Presidential candidates still don’t write poems, either

Politics | Familiarity

A couple of days ago, I wryly observed that supposed political revolution of blogging hadn't brought out any of the Presidential candidates to blog. Instead their blogs are all what the 2003 blogging know-it-alls scoffed at: a series of press releases. I sent out my observation to a few folks, and Joshua Levy wrote in TechPresident's Daily Digest today:

"Writer Jon Garfunkel echoes the lament of many when he writes the candidates simply aren’t taking advantage of the blogging form."

It's just a peculiarity of mine that I refuse to be labelled a "blogger," and my friends at TechPresident are aware of that. After all, suppose that the statement had read "blogger wants more candidates to blog." And then it would seem like I was just begging others to join my hobby to endorse what I do. Or otherwise it might seem like I was begging candidates to be technologically hip. Neither is the case. I was merely arguing that there is a "classical blogging" which can resemble a literary form, and thus it could bring a deep connection to readers/voters.

I will also lament that Presidential candidates aren't trying a much more veritable literary form: poetry. Wouldn't that be a change in pace? A candidate's two rhetorical tropes are floating like a butterfly (soaring stump speeches) and stinging like a bee (attack ads), but what if they were singing like Ali? Of course, Muhammad Ali didn't actually write his most famous couplet, "float like a butterfly…", it was his corner-poet Drew "Bundini" Brown, but he made it famous all the same. Neither did George W. Bush ever actually write the poem "Roses are red" poem where he referred to his wife as the "lump in bed."

Despite all the changes in campaign communications, I suspect some things have always been true: the reporters covering a campaign hear the same stump speech repeated; the audience, for the most part, hears it for the very first time. (I will open up The Making of the President 1960 to confirm this.) But in this day and age, there are many more people following a campaign nationally from C-SPAN to YouTube, and thus the whole exercise must seem repetitive to many more would-be pundits, leading to the horse-race coverage all around.

A little poem now and then,
Would help us all remember
That as the pieces vow and fend,
There is a world beyond November.

(Poetry is short, but it's hard work. That third line was originally "While the circus tends" which was unsalvageable.)

Perhaps there's a bit of a stigma attached to Presidential-poets. The Library of Congress Presidents as Poets website points out that the last one was Jimmy Carter. But he's followed in the footsteps of giants: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Quincy Adams, Lincoln (and Tyler too). Alas, none published during their campaigns, let along while they were living.