Why I write about politics on a blog about writing

Yesterday, a commenter on this blog wrote, “I am not interested in your personal views about the President of the United States.” Why the political analysis in a blog about writing? Because my focus on clear writing and clear thinking demands that I take on whatever writing is in the public eye — and that includes bullshit from all sides of the political spectrum.

Here is how I approach the topics on this blog: I want every day to be a lesson in how people use written or oral communication to do their jobs. I want you to have the tools to analyze what your read and what you write without bias. The god I pray to is not liberalism, conservatism, journalism, or the free market. It is clarity of thinking and writing.

While I’d love to just write “writing tips” every day, there are simply not enough useful tips to make that possible. I do that as often as I can. But I have found that writing about what’s in the news right now is both popular and instructive. So when something is topical, I write about it.

When I write about politics, my take on it is different from what you will read elsewhere, because I always go back to the original text. I don’t write about what other people said, I write from primary sources. What did Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders or whomever I’m writing about say? What did they actually write? Was it clear and powerful, or mealy-mouthed, inconsistent, and polemic? How did they say what they said? Was it effective or ineffective, and why? My hope is that we can learn, not just about politicians, but about politics and writing, from this.

I went back and looked at the last month of posts. Here’s a breakdown (some posts were in multiple categories):

  • Politics: 13
  • Corporate/academic statements: 7
  • Writing tips: 6
  • Journalism: 2
  • Personal musings: 2

The first two categories reflect what’s in the news. For example, I wrote about the statement of UK Prime Minister Theresa May after the terrorist attack in London and President Trump’s covfefe. I wrote about British Airways’ actions in the midst of two days of cancelled flights and Ford’s justification for dumping thousands of employees. My attitude is always the same: “You just read about this event, but let’s learn from the clarity (or obfuscation) of what people actually said or wrote in the moment.”

I’m happy to write about stuff that’s not in the news, too: if you see something worth analyzing, even if only a few people in your own little world notice it, then send it to me and I’ll analyze it.

If you have a writing question (about anything — usage, writer’s block, managerial meddling, jargon, you name it), send it to me and I’ll address it. I’m your own personal writing coach, and I’ll do it for free.

How I fight bias (and why I write so much about Trump)

My politics are moderate with a lean towards the liberal side.

These days, someone with those politics is supposed to write as much as possible about how conservatives and Trump are evil and how liberals and their leaders (whoever they are . . . I’d still like to see a few) are good. I read that sort of thing on Facebook all the time. “Look at this thing Trump is doing . . . if Hillary were doing it we’d all be outraged.” “Can you believe the even more awful thing Trump did now!” “Pence is just as bad.” Blah blah blah. When you write that way, the people who agree with you will smile, and the ones who disagree will ignore you. Fine, if it makes you feel good. I find it repetitive, self-serving, and annoying.

Because I know my bias, I am always seeking ways to praise clear conservative writing, and to point out the stupidity and hypocrisy in liberal writing.

That’s one reason why I wrote so positively about conservative Theresa May, since she expressed herself so clearly this weekend, and about conservative views from the National Review article just before the election. I analyzed the math behind why Mitch McConnell wouldn’t consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee (and I was right, too).

I’d like to write takedowns of liberal stupidity, but until liberals stand up for themselves, there’s not much to write about. I have little interest in analyzing someone else’s criticism of Donald Trump — too meta. I did write about Bernie Sanders’ vague position on race and the weaknesses in Hillary Clinton’s nomination speech.

But I have written many negative things and not much positive about Trump. Why?

Because Trump contradicts himself regularly, has difficulty articulating coherent arguments, and can’t spell (and won’t get a proofreader). From a political perspective, this is scary. But from a writing and analysis standpoint, this demands attention. When Trump’s team puts out a clear and convincing statement about anything, regardless of whether I agree with it, I’ll analyze it. I’m waiting.

Mitt Romney is clear-headed thinker. Ted Cruz has a very sharp mind. John Kasich is very convincing. If any of these guys were president, my blog would not be so overwhelmingly critical of what they were saying.

And if Hillary Clinton had won, you can bet there would be plenty of criticism of her own mushy statements in this space.

You may think that Donald Trump’s policies on climate change will kill the planet, that he’s a xenophobe and Islamophobe who provides cover for racists, and that his Supreme Court nominees will twist the nation to the right for decades to come. Or you may think that Trump is taking on the ossified establishment, ripping apart politically correct snowflake thinking, and turning the tide back on dangerous globalism. Doesn’t matter to me. I hope to illuminate readers of both mindsets.

But Trump can’t think straight, can’t talk straight, and can’t write straight. That’s my topic. Even if you approve of Trump’s policies and positions, that should matter to you.

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  1. I appreciate the breakdown of the written word. Right now I think it is important to analyze what our leaders are communicating as we are in an interconnected world that is experiencing upheaval on many levels.

  2. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
    Edmund Burke

    keep writing as you have

  3. If you are a good writer or editor, you simply cannot ignore examples of poor writing. It’s hard to turn off that part of your brain. As you say, if Trump was a better writer or speaker, there would not be as much material as there is. I appreciate your many examples, no matter where they come from, and how they can be improved. Keep it up.

