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Escalation is a trope that attempts to create a sense of
crisis by predicting future calamity. We’ve seen this
trope repeatedly during the Presidential Debates; the
most glaring example was Vice-President Cheney’s
claim that if Senator Kerry were elected, the United
States would experience another 9/11. President Bush
has used this strategy to argue that if Senator Kerry were
elected, he would, as a liberal politician, raise taxes,
legalize gay marriage, and turn the control of the United
States’ armed forces over to the United Nations (thus
turning Senator Kerry’s “global test”
back upon him). Senator Kerry, with his
recent suggestions of a “January Surprise”
if President Bush is elected, has
also used this strategy; indeed, he has
claimed that if the President is reelected,
he will reinstate the draft and continue
to slash taxes for the upper classes.
The problem with this trope is that it is impossible to predict
the future. By creating a sense of crisis, escalation
calls on citizens to make uninformed, uncritical decisions
based on the fear of future consequences rather
than on who has a better solution to current problems.

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