Topic 1: introduction to the importance of politics and the language of political discourse

Chapter 4: Political issues

Topic 1: introduction to the importance of politics and the language of political discourse

Pre-reading activity:

1. In small groups, discuss the role of politics in ordinary people’s lives. Write down major ideas that have emerged in the discussion.

2. Describe briefly why you perceive yourself as active/ passive or interested/uninterested/disinterested in political issues.

Text 1

Why Politics Matters

By John Leemk

A lot of people are apathetic about politics. This holds true in any country, be it the United States or the United Kingdom or Spain or India or Malaysia. People just don't see the point of politics. At best, they look upon it as something for intellectuals to pursue. And at worst, they think of politics as utterly meaningless and pointless to their lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. At an abstract, macro level, politics matters, because the future of the country depends on it — and by extension, so does the future of the individual.

Moreover, how the individual leads his daily life is very much dependent on the political scene. Very often, people have this conception of politics as being related to "macro" things — and thus, they see no point in caring about who the Prime Minister is, or what policies he carries out. As the saying goes, all politics is local. You may not think who the Education Minister is matters much — but if he is the man who sets the policies that determine what you, or your siblings, or your children study. Since education makes us who we are, by extension, the Education Minister determines who we grow up to be. When you look at things, politics is really all connected to how we lead our lives. Ignore things like the GDP, and forget about internal party politicking — this really is stuff you can leave to navel-gazers like yours truly. In a developed society, politics does matter because the individual has the power to change things. People can see and tangibly relate to politics at the grassroots level. In countries like Malaysia, where local government is basically a puppet of the state government (which is in turn a puppet of the federal government), we of course don't see any reason at all to care about politics. But in a developed society, simple things like how often your garbage is picked up, or how clean your streets are, are determined by — you guessed it — politics. Who you cast your vote for in the election for mayor or councilman will have a direct impact on your quality of life. As for national-level politics, well, let's go back to the saying that all politics is local. By extension, if we have a dead political scene at the local level, what good is politics at the state or national level? The individual is alienated altogether from politics. In any society, there will be some amount of political apathy. But certain countries have more political apathy than others. It's no surprise that people in the US are more politicized than those in the UK, who are in turn more politicized than people in Malaysia. How much one cares about politics is simply a function of how much one can be involved in politics. And because politics is about how we, as a community, manage our lives, if we cannot get involved at the community-level, we will not care about politics at all. In a terrible catch-22, Malaysians (and the people of any country with a political system biased against grassroots politics) must go against the grain and start to care about politics. We cannot afford to let the agenda of our country and our lives to be determined by jackass politicians and pigheaded "leaders". It is of course difficult to do this because the political system actively inculcates apathy. But you don't have to get directly involved in politics. All you have to do is to take the trouble to find an issue — any issue — that galvanizes you, that makes you wants to stand up and do something.

Once you find this issue, because you feel you need to do something, start looking into which politician, which party, stakes out a stand closest to yours. And in the next election, vote for this politician or party. That's all you need to do. It may not feel like much. And mathematically, economists have proven that it isn't worth much at all. But the power of the vote comes from the addition of individually negligible amounts. Get your friends, get your neighbors, get everyone you know, to find something they care about, and to cast their vote for whoever can serve their interests the best. You may disagree with me on some issues. You might care passionately about defending a segregated education system, or you might care passionately about the establishment of a theocracy. But that's not the point. The point of democracy is that everyone has a voice, and that everyone has the opportunity to take a stand on an issue they care about. Take your stand. At the end of the day, politics is about your life.

Post-reading activities:

1. Explain underlined words and expressions.

2. Outline the most important arguments in the text that allow you to explain the relevance of politics to ordinary people’s lives. Compare those with the ideas you articulated before reading.

3. Answer the following questions: In what way is the importance of politics a universal concern that transcends borders and cultures? What is the role of a lay person in politics? Do you believe that, as far as you can judge, your national/local political system allows you to be engaged in the decision-making process? Why?

4. Conduct a survey among your peers with two questions on the list “are you interested in politics? Why? Or Why not?” Bring the results of your mini-research to class.

Text 2

Pre-reading activities:

1. Consider the following introductory note. This is a research article in the area of political discourse analysis; it is based on the work by Elena Mihas, an American scholar from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. This article attempts to draw your attention to the function of language in political discourse. It will offer you some mechanisms to identify the relationship between language and politics as well as critical thinking while you examine various political issues found throughout this chapter.

2. Review the definitions of euphemism and metaphors as well as the effect they produce in political texts.

Non-Literal Language in Political Discourse

(Abridged and adapted version)

Discourse in general is a way of organizing human experience. It establishes frames of meaning by the recounting and interpreting of events and situations. Political discourse deals with the narrative interpretation of events and ideas and establishes criteria and contexts for comparing and evaluating political systems. While the substance of political narratives varies widely, they follow certain standard trajectories, including the recounting of events in the form of retrievals and projections. Since the focus of this paper is the political discourse of 21st century American society, it would be natural to attribute the role of the story-teller/agency to Mr. Bush, since his narrative has dominated political discourse in the country. His presidency in a way began with some tragic benchmark, a negative pole, associated for many Americans with loss, suffering, struggle, murder, and death. His narrative established boundaries and clienteles, affiliations and loyalties, terrains and jurisdictions, defined insiders and outsiders, separated the good citizen from the pariah, us from them. During a historical disjunctive break, which seems to be a defining moment of modern political discourse, leaders propose a fresh start (Mr. Bush’s political rival Senator Kerry campaigned in 2004 with his slogan “A fresh start for America”), creating their own rationality: what they are against and what they are for. The master narrative and disjunctive ideas of two participants respectively President Bush and Senator Kerry (and their cohorts), in the presidential race of 2004 presented an opportunity to articulate two differing systems of beliefs through a masterful use of figurative language. Each system made salvational and recuperative national claims. For one side to give way to the other was considered betrayal. In both cases the parties were divided by their discourses, their retrievals of the past determining their view of the future.

