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Dems’ New Political Language

According to The Hill, Representative Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats have dropped the word “stimulus” from their vocabulary.

“Though the House minority leader and her caucus are still pushing an economic stimulus agenda to save the economy, they’ve radically changed their rhetoric with the hope of winning over voters who saw ‘stimulus’ as close to a dirty word,” the story reports. “Democrats are now being careful to frame their job-creation agenda in language excluding references to any stimulus, even though their favored policies for ending the deepest recession since the Great Depression are largely the same.”

It might be instructive to consider just a few of the words liberals, in a bow to political necessity, have attempted to rename, starting with the word “liberal.” Sophisticated liberals now refer to themselves as “progressive,” since the liberal label is a toxic political term and, among liberals themselves, a charge that borders on libelous. Then there are tax increases, which travel under the banner of “revenue enhancements.” And let’s not forget spending increases, which are now referred to by liberals – er, I mean progressives – as “investments.”

Obama has added his own distinctive touch and twist to things. Opposition to his (failed) agenda, for example, is “putting party above country.” The worst economic recovery in our lifetime is referred to as a “run of bad luck.” Making a misleading point is prefaced by the words, “Let me be clear” (as in, “Let me be clear. If you like your doctor or health care provider, you can keep them.”) And the phrase “I don’t doubt their sincerity” means Obama (a) doubts their
sincerity and/or (b) he is about to set ablaze a field of straw men (as in, “There seems to be a set of folks who — I don’t doubt their sincerity — who just believe that we should do nothing.”).

To his credit, and in order to avoid staleness, the president will sometimes set up a straw man argument by using a different phrase – for example, citing “the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis” before citing an imaginary one (e.g., “The notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems.” [emphasis
added]).

In his essay “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell cites several passages and says “quite apart from avoidable ugliness,” certain qualities are common to them, including “lack of precision.”

“The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not,” Orwell wrote. “This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing.” Orwell went on to say, “Political language … is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

George Orwell was a remarkable journalist and literary critic. He was also, it turns out, a prescient one.

 


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