Tag Archive for Elvin Lim

Elvin Lim Talks to Globe About Presidential Candidate Rhetoric

Elvin Lim

Elvin Lim

This election cycle, those presidential candidates who use the simplest language are performing best in the polls, an analysis by The Boston Globe found.

“There’s no time to explain in modern politics,” Elvin Lim, associate professor of government, told the Globe.

On the Republican side, front-runner Donald Trump’s speeches, with short, simple words and sentence, could be understood by a fourth grader, according to the Flesch-Kincaid readability test. In comparison, Mike Huckabee and Jim Gilmore, who are struggling in the polls, communicate with voters at a 10th grade level. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton’s speeches are “just right for eighth graders,” while Bernie Sanders comes in at a 10th grade level.

Lim, who is the author of,“The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Bush,” said the current media environment benefits those who can speak in pithy soundbites.

“If you think about the tweet, the tweet is short,” he said. “The candidate who shows they can punch as much as they can in that short time form gets their message out.”

But is that a good thing?

“At some point enough is enough,’’ Lim said. “If you continue drawing these lines, you’re going to hit comic strip levels…There are real costs to oversimplification.”

Lim Delivers “Senior Voices” Baccalaureate Address

Elvin Lim

Elvin Lim

Elvin Lim, associate professor of government, presented the following remarks during the “Senior Voices” baccalaureate address on May 25:

As we gather today to commemorate the last four years of our seniors’ career at Wesleyan, perhaps some of you are feeling some trepidation about your futures outside of this ivory tower. So I have decided to direct my remarks today on the subject of contingency, and the human reaction to it, uncertainty, which is the source of all our hopes and fears.

Plato had said that in order to understand the nature of justice, we must first observe its incarnations in just republics. So I shall try to do the same in my effort to understand contingency. Perhaps if we analyzed how civilizations have coped with uncertainty, we may better understand how we, as individuals, can cope with uncertainty. I will propose that the collective solution for uncertainty – stamping it out – is exactly opposite to the individual solution: embracing it.

So how did ancient, or pre-modern societies cope with uncertainty? Quite simply, they defined it away. And they did it in two ways. The Pagan religions tended to characterize the Gods as crazy. Contingency came in the form of the capricious Gods. The Judeo-Christian religions went the other way. They understood their God to be all-knowing and omnipotent. Since God was all-knowing, there was no contingency. We may not know what is to come, but God does. This can be encapsulated in the common phrase, “everything happens for a reason.” That was how we coped with uncertainty.