The concept of language as mediation is a key to understanding the nature of political discourse. The Vygotskian concept of the regulatory function of language throws light on how a discussion within political discourse is framed. Any participant in political discourse is other-regulated: by the media, by the opposing camp, by the electorate, etc. Consider the political debate in the closing weeks of the election. It was framed as a choice between “values and security” (Mr.Bush’s narrative), or “the economy and Iraq” (Mr. Kerry’s narrative). The GOP strategists effectively “sold” moral issues to the voters by implementing state-of-the-art organizational techniques, authored by the architect of the Bush election campaign, Karl Rove. Republicans used culturally powerful issues like gay marriage, guns, and abortions to connect to ordinary voters. While Democrats tried to peddle the “bread-and-butter” issues, Republicans “sold” values, and won. The New York Times columnist M. Dowd coined a metaphoric expression to describe the Republican election machine: juggernaut, which in German denotes ‘battleship.’

The central proposition of the contemporary trend is that rhetorical forms are deeply and unavoidably involved in the shaping of realities, and that language is not a neutral medium; it is a compilation of tropes that act as an anchor linking us to the dominant ways of thinking within society according to Lakoff and Johnson (1980). Identifying figurative tropes in texts and practices can help to highlight underlying thematic frameworks; analysis sometimes involves the identification of an overarching (or root) metaphor, or a dominant trope. Hence, metaphorizing and euphemizing undoubtedly serve as linguistic bridges to indirectness that tends to dominate human communication in the modern era. In semiotic terms, both metaphor and euphemisms deal with substitution of one denotation for another, creating desirable conceptual and connotative meanings. Lakoff and Johnson argue that “the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another” (1980). Euphemisms became a salient phenomenon of language usage in modern political culture by virtue of their ability “to conceal something pejorative behind a softened or manipulated expression”. In cognitive terms, euphemisms are used when one wants to name things without calling up a mental picture of them. The aim of using euphemisms is to strike at a person’s imagination. Euphemisms do not form complete pictures in the mind, nor do they completely define an event or object. Without a complete definition, the ability to understand the true meaning of a statement is obscured. Though euphemizing is now an accepted and established practice, it has acquired a dubious connotation in light of its tendency to deliberately disguise actual meanings of words in political discourse. Lutz (1989) makes an immediate distinction between euphemisms proper and doublespeak: “When a euphemism is used to deceive, it becomes doublespeak.” The sole purpose of doublespeak is “to make the unreasonable seem reasonable, the blamed seem blameless, the powerless seem powerful.” The term doublespeak was coined as an amalgam of two Orwellian expressions, doublethink and newspeak, both of which appeared in Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty Four. A popular synonym for euphemism in the media is “spin.” According to the New York Times columnist William Safire, spin is “deliberate shading of news perception.” Linda Wertheimer, a reporter for National Public Radio, defined spin as “not quite lying,” “not quite truth.” For example, the Kerry campaign methodically highlighted the incumbent’s inability to face the reality and accused him of spinning by presenting a “rosy” view of Iraq and the economy to the public, though the word “lie” was never used. “He can spin till he’s dizzy,” the President lives in “a fantasy world of spin,” one Yale gentleman charged another.

Interestingly enough, commentators on both sides also avoided using the “L-word” (lie). Instead, they chose to euphemize the instances when the political opponents “misspoke,” “misstated” or “stretched the truth.” For example, USA Today accused the Bush administration of putting an optimistic face on the worsening conflict in Iraq and called it “upbeat spins”. There were numerous euphemisms coined by spin-doctors of the Bush administration in the wake of 9/11. They all can be classified under the rubric of national security euphemisms. 9/11 is one of them.

“War on terror” became a pervasive euphemism for the war on militant Islam. To use religion as the target of military engagement would be diplomatically perilous for the United States. It could have alienated Muslim countries which have been the country’s allies in the post 9/11 period, and inflamed millions of Islam believers worldwide. “Terror” does not define the enemy explicitly; it refers to enemy activity on the emotional level, singling out violence as its core sense. The invasion of Iraq was called “a liberation” (though it was later defined as an occupation), “a broad and concerted campaign,” executed with the help of the “Coalition of the Willing” (among them the United Kingdom is the only ally which has contributed significantly to the occupation). The war was also defined as “tearing down the apparatus of terror,” “confronting dictators,” and “regime change” in an attempt to justify the invasion for a humanitarian reason. The outcome of the war in Iraq was portrayed euphemistically in the political narratives of the Republicans. Consider Mr. Cheney’s a “remarkable success” euphemism, Mr. Bush’s “catastrophic success” oxymoron and the metaphor “a seedbed of democracy.”

The war on terror has brought a number of euphemisms intended to blur legal boundaries to justify illegal treatment of American citizens or detainees from other nations. Among them are “unlawful combatants,” or “enemy combatants” rather than “prisoners of war” or “criminals.” The euphemism ”prison abuse” was coined after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke in spring 2004 in order to avoid the word “torture,” which clearly characterized what some American soldiers and civilian contractors did in one of the most notorious prisons of Saddam’s former regime. “Abuse” is a misdemeanor or mistreatment, while “torture” denotes a violent crime which involves an infliction of severe physical pain as a means of punishment or coercion. According to military officers at Abu Ghraib, they were encouraged to create “favorable conditions” for interrogation, which is another euphemism for “rough” and “aggressive techniques,” approved by the government for conducting interrogation procedures. These techniques entailed a systematic “softening up” of prisoners through isolation, privations, insults.

