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Haikus for the Campaign Trail

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Most people in this country, with the exception of political consultants and pundits, are not very happy with the direction of our politics.  Campaigns are growing longer, louder, more bombastic, and enormously expensive.  It’s increasingly difficult to discern fact from hype; to understand the real issues.  Ironically, as news coverage becomes more and more overblown, average citizens are turned off by the entire process.

So let me introduce a modest proposal to reverse these trends.  It seems that much of the problem stems from the bombast and hyperbole emanating from all fronts: from the candidates, from analysts, from commercials, etc.  We need a way to cut to the collective chase; to get to the heart of a candidate’s message and responses to it.

So I propose, from now on, all political speeches, messaging, coverage and analysis should be done in the form of Haikus.  That’s right, the Japanese poetry form that’s restricted to three lines and 17 syllables.  Classically, five syllables to the first line, seven to the second line,  five to the third.

Before you roll your eyes, shake your head and move on to the next article, let me explain the advantages.  Haiku forces the writer to be extremely economical in prose and to think carefully about word choices.  By its nature, it creates simplicity, sparseness and elegance.  As political consumers, we wouldn’t be forced to wade through pages and pages of bombast and vitriol (well, it might still be vitriol, but it would be simple, spare, elegant vitriol.)  Think of the economic savings: the costs of speechwriting, advertising and printed material would plummet.  If you’re uncomfortable with the thought of using an imported, foreign-born literary device, call them Amerikus or Freedomkus.

Let’s try it out.  Most news coverage these days focuses on the Republican primary race.  Being an objective journalist, I need to go where the story is.  Actually, that’s a bareface lie.  I’m neither objective nor a journalist.  As a liberal Democrat (see, I use the L word!) I enjoy ragging on Republican presidential candidates.  So we’ll start with the presumed frontrunner – Mitt Romney.  Mr. Romney has been accused of shifting positions:

O great consultant,
We pay you well, pray, today,
Who is the real me?

Mitt also seems to have an issue connecting to the common folk:

I feel your deep pain,
No imported caviar
We use domestic.

His chief opponent, Newt Gingrich, needs to explain his highly paid work for Fannie Mae:

What is the big deal?
Don’t all history teachers
Get one million bucks?

He’s also received some mileage from attacking the press:

Stand by the mirror
It takes a lot of practice,

To be indignant.

Rick Santorum, though behind in the polls, is still hanging on:

It’s hard asking folks,
To get info about me,
 But without Google.

To the sorrow of comedians and satirists everywhere, Rick Perry is no longer in the race,.  Nevertheless, we’ll give him a shoutout:

When I write haikus,
I forget the third line – oops.

OK, enough about the Republican race.  I’m not particularly happy with much of Barack Obama’s record, especially the way he’s often caved into Congress:

I meet you halfway,
Then I start to compromise,
What firm leadership?

Of course, this is my particular viewpoint.  If there are any Tea Party members still reading at this point, I’m sure you can come up with something more, er, colorful.  Be my guest.

Finally, let’s not forget our garrulous vice president:

I just can’t stop at
17 syllables and
three lines.  It’s just too
hard.

Now, I know none of this is going to take off.  And that’s probably a good thing.  If this technique becomes more popular, there will soon be paid political consultants specializing in haikus.  Then there will be attempts to stretch the limits; 20 syllables, 25, etc.  Arguments will ensue whether the new forms can truly be considered haikus.  Charges of discrimination will fly back and forth, accompanied by demands that the market be regulated (pushed, I must admit, by the Democrats).  Eventually, the entire mess will be litigated all the way up to the Supreme Court. 

And you know that the Supreme Court would not issue their opinion in the form of a haiku.  Hell, they’re lawyers!  Some of their words will exceed the 17 syllable limit.

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About Phillip Barnett

Phillip Barnett is a software geek with multiple, conflicting musical fantasies. He has played jazz piano, folk guitar and klezmer clarinet (not all at the same time - that would look ridiculous and would probably hurt his back).
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