American Elections and Technical Communication

Today is Election Day in the United States, and it’s a big one this year as we are having a presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. I wish I could vote for the fictional character in the photo on the left instead, Jed Bartlet from the old television show, “The West Wing” (one of my all time favorite shows), but that’s neither here nor there.

One of the things that gets me fired up when watching “The West Wing” or even watching real-life politics is the rhetoric. One of my secret dreams is that I would become a speechwriter for the president. One of the things I loved doing when I was younger was write up speeches or documents meant to make strong positions clear on particular subjects. Even when listening to the political speeches of the current presidential candidates, you can hear very different styles being put forth to explain the ideals and issues of each candidate. One famous politician, former President Bill Clinton, is famous for having great speeches that run on for a very long time.

That got me to thinking. Perhaps speechwriters don’t need to be wordsmiths that look to expound in great detail all the pomposity of the issues and ideals of candidates. Political candidates should look for technical writers and technical communicators to help them write their speeches. Why? Instead of using big fancy words and blaggering on and on, technical writers would get to the heart of what the issues are, and what the plans of a candidate would be in addressing those issues. A technical writer’s  job is to make the complicated simple, to break down the most technical topics down to bite-sized, manageable pieces that can be more easily digested by any person reading or listening to the information being distributed.  Wouldn’t that make an election much easier? Wouldn’t that help voters have a better understanding of what each candidate stands for and what he or she represents?

I’m sure it’s mostly marketing and advertising types that work on these campaigns. After all, each candidate is trying to sell themselves to the public, and the information distributed through debates, flyers, robo-calls, and emails scream of advertising so that they can get contributions to help fund his or her respective campaign.  But in the end, voters need clear reasons on why a candidate is the better candidate for the job, and cutting right through the flowery “blah blah blah” and getting straight to the heart of issues would be much more accepted by the voting public. I think technical communicators as speechwriters and communications staff would have been optimal to make this a less complicated election.

And maybe, someday, I’ll have that speechwriting job after all.

If you have the ability to vote in this election, please remember that your vote really does count. If you feel passionately about your candidate of choice, don’t assume that he or she will get plenty of votes. There was one election in my home state a few years ago that showed in polls that one candidate was going to win, so people just stayed home. Instead, we got the other guy, and it hasn’t been that great for us since (can’t wait to vote him out!).  Even if it’s not election day where you live, do remember to exercise your right to vote if you can. It is the one opportunity for your voice to be heard. It only takes one person to turn over an election, and that voice could be yours.

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