Metaphors occupy a central place in the rhetoric of politicians and their minions. The trope generates imagery which invokes targeted associations, and channels our way of thinking. This mind-shaping ability of metaphor is convincingly established by Lakoff and Johnson (1980). In fact, Lakoff believes that conservatives and liberals, two competing parties in a grip for power, employ two different metaphor systems to conceptualize reality. Especially noteworthy was the fluency and sophistication of Mr. McCain’s language which undoubtedly intensified the strength of his message and its emotional appeal. Mr. McCain eulogized “the living and the fallen” of the Armed Forces, made exhortations “to keep their generous benefaction alive” and “vanquish the hateful iniquity” caused by the “malevolent” and “unpardonable” enemy, saluted to ”the unflagging resolve” of the nation and its “noble mission,” shed “a tear for all that is lost when war claims its wages from us.” Mr. McCain also followed the distinctively biblical tradition to metaphorically portray the war as “a fight between right and wrong, good and evil.”

Both political sides resorted numerous times to the “gaming” talk. Another overarching metaphor that contributes to the deconstruction analysis of political discourse is POLITICS/WAR IS A GAME.Expressions

like the following portray the opposing sides as players: “Bush can never be accused of playing a small ball” (meaning that Bush’s state endeavors are always large projects), “Bush has to pick up his game in Iraq,” “Cheney plays politics with his remarks,” “Kerry, if elected, will be playing defense rather than offence,” “we are playing on their turf” (about inroads into either-side-leaning regions), “Kerry would play a weak hand” (in the war on terrorism), “the campaign is about the ground game” (about attempts to energize the bases of the parties),

“both sides are playing everywhere they can because it’s a close race,” “late innings” (about the time left before the election), “the endgame of the election”(the last stage in the game of chess when most of the playing pieces have beentaken from the board), “people were voting for what team they were on” (aboutallegiance of the voters along party lines), “Democrats were beat up in their game” (reference to the defeat of the Democratic candidate in the presidentialrace). President Bush called Senator Kerry “a Monday morning quarterback,”mocking his numerous “retroactive” plans to improve the situation at home and inIraq.Both political sides resorted numerous times to the “gaming” talk. Whenwar (or politics) is conceptualized as a game, it results in removing a moraldimension from the profile of the metaphor. The WAR IS A GAMEmetaphor profiles competitiveness of the political players and their teams, readiness, preparedness, an excitement of the spectators in the world arena, the glory of winning and the shame of defeat. It underlines the players’ drive to win the prize, whether it is presidency or any other office, or oil, or contracts in Iraq. Lakoff (1991b) argues that Prussian general Clausevitz’s metaphor WAR IS POLITICS PURSUED BY OTHER MEANSis another root metaphor which lacks a moral dimension. The metaphor has been an indispensable part of the geopolitical strategy of the Bush administration. The Prussian general perceived war in terms of political cost-benefit analysis, according to which the political “gains” from the war should be weighed against acceptable “costs.” When the costs of war exceed the gains, the war should cease. Clausevitz’s metaphor judges war only on strictly business, pragmatic grounds and hides the reality of what real war is: murder, assault, kidnapping, arson, rape, and theft. Though Senator Kerry repeatedly made charges against the Bush administration about “underestimating costs” of waging the war in Iraq, he chose not to run as the anti-war candidate. Lakoff (1991a) also singles out the JUST WAR FAIRY TALEmetaphor which shapes our understanding of the outcome of war. Within the metaphorical framework, a crime (e.g. accumulation of weapons of mass destruction with the intent to use them against an innocent victim) is committed by a villain (who is amonster, inherently evil; Saddam was likened to a “monster” many times in Mr. Bush’s political speeches). A hero either gathers helpers or goes alone to restore justice. The hero makes sacrifices, undergoes difficulties (President Bush’s insistence on doing “hard work” in Iraq during the first presidential debate) and defeats the villain. Victory is achieved, justice is restored, “mission accomplished.” The FAIRY TALEmetaphor lended structure, coherence andclosure to the Iraq war. The January 2005 elections in Iraq brought the fairy tale narrative to a resolution, which was acceptable to the public at large. The fairy tale end was questioned by Mr. Bush’s political opponents, who accused his administration of creating “a haven for terrorists,” a “mess,” a “quagmire,” as a result of having “no exit strategy” and “poor postwar planning” in Iraq. ”Quagmire,” or the dreadful “Q-word,” had a direct link to a visual perception of the war as a bog where troops find their end. The Just War Fairy Tale metaphor was also framed along the lines of the western movie stereotype in the war on terror (M. Dowd). After 9/11 the rugged frontier myth, the “hunter/Indian-fighter hero in a war of civilization against savagery” was put to work by architects ofthe Bush narrative. The story-teller’s “cowboy” talk lent authenticity and credibility to the myth.


Political discourses in this country are a panorama of metaphor and euphemism. It is vital to understand what role metaphorical and euphemistic thought plays in narratives of political actors, and how it affects public mind-space. Metaphoric and euphemistic surface discourse structures and deep conceptual metaphors function as a subtle way of disguising the substance of political messages. The way they function makes possible an uncritical acceptance of a particular model of thinking and its continuous, thoughtless recycling in political discourses. But there is a way to neutralize this danger in the zeitgeist of political discourses: to continually go back to the roots of figurative figures and expose their value making meaning.

