return to prosperity, a true economic boom that lists all Americans, a return to a government restrained by the Constitution.”
Example: “In my vision for America, we’ll bring back manufacturing jobs that pay well. How? We’ll dramatically lower the tax on American companies that wish to bring their profits home.”
Example: “More than $2 trillion in American profit currently sits overseas. In my vision for America, new highways and bridges will be built across the country, not by raising your taxes, but by lowering the tax to bring this American profit home.”
Example: “To rescue a great country now adrift, join me as together we seek a new vision for America. Today I announce with God’s help, with the help of liberty lovers everywhere, that I am putting myself forward as a candidate for president of the United States of America.”
Senator Paul clearly has ambitious goals for becoming president of the United States and reforming the government according to his libertarian and conservative principles. He believes that the U.S. is metaphorically on the wrong journey and that he can correct the course of the ship to regain success domestically and internationally. I am anxious to see how he describes his goals as he goes forward through the campaign.
Next time: The Metaphors of Mike Huckabee