It occurred to me this morning that Democrats don't do particularly well when using metaphor to express their points. At least, they're not as successful at it as conservatives are. Everyone can cite Ronald Reagan's mythical welfare-queen, drawing multiple checks to defraud the system, even though it was never substantiated; ditto the Viet Nam veterans who were spit upon and kicked and treated like scum upon their return from that war. But when Democrats try this, their efforts are generally pooh-poohed and investigated, with the results of said investigation somehow hanging around their necks like an albatross to a far greater degree than ever for a Republican. So it is that Al Gore, for example, takes on a reputation as a guy constantly "lying" to "reinvent himself" -- even if the "lies" are, in some cases, actually true and in other cases simple instances that could be attributed to a faulty memory, but nobody remembers, say, Phil Gramm and Dickie Flatt, or Dick Armey and the guy who lost his job because the government-run institution where he worked couldn't afford the minimum wage. It's weird.
Anyway, I'm wondering if Democrats shouldn't work harder to get their points across in more concrete terms, using metaphors if they can. For example, the "Top One Percent" Tax Cut. Now that we've established that the tax cut will mostly benefit the top one percent, and now that we've established just who the top one percent are (i.e., how much you have to make to get into that club), maybe we can illustrate it even better. Here are a couple of examples:
:: If you are elected to the United States Senate, and if you then become the Senate's Majority Leader, and you have no other sources of income other than your salary as Senator, in order to break into the top one percent you would need to double your income. (Senator Bill Frist's salary: $161,200 per year.)
:: If you become President of the United States, the news is good: you'll be in the top one percent, at $400,000 per year. Of course, you won't be in the Privileged Percentile by much, and if that percentile continues to move upward as wealth continues to concentrate in the hands of a smaller and smaller minority, you might well fall out of the Privileged Percentile over the course of an eight-year service as President.
:: But, proving the old adage that the job ins't worth a bucket of warm spit, as Vice President of the United States you'll only be slightly closer to breaking into the Privileged Percentile than the Senate Majority Leader ($186,300 per year). Maybe Dick Cheney can get an old crate and set up a Halliburton Stock Stand on the sidewalk in front of his secured location.
:: Maybe you were just selected by the Carolina Panthers in the sixth round of the recent NFL Draft. Sixth-rounders don't tend to command a whole lot in the way of signing bonuses and large, up-front contracts, so there's a good chance you'll end up playing for the league minimum for a player with less than one credited season of NFL service (assuming you make the team). The bad news: you won't crack the Privileged Percentile ($225,000 per season). But if you work hard, play the game well, and manage to hang on until your third season, you'll just make it ($375,000 per season). Of course, if you're around that long you can hold out and get the big bucks. For pointers on this, write to Emmit Smith's agent, or Bruce Smith's agent.
:: But then, maybe you don't like playing in the cold and the snow. Warm weather's your thing, and the green grass at Wrigley sets your heart a-flutter. It's baseball for you, then. Will you enter the Privileged Percentile making Major League Baseball's minimum salary for a rookie? It could be....this might be....oooooh, foul ball! No, you won't be in the Top One Percent. But you'll be closer than that poor slob in his rookie NFL season, at $300,000 per season.
:: OK, screw those two sports. You like ice. Lots and lots of ice. Hockey it is. Minimum salary for a rookie in the NHL: $150,000 a year. Keep looking. Senator Frist's job is looking pretty good, eh? (But if you wait a year, and enter the NHL in 2004, you'll make $185,000 a season. You'll be breathing down Dick Cheney's neck.)
:: Oh, wait a minute! Basketball! That's everybody's favorite. Everybody wants to be like Mike, right? And with all that merchandising, surely an NBA rookie making the minimum would earn the favor of President Bush's tax cut! We're in like Flynn! Well, not quite. But you're getting closer; closer, even, than the baseball guy. ($349,458 per year.)
:: OK, so you're in the NBA as a rookie, and you're this close to making enough to get that tax cut. Unfortunately, your equally-gifted-at-basketball twin sister, who just signed a rookie contract with a WNBA team, might be better off coaching a college team than trying to play professionally. And entering the Privileged Percentile? Fuhgeddaboudit ($30,000 per season).
:: Well, fine. I didn't want to do any of those things, anyway. I just take my chances with being a freelance writer. That's gotta be worth something....
[At this point, the writer of this post expired as a result of his head exploding. Al Qaeda involvement is not suspected in the explosion of the head, but Attorney General Ashcroft has promised a full investigation.]