Post-reading activities:

1. Explain underlined terms and expressions.

2. Discuss the role of non-literal language in political discourse as presented by the authors. Provide concrete examples that seem to be in line with your views.

3. Answer the following questions: What lessons does the analysis presented in the article teach the general public? How do the data of this research commensurate with your beliefs regarding the nature of the relationship between language and politics?

4. Discuss the language of Russian political texts; identify the use of euphemisms and metaphors. What are the similarities and differences between the two political cultures -- Russian and Western?

Topic 2: Elections


1. Ballot - избирательное право,

избирательный бюллетень secret ballot - тайным голосованием

3.ballot box - урна для избирательных


4.cast one's ballot - отдать голос, опустить бюллетень 5.candidate - кандидат в депутаты

presidential candidate - кандидат на пост президента

challenger - оппонент, претендующий

на пост, занимаемый

другим политическим деятелем

incumbent лицо, ныне занимающее пост

в предвыборной гонке

runner-up - лицо, занимающее второе место

в предвыборной гонке

6.turn down (reject, отозвать, снять кандидатуру

refuse) the candidate - избирать кандидата с большим/

return a candidate by – незначительным перевесом

a broad/narrow margin голосов

7. candidate stands for – кандидат баллотируется

Parliament, на выборах в парламент,

the State Duma, Государственную Думу,

The Federation Council в Совет Федерации

8.candidate runs for - кандидат выставляет свою

Congress - кандидатуру на выборах в


9.canvass - предвыборная агитация

за кандидатов

canvasser - агитатор на выборах

10.caucus - партийно-фракционное

закрытое совещание

11.constituency - избирательный округ

safe / marginal надежный/ненадежный

constituency избирательный округ

swing state (voter) (U.S.) – колеблющийся штат, (избиратель)

12. constituent - избиратель

13. counting - подсчет голосов

automatic (hand, manual) автоматический (ручной) подсчет

recounting - пересчет голосов

14. dissolve Parliament - распустить парламент (Думу)

(the Duma)

15.election(s) - выборы

e.g. a Parliamentary election, local/municipal elections, Governors elections, Congressional elections, Presidential elections, a Senate election

16.general election - всеобщие выборы - дополнительные выборы

18.early election - досрочные выборы term выборы в конгресс, не

election - совпадающие

с президентскими выборами

20.election campaign - предвыборная избирательная


21.election speech - предвыборное выступление

22.election pledges - предвыборные обещания

23.election returns - результаты голосования на


24. hold an election - проводить выборы

25. contest an

election/a seat - баллотироваться на выборах

26. contest for Governor - баллотироваться на пост


27. rig elections - фальсифицировать выборы,

подтасовывать результаты

28.election ward (Eng.) - избирательный участок

precinct (U.S.)

29.electoral mandate - наказ избирателей

30.electoral register - список избирателей

31.electoral college - коллегия выборщиков

/избирательная коллегия

32.electoral system - избирательная система

33.proportional система пропорционального

representation system – представительства

34. the electorate - избиратели

35.elector - избиратель (Англ.),

выборщик (США)

36.franchise/suffrage - избирательное право,

право голоса

e.g.equal franchise - равное избирательное право

universal suffrage- всеобщее избирательное право

37.gerrymandering- перекраивание избирательных

округов в пользу правящей


38.nomination- выдвижение кандидатов

e.g.caucus nomination- выдвижение кандидатов на

закрытом партийном съезде

39.nominate candidates- выдвигать кандидатов

deny smb. nomination - отказать к-либо в


(renomination) в повторном выдвижении

40.poll - 1) голосование,

число поданных голосов

e.g. public opinion poll 2) опрос общественного

мнения по какому-либо опросу

exit poll - опрос проголосовавших при

выходе с избирательного участка

41.poll-tax - избирательный налог

42.the polls/a polling station - избирательный пункт

43.go to the polls - yчаствовать в голосовании,


44.polling day - день выборов

45.polling –booth - кабина для голосования

46.poll enough votes - собрать нужное количество


47.primary - предвыборное собрание

избирателей, принадлежащих к

одной политической партии, для
выдвижения кандидатов

48.reapportionment - перераспределение

избирательных округов

49 returns - результаты выборов

returning officer - председатель

избирательной комиссии

be returned - быть избранным, пройти

на выборах

50.running mate - партнер по избирательному


кандидат на пост вице-
президента США - (полит. жарг.) второй тур


52. speech – речь

Nominating speech - речь, посвященная выдвижению


на выборный пост на

съезде партии

Acceptance speech - заявление о согласии

Concession speech - заявление о признании


53.ticket/slate (U.S.) - список кандидатов

nomination paper (Eng.)-

e.g. straight ticket- список кандидатов от

одной партии

split ticket- список кандидатов от

разных партий - право голоса,

избирательный голос,


55.casting vote - решающий голос

56.electoral vote (U.S.) - число голосов выборщиков

57.majority/minority vote - большинство/

меньшинство голосов

e.g. be returned on a пройти большинством

majority vote - голосов

58.popular vote(U.S.) - число поданных голосов

59.take part in the vote - участвовать в голосовании eligible to vote - иметь право участия в


61.voter- избиратель qualifications (age, избирательные цензы

residence, literacy, property, /возрастной,

education) - оседлости, грамотности,


образовательный/ a candidate down - забаллотировать кандидата

64.abstain from voting - воздержаться от


65. party-list voting - голосование по партийным


66.without a dissenting voice - без единого голоса против

67. landslide victory - победа со значительным

перевесом голосов


I. Read the following words:

to canvass, a deposit, to contest for smth., a precinct, to be eligible, Senate, gerrymandering, reapportionment, incumbent.