  4. If your sole mission it to attract eyeballs, you’re not worth following. Don’t back down, sir. Sure, some diehards will become upset with the statements you make; but consider their worldview, and the fact they support the policies of s self-dealing windbag.

  5. To the dude complaining about yesterday’s blog post: Josh provides free material on here for you to read every day. And you’re complaining about the content? That was free? From an expert who distills his career-worth of experience into actionable learnings to help you get better at writing? Every day?!? Get over yourself, guy.

  6. I find your comments to be clear-headed and illuminating. I don’t care what topics you write on, I learn something from every post. Keep up the great work.

  7. Good post. Maybe you should include a one-sentence summary of this in EVERY post you write about a political figure’s language. Then people would be more likely to understand your focus is communication, not politics in the sense of espousing a political position.

  8. Thank you for your wisdom and efforts to teach at every opportunity. I may not always agree – different perspectives are a good thing to have to have otherwise we would all be robot copies of each other.

    I learn something everytime I read what you write. Thanks.

  9. Earlier, Josh, you urged your readers, whose time is supposed to be more important than yours, to:

    “Push for a change in who’s in charge. Undoing Trump is more important than anything else, because a president can commit our armed forces, destroy our standing in the world, and gut our future. The people who voted Trump in thought that anything was better than Hillary Clinton and the status quo. They were wrong. Anything is better than a president whom no one can trust. Even if you hate Pence, a rational Pence is safer than an irrational Trump. In the unlikely event that impeachment hearings happen, support impeachment. Elect democrats. Force change.”

    So since this is your activist agenda, Josh, why continue writing these political essays that are nothing if not disingenuous? Why continue to subject your readers whose time is supposed to be more valuable than yours to the kind of bullshit you now write, pretending to worship at the ‘altar of clear thinking and writing’ when you appear to be bowing to ‘The Resistance’? Further, you appear to violate the rules which you have successfully peddled to others, this writer among them. A pity. If I didn’t think you were a wise man, and insightful, I wouldn’t have signed up. But my time is more valuable than yours and I do not wish to waste it on your polemics. By all means, point to the President’s bad writing. And then let us draw our own conclusions. Don’t ram yours down our throats. It’s bad writing and a bad example to others who otherwise appreciate what you have to offer.

    1. Shlomo, thanks for a thought-provoking take on what I write.

      The context of your quote is in my “covfefe” post, in which I raised the question of what to do about a President who is content to tweet nonsense and leave it up there for 6 hours (no one can argue that “covfefe” is not nonsense.) People who are worried about this president’s mental state wonder what to do. I told them what to do.

      Put that aside for a moment. I’d like to offer you a deal Here it is:

      I will remain as clear as I can about analysis of writing and action, rather than taking an “activist” position as you put it. I bow to no one. I am not part of the resistance. I am attempting for the most part to enlighten, rather than destroy. I’ll try to stay true to that.

      On your side, what I’d ask you to do is to soberly assess the positions, tweets, writing, and thinking of this president and ask yourself not “Is this good policy” but “Is this person actually making any sense?” Apply some critical thinking, just as you have asked me to do.

      That’s the best I can offer right now. I will not cease to analyze the writings and speeches of this president, because they need a careful examination. Why not join in me in examining them.

  10. Okay, Josh. I accept the deal. Thanks for seeing my perspective. So here’s a tip. Why not critique the President’s writing through your ROAM analysis of who his target audience is on Twitter, say, what his goals are and what impression he wants to leave with his readers? He won’t pass your Action test, but where is it written that my writing must necessarily get someone out of his seat? Would you say a writer’s expression of gratitude is a waste because it doesn’t create action? An eloquent confession is a waste? A strongly-worded apology? Or what if I merely wish to entertain my clients or colleagues with a story? Or impart news they need to know? In a world where Press Releases are, as you have documented, routinely sent down the black hole of cyber sewage and where the press conference is, more or less, a circus, a President like Donald J. Trump uses his skills as a ‘disrupter’ to face down audiences and markets who, because their mantras are variations on the theme of business as usual, never see it coming. I, for one, a serious student of American democracy, have enough faith in the system to sleep at night, especially when I believe, as I do, that the real threats today are coming from the sinister Left that seeks the undoing of an American Revolution blessed by God. That’s the message we ‘deplorables’ delivered last November. Anything but Her. So you and I will agree to disagree profoundly on the political level and confine our conversation to writing that works or doesn’t work. I look forward to reading you as we move on and wish you much success in the goals you earlier articulated.

  11. I found your blog by accident a few months ago, and it has become one of my favorites. I actually follow a lot of politics, so the amount of politics you write about does not bother me. I enjoy your analysis of communication in the corporate and political arenas. I enjoy your attempts to be unbiased, and your recognition of your own biases. And I enjoy your tips on better writing.

    Whether one agrees or disagrees with your point of view, at least it is always logical and self consistent. Breaking down complex things into manageable chunks is difficult, and I think you do a good job of that.

    My take is, keep up the good work.