Imagery And Rhetoric In Political Life

Submitted By hansonm2012
Words: 1428
Pages: 6

Paper #2

The Role of Imagery and Rhetoric in Political Life

In Richard Hofstadter’s book The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It, he sets the groundwork for a totally new understanding of the American past and its leaders. Through unique imagery and political rhetoric, his approach to history is different than most historians. In Peter Silver’s Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America, he focuses in detail on how easily the idea of fear can incite entire colonies to turn to violence. His vivid and sometimes chilling imagery that through the shared experience of fearing and hating Indians that Europeans united under one umbrella, were able to become a stronger country. Both authors take a rather unusual approach to history because they place their basis of argument on the role of imagery and political rhetoric play in political life. Silver conveys an imagery of fear, which incited populations all over America to violence. Hofstadter’s rhetoric leads the reader to rely on political reality rather than political ideology. Throughout Hofstadter’s The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It, he describes the lives of eleven different prominent political figures and the founding fathers throughout the pass of time. It is in these descriptions that he recounts their different ideologies. But although they were all different, Hofstadter believed that each political figure shared in the beliefs in the rights of property, economic individualism, and the value of competition (Hofstadter, xxxvii). Hofstadter believes that these common beliefs that all of these prominent political figures share allow for the “American tradition” to stay intact. That is how Hofstadter believes we should approach history. In his introduction, he writes that, “American history, presenting itself as a rich and rewarding spectacle, a succession of well-fulfilled promises, induces a desire to observe and enjoy, not to analyze and act” (Hofstadter, xxiv). He makes the point that American history needs to be analyzed rather than observed to help us succeed as a nation. The two world wars, unpredictable and unstable economic booms, and an abysmally long depression had shaken America’s confidence in the future. Hofstadter makes the point that it is extremely vital for America as a nation to use the knowledge and lessons from the past and apply them to the future. Citizens of the United States tend to focus on the differences between the political parties. This focus on differences keeps citizens from analyzing the political conflict in our democracy. Hofstadter goes on to say that the, “American opinion…has been much obscured by the tendency to place political conflict in the foreground of history” (Hofstadter, xxxvi). This conflict can be misleading and can hide the true reality of politics. This is the way Hofstadter approaches history. He believes that one cannot understand the reality of American politics if one only examines the specific parties and the conflict between them. One has to examine and analyze the different political values and institutions in the U.S. government. American citizens have to sift through the mess that is politics. We must sort through all the sorts of political conflict and the details that go with it, and get down to the simple reality of American politics and political history. Richard Hofstadter strives to make the reader to make a more realistic approach to political language. When examining Peter Silver’s Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America, it is important to examine the aspect of fear. Early America was time of great diversity. Lutherans, Presbyterians, Quakers, Catholics, Covenanters, Irish, German, French, and Welch all sought to lay claim to the vast landscape that was America. This world of diversity of course leads to chaos. The divisions became more and more decisive until the arrival of the Seven Year’s War. It was at this