II. Give the word combinations with the following words:

election, electoral, ballot, vote, polling.

III. The words given bellow denote the notion of British life. Give the corresponding American variants:

nomination paper, a candidate stands for Parliament, constituency, electoral ward, elector, marginal constituency

IV. Find synonymous words and expressions for:

a polling station, returns, off-year election, to contest an election, franchise, ticket, to have the right to vote, to turn smb. down, gerrymandering.

V. Find antonymous words and expressions for:

safe constituency, by a narrow margin, to win an election, majority vote.

VI. Translate into English:

общие выборы, предвыборная компания, избирательная урна, без единого голоса против /единогласно/, тайным голосованием, предвыборные обещания, право выдвижения кандидатов, кабина для голосования, комиссия, осуществляющая контроль за подсчетом голосов, список избирателей, избирательный участок, проводить выборы, принимать участие в выборах, победить на выборах, потерпеть поражение на выборах, обеспечить избрание, избрать кандидата, отдать голос, выдвигать кандидатов, участвовать в голосовании, пользоваться правом участия в выборах, воздержаться от голосования.

VII Say the following in a shorter way:

-money which makes a part payment of the sum that is or will be owned

-smth that the possible winner promises to do

-to manage or control fraudulently for private profit

-full rights of citizenship given by a country or town, esp. the right to vote an election


-the bottom of the typical, local party structure

- a voting district generally covering an area of several districts

-a candidate who holds the contested office at the time of the election

-an election in which party members select candidates to run for

office under the party banner

-an election which is won by a very large number of votes

-one that takes second place

Text 1

Pre-reading activity:

1. Consdier the following as you prepare for reading the text. The general background information provided for you in this text consists of three parts; each deals with the political structures of GB, the US, and the Russian Federation separately. Furthermore, you will find a short story for rendering in the section regarding the US elections; its intention is to advance your understanding of the complexities and historical intricacies of the system itself. Drawing on your experiences in the previous classes of British and American history and your general knowledge, briefly comment on the difference in the political structures of the three countries.



Part III

Text 2

Pre-reading activities:

1. In small groups, discuss what you know about the contemporary political parties in the Russian Federation.

2. Answer the following questions: What is the role of political stereotypes in people’s lives? How may stereotypes help or hamper people’s understanding of the world affairs?

3. The perspective reflected in the following reading will allow you to have an insight into the efforts to dispel the ever-present stereotypical representation of the Russian political landscape in foreign press. This is an excerpt of an essay by a Russian political analyst – who calls himself Kovane – written upon the request of Moscow Times. Make predictions regarding some common stereotypes the author attempts addressing.

Representing Russia’s political complexity

While reading the Western press, one never ceases to be amazed at how poorly real Russian political thought is represented. Journalistic laziness and, let’s be frank about it, ever-present anti-Russian bias take almost all news from Russia down the same beaten paths: the oppressive regime with imperial ambitions grinding down the opposition, even scarier nationalists striving for power with their legions of skinheads and lovable and enlightened liberals longing for prosperity and freedom; but denied by Putin’s propaganda. Needless to say, the actual situation is a far cry from these tropes, and their use makes an understanding of Russian politics much more difficult. And this is, in fact, the opposite of what the media is supposed to do.

Russia is a unique country in the sense that it was affected by the widest variety of political ideas, and most of them were implemented in the whole of Russia or in its parts during its turbulent history. That provides a source of inspiration for many political currents but also divides the people of the country, as different groups associate themselves with different periods of Russia’s history. The easiest possible way to describe these political groups is by finding out their position on a list of key issues, such as a preferable level of state interference in the economy, nationalism vs internationalism, territorial integrity, etc… It’s also interesting to see how they manifest themselves in the official political scene.

The Soviet emphathizers constitute the largest and the most diverse group, I daresay. According to polls, 68% of Russians regret that the Soviet Union disintegrated. But don’t hurry to get out Lenin’s dusty bust, the Commies aren’t coming back yet. This survey shows that of the 62% of the respondents that support Putin, 37% also positively view the CPRF (The Communist Party of the Russian Federation). What does that mean? Do ordinary Russians miss repressions or lectures on Marxism-Leninism? Maybe, but a much more likely explanation is that these numbers represent a mix of nostalgia and their hope for a strong government capable of providing stability and order.

Let’s take a look at more radical people, those who don’t support the current government and vote for the CPRF (according to the latest election, 11.57% of the population). Unsurprisingly, there are not many pure Marxists or Trotskyites among them: years of Soviet rule burnt out any desire to build Communism or incite the world revolution. Even the CPRF forfeited the cornerstone of a socialist economy, state-ownership of all means of production. As they state in their program, their boldest dream is the Chinese model: renationalization of several key industries, a progressive tax scale and small business support. And then standard pre-election boilerplate begins: tripling of wages and pensions, and free education and healthcare. Unfortunately, CPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov forgot to mention the sources of the riches required to do so, as well as many other interesting issues – like how the renationalization will be conducted, or how the CPRF is going to fight corruption. We just have to take his word for it. That demonstrates the main problem of the CPRF today – they don’t want any leadership, the present situation suits them fine: using traditional electorate support, they promote business interests of the same oligarchs whom they so fiercely criticize in public. Of course, this drives away many talented people with leftist views, and the CPRF’s support is slowly dwindling. It’s also worth noting that there are a number of non-systemic left-wing ideologues, euro-socialists, like Kagarlitsky, or rethinkers of Russian socialism, like the recently-formed “Rodina: common sense” party led by Delyagin and Kalashnikov. Their political clout is practically non-existent so far, but this may change with time.

