Language and Politics

For a while now it has seemed to me that in the USA (and perhaps to some degree in other countries) the two main political parties, Republicans and the Democrats, have been using almost the exact same language to describe the other party and themselves.  Republicans come to the arena with the idea of less government and less taxation while Democrats generally show up with the idea of larger government and higher taxes. Then there is the Tea Party that comes in to the Right of Republicans and advocates MUCH less government and MUCH less taxes. These are very different schools of thought but nonetheless when I hear Republicans and Democrats talk, they all seem to be packaging themselves and the other side using virtually the exact same language.

Language is important to keep in mind in a time when anybody can manipulate almost anything to be in favor of or against even using the same set of data:

Look at these words and try to tell me if they are used by the Republicans or Democrats when describing the other:

decay… failure (fail)… collapse(ing)… deeper… crisis… urgent(cy)… destructive… destroy… sick… pathetic… lie… liberal… they/them… unionized bureaucracy… “compassion” is not enough… betray… consequences… limit(s)… shallow… traitors… sensationalists…

endanger… coercion… hypocrisy… radical… threaten… devour… waste… corruption… incompetent… permissive attitudes… destructive… impose… self-serving… greed… ideological… insecure… anti-(issue): flag, family, child, jobs… pessimistic… excuses… intolerant…

stagnation… welfare… corrupt… selfish… insensitive… status quo… mandate(s)… taxes… spend(ing)… shame… disgrace… punish (poor…)… bizarre… cynicism… cheat… steal… abuse of power… machine… bosses… obsolete… criminal rights… red tape… patronage

Now look at these words and tell me who is describing themselves:

share… change… opportunity… legacy… challenge… control… truth… moral… courage… reform… prosperity… crusade… movement… children… family… debate… compete… active(ly)… we/us/our… candid(ly)… humane… pristine… provide…
liberty… commitment… principle(d)… unique… duty… precious… premise… care(ing)… tough… listen… learn… help… lead… vision… success… empower(ment)… citizen… activist… mobilize… conflict… light… dream… freedom…

peace… rights… pioneer… proud/pride… building… preserve… pro-(issue): flag, children, environment… reform… workfare… eliminate good-time in prison… strength… choice/choose… fair… protect… confident… incentive… hard work… initiative… common sense… passionate

Who said what?  If you bend toward the Republican/Conservative school of thought you likely thing the first set was said by Republican about Democrats and the second set by Republicans about Republicans.  If you lean towards the Democrat/Liberal mentality you probably see those words in set one as perfect describers of the Republicans and the second set as a valiant choice of words to describe the Democrats.

In the end it’s marketing and packaging.  In order to cut through the noise you have to have a solid understanding of reality, or what works and what doesn’t at it’s most basic level.  More importantly when it comes to politics I think what you really need to understand is the concept of unintended consequences because politicians are big on pushing ideas that often in the end actually have the opposite effect of what they intended because they forget to factor in human behavior.  I let you try to figure out which party I’m generally talking about.

By the way – have you ever taken the world’s smallest political quiz?  Takes 30 seconds.  I’d bet no matter what you think you are you all come down on the same result.

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