Government participation in the economy: high, of course. National politics: internationalism, sometimes seasoned with mild anti-Semitism (some bad Jews are to blame for the Soviet Union’s dissolution) Territorial integrity: reunion of Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia and Kazakhstan on a voluntary basis. No plans for forcible inclusion of any countries; Saakashvili can sleep easy, the same for the Baltic States and Eastern Europe. Stance on foreign policy: suspicious of the West, and blame them for the woes of the 90s, It would be fair to say that the West gave plenty of causes for that suspicion. But almost nobody argues for a new Iron Curtain. Weaknesses: lack of a critical eye for the Soviet Union; frail balance between openness in the economy and autarchy; the CPRF’s rigidity. Prognosis: depends on Putin’s policies: if the current political system manages to solve major problems, like corruption and modernization, a portion of the left wing will switch allegiances. Otherwise, the leftist movement will be a source of real opposition, and their influence will only grow.

Liberals are the second-largest group. According to this poll, 10% of Russians support liberal values and 24% support democratic values. Setting aside any possible misinterpretations of the terms “democracy” and “liberalism”, I would estimate the liberal support base at 15% of Russians. Unfortunately, the history of Russian liberalism is a sad story indeed. The first time liberals got their hand on the helm was right after the February Revolution of 1917. Commanding a majority in the Provisional Government, Kadets (Constitutional democrats) had no clear-cut program and deferred any actions until the convening of the Constituent Assembly, while the country was slipping into anarchy. They predictably lost the elections to the Constituent Assembly, and that was it. The second coming happened right after the USSR’s collapse. New president Yeltsin favored “young reformers” and trusted Yegor Gaidar with nearly full carte blanche on carrying out the reforms. In the 1993 Russian legislative election, liberal parties received more than 30% of the vote (more than 50%, counting the LDPR, nobody knew them well at the time and they do have the words “liberal democratic” in the name). True, liberals were in office during the toughest times; any party would have suffered a drop in popularity. Nevertheless, “young reformers” were complicit in the most outrageous and criminal reforms – devastating the living standards of much of the population, and selling a majority of Soviet assets for a meager 9.7 billion dollars. That alone seriously compromised the notion of “liberalism” in the eyes of ordinary Russians. Liberals are represented in the political scene today by Yabloko, the oldest party, and countless socio-political unions; practically each opposition leader has one – Kasparov’s OGF, Milov’s “Democratic Choice”, Limonov’s “Other Russia” (although Limonov is a radical communist/anarchist, the liberal opposition is ready to collaborate even with the Devil if it brings more attention to them) Ponomarev’s “For Human Rights” and even Novodvorskaya’s “Democratic Union”. There were attempts to unify some of them, and the “Solidarity” movement was created in 2008: led by Nemtsov, Milov, Yashin and Kasparov. One party stands out against the common background, noticeably pro-Kremlin, tame “Right Cause” led by Gozman. Maybe this is the Kremlin’s stake to consolidate liberal forces? The problems confronting these movements are numerous: their leaders lost all credibility by constantly engaging in petty squabbles. Nemtsov, Kasparov and Milov are closely affiliated with some American politicians, which makes them “agents of the West” in the eyes of Russians; they often resort to blatant lies in their criticism of Putin. Even the “Solidarity” program is rife with doctored data. Moreover, the program is a compilation of hackneyed slogans, most of which can be reduced to “More freedom for everyone!” Speaking of Yabloko, it was notorious for being in opposition to every other party and refusing to take seats in the government: they even fired some members for accepting appointment. Although Yabloko is more inclined to social liberalism, its leaders always refused to join forces with other liberal parties; even now, when chances of election are non-existent, its Moscow council dismissed any possibility of cooperation with Solidarnost.

Another appalling trait common in Russian liberal circles is undisguised Russophobia coupled with groveling before a fictitious heavenly image of the West. That just highlights their self-righteousness: unable to assume that something is wrong with them, they confidently blame the Russian people’s “slavish mentality” because those churls don’t vote for them. How dare they? Results so far? A staggering 2.5% of the vote. That means no seats in the Duma for any liberal party in the next elections, and more Dissenter’s Marches.

Government participation in the economy: low, but liberals are trying to step back from market bolshevism. National politics:internationalism and tolerance with a Russophobic slant: mythical Russian fascism is commonly used as a strawman to justify one’s own flagrantly undemocratic or even criminal actions. Territorial integrity: Russia in its present borders. Stance on foreign policy: the West is our savior and our best friend. Sore points: many – unwillingness to admit the wrongs of the 90s’ liberal policies and to receive objective criticism; abject disunity among different opposition leaders; lack of new reasonable leaders with untarnished reputations. Prognosis: hopefully, someone will manage to unite these scattered forces and form a new party capable of providing ideological competition to the “United Russia” colossus.

Marginal groups are the three groups which can be united under this category are radical nationalists, libertarians and anarchists. While their support base is miniscule, they try to make up this disadvantage by the activity of their members, especially chief ideologues. Russia’s current national policy leaves much to be desired, thus giving nationalists the opportunity to gain popularity. Corruption in the police and the government’s unwillingness to deal with ethnic crime result in a bizarre situation, whereby members of ethnic crime groups can get away with almost anything, including even murders. Government officials usually try to ascribe sporadic outbursts of violent fights between different national groups to the activity of “omnipresent” Russian skinheads or label them as domestic crime. But it’s very hard to hush up these cases, and discontent among the people grows. One of the parties that try to capitalize on that is the DPNI, the movement against illegal immigration. Their goal is “protection of the indigenous population’s rights”: although they distance themselves from any fascist organizations, there is much controversy around them. Some liberal activists demand to prohibit the DPNI, but their actions have been mostly peaceful so far (save for the unsanctioned Russian March). Another movement concerned with Russia’s national policy is National Democrats. They propose rather drastic measures: creation of a new Federation consisting of quasi-independent national republics, separation of the North Caucasus and minimal government participation in the economy. It’s unlikely that they will win much support with these ideas, but this movement is very young.

Anarchists and libertarians are in an absolute minority: Russia already had its fair share of anarchy, and the upper middle class – traditional support base for libertarians – isn’t sufficiently developed yet.


It seems that “stability at any price” is practically a commandment in the Kremlin, and the current political scene is designed to provide it. While the KPRF absorbs left-wing voters and pensioners and the LDPR soaks up protest and random votes (Zhirinovsky is a hell of a demagogue, many people vote for the LDPR because he is a “cool guy” or just for the heck of it), the rest of the pie goes to United Russia. Well, and to Mironov’s “Fair Russia”, of course, but who can spot the difference between them, right? Despite both KPRF and LDPR positioning themselves as opposition parties, they perfectly fit into the present political scene. Behold, a managed democracy in action! The United Russia tries to market itself as a conservative party, but it is too bloated: many join the party in hopes of advancing their careers, just like it was with the KPSS. The party seriously lacks any real competition, there were even talks about creating inside the party left and right wings, but they just died away. Considering the new 7% election threshold, The United Russia can bring down any other party, both LDPR and KPRF included, by diluting their votes as it did with liberal parties in the 2007 elections. This makes its rule virtually unchallengeable. Stability is definitely something Russia needs, but that can’t be achieved by sustaining an artificial political system, the present national policy and corruption. The Kremlin has to face these problems, otherwise stability won’t last long.”

Post-reading activities:

1. Find equivalents to the following words/expressions in the text (no specific order is followed): to be too full; to silence smb; to take advantage; power/influence; straightforward/obvious; worthless quarrels; to take control; humiliate oneself; not spoiled; filled with dramatic events; to suppress opposition; to convince and call into action; not covered/not hidden; a big difference; well-known trends/trajectories; postpone; very insignificant/ minor.

2. Comment on the underlined statements in the text.

3. Answer the following questions critically examining the text: What have you learned about the Russian political landscape? What are the strengths and weaknesses in each party’s political platform (bear in mind that each person may have a very different view answering this question)? What evidence in the text points to the author’s position? How can you link the relevance of the author’s arguments to debunking the stereotypes about the Russian political context? What is the difference between the American and Russian party systems?

Text 1

Pre-reading activity:

1. Consider the choices below as you elaborate on the role of political leaders and your own criteria for support.

I v o t e f o r a p o l i t i c i a n

2. 1) who has a good personality

3. 2) who is married and has a happy family life

4. 3) whose ideas I agree with

5. 4) who has a good education

6. 5) who has no health problems

7. 6) who has worked in Government before

8. 7) who is a worshipper

9. 8) who has specialized knowledge

10. 9) who I think will be a strong leader

11. 10) who is honest

How to be a leader

Michael Korda

( Newsweek on January 5, 1981.)

At a moment when we are waiting to see whether we have elected a President or a leader, it is worth examining the differences between the two. For not every President is a leader, but every time we elect a President we hope for one, especially in times of doubt and crisis. In easy times we are ambivalent – the leader, after all, makes demands, challenges the status quo, shakes things up.

Leadership is as much a question of timing as anything else. The leader must appear on the scene at a moment when people are looking for leadership, as Churchill did in 1940, as Roosevelt did in 1933, as Lenin did in 1917. And when he comes, he must offer a simple, eloquent message.

Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who cut through argument; debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand and remember. Churchill warned the British to expect ”blood, toil, tears and sweat”; FDR told Americans that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”; Lenin promised the war-weary Russians peace, land and bread. Straightforward but potent messages.

We have an image of what a leader ought to be. We even recognize the physical signs: leaders may not necessarily be tall, but they must have bigger-than-life, commanding features – LBJ’s nose and ear lobes, Ike’s broad grin. A trademark also comes in handy: Lincoln’s stovepipe hat, JFK’s rocker. We expect our leaders to stand out a little, not to be like ordinary men. Half of President Ford’s trouble lay in the fact that, if you closed your eyes for a moment, you couldn’t remember his face, figure or clothes. A leader should have an unforgettable identity, instantly and permanently fixed in people’s minds.


It also helps for a leader to be able to do something most of us can’t: FDR overcame polio; Mao swam the Yangtze River at the age of 72. We don’t want our leaders to be “just like us”. We want them to be like us but better, special, more so. Yet if they are too different, we reject them. Adlai Stevenson was too cerebral. Nelson Rockefeller, too rich.

Even television, which comes in for a lot of knocks as an image-builder that magnifies form over substance, doesn’t altogether obscure the qualities of leadership we recognize, or their absence. Television exposed Nixon’s insecurity, Humphrey’s fatal infatuation with his own voice.

A leader must know how to use power (that’s what leadership is about), but he also has to have a way of showing that he does. He has to be able to project firmness – no physical clumsiness (like Ford), no rapid eye movements (like Carter). A Chinese philosopher once remarked that a leader must have the grace of a good dancer, and there is a great deal of wisdom to this. A leader should know how to appear relaxed and confident. His walk should be firm and purposeful. He should be able, like Lincoln, FDR, Truman, Ike and JFK, to give a good, hearty, belly laugh, instead of the sickly grin that passes for good humor in Nixon or Carter. Ronald Reagan’s training as an actor showed to good effect in the debate with Carter, when by his easy manner and apparent affability, he managed to convey the impression that in fact he was the President and Carter the challenger.

If we know what we’re looking for, why is it so difficult to find? The answer lies in a very simple truth about leadership. People can only be led where they want to go. The leader follows, though a step ahead. Americans wanted to climb out of the Depression and needed someone to tell them they could do it, and FDR did. The British believed that they could still win the war after the defeats of 1940, and Churchill told them they were right.

A leader rides the waves, moves with the tides, understands the deepest yearnings of his people. He cannot make a nation that wants peace at any price go to war, or stop a nation determined to fight from doing so. His purpose must match the national mood. His task is to focus the people’s energies and desires, to define them in simple terms, to inspire, to make what people already want seem attainable, important, within their grasp.

Above all, he must dignify our desires, convince us that we are taking part in the making of great history, give us a sense of glory about ourselves. Winston Churchill managed, by sheer rhetoric, to turn the British defeat and the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 into a major victory. FDR’s words turned the sinking of the American fleet at Pearl Harbor into a national rallying cry instead of a humiliating national scandal. A leader must stir our blood, not appeal to our reason.


For this reason, businessmen generally make poor leaders. They tend to be pragmatists who think that once you’ve explained why something makes sense, people will do it. But history shows the fallacy of this belief. When times get tough, people don’t want to be told what went wrong, or lectured, or given a lot of complicated statistics and plans (like Carter’s energy policy) they don’t understand. They want to be moved, excited, inspired, consoled, uplifted – in short, led!

A great leader must have a certain irrational quality, a stubborn refusal to face facts, infectious optimism, the ability to convince us that all is not lost even when we’re afraid it is. Confucius suggested that, while the advisers of a great leader should be as cold as ice, the leader himself should have fire, a spark of divine madness.

He won’t come until we’re ready for him, for the leader is like a mirror, reflecting back to us our own sense of purpose, putting into words our own dreams and hopes, transforming our needs and fears into coherent policies and programs.

Our strength makes him strong; our determination makes him determined; our courage makes him a hero; he is, in the final analysis, the symbol of the best in us, shaped by our own spirit and will. And when these qualities are lacking in us, we can’t produce him; and even with all our skill at image building, we can’t fake him. He is, after all, merely the sum of us.

Post-reading activities:

1. Paraphrase underlined words and expressions.

2. Find the thesis in the essay and provide evidence for it.

3. Below is a set of criteria according to which some people choose their leaders. Fill out this table and ask a few peers for their views as well. Comment on the received data.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7

A. Experience in government ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

B. Male ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

C. White Protestant ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

D. From a large (population) city ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

E. Married ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

F. Wealthy ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

G. Lawyer or businessman ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

H. Physically attractive ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

I. Over 50 years old ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

J. Military service ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Text 2

Pre-reading activity:

1. In small groups, discuss the Russian tradition (or any other tradition that you are familiar with) of presenting presidential candidates to the public. Point to specific characteristics associated with these individuals and their political platforms.

Framing the Candidates: A Closer Look at Biography Videos

by Henry Jenkins

George Lakoff's book, Don't Think About an Elephant, has been one of the most influential arguments about the nature of American politics to emerge in recent years. Lakoff, a linguist, turned his attention to the "framing" of political discourse. If you want to look more closely at his argument, "A Man of His Words" is an online excerpt which pulls out most of the ideas that are going to interest us here. Lakoff argues that the Democrats lose elections even though they often have the facts on their side because the Republicans typically frame the debate. Consider for example the ways McCain, a Republican, has transformed the current energy crisis from one which might deal with the environment or economics or alternative energy to one which rises and falls on the question of off-shore drilling. Or consider the ways that the Republicans have deployed terms like "maverick" and "reformer" to distance themselves from the Bush administration. To turn this around, the Democrats need to reinvent themselves -- not by shifting their positions but by altering the frame. As Lakoff explains, "Reframing is social change.... Reframing is changing the way the public sees the world. It is changing what counts as common sense." Much of the early excitement around Obama was that he seemed to offer the most compelling new way to "reframe" progressive politics and thus offered a way out of failed rhetoric of the past. For some, this is about style over substance or a matter of "just words," but Lakoff argues that framing is about a structure of ideas that gets evoked through particular words and phrases but has its own deep logic that shapes how and what we think. In a simple yet suggestive analysis, Lakoff characterizes progressive and reactionary politics in terms of what he calls the Nurturing Parent and the Strict Father frames. According to the Strict Father model, Lakoff writes, "the world is a dangerous place, and it always will be, because there is evil out there in the world. ...Children are born bad, in the sense that they just want to do what feels good, not what is right." The strict father "dares to discipline" his family and supports a president who will discipline the nation and ultimately, the world. According to the progressive "nurturing parent" scenario, "Both parents are equally responsible for raising the children. ...The parents' job is to nurture their children and to raise their children to be nurturers of others." Swing voters share aspects of both world views. The goal of politics, Lakoff suggests, is to "activate your model in the people in the middle" without pushing them into the other camp. We can see this as almost a reverse of old-style Christian doctrine in which the relation of a husband to his wife or a father to his child is supposed to mirror the relations of God to man. In this case, the family becomes a microcosm through which we can understand the relationship of the president to the nation and the world. This is consistent with an argument that I put forth in the introduction to The Children's Culture Reader that the Republicans and the Democrats both use the figure of the child as a rhetorical device in talking about their visions for the future of the country, but they understand the family in very different terms. In an analysis of the 1996 GOP and Democratic national conventions, I contrasted Hillary Clinton's deployment of the phrase "It takes a village to raise a child" with oft-cited Republican images of the family as a "fort" defending its members against a hostile world.

As a teacher, I've found that one of the best ways to in

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