There are a lot of buzzwords that fly around when it comes to political talk, and they’re mainly used to instantly reference the talking points of one political party or another (although we’re generally talking about two). Where do the words come from? Well, that can be hard to trace; although you can usually point to one partisan side or another, it’s difficult to pin down the exact person or publication that the word originated (or was first used for that purpose) from. Some examples of words/terms like this are entitlement, free market capitalism, gun control, etc.
Terms like this generally have an argument surrounding them. For example, the “gun control” debate is typically not about literal control of guns. Instead, it’s about the regulation of firearms. Yet, if someone says “gun control,” you instantly know the topic being discussed. The question is, do the names of the arguments themselves determine the eventual outcome? For example, the “control” in “gun control” gives a negative connotation.
Because we live in a democratic society (not a democracy, but you get the point), public opinion heavily influences policy. That means that the politicians that can get the most people on their side of a debate win — and that keeps the campaign contributions rolling in, especially if they’ve managed to convince the public that an oligarchic system of corporations has their best interests at heart. Politicians, as paid liars and tricksters, have mastered the art of spin. When they have the interest of an organization in mind, say, Republicans and the NRA, they take it upon themselves to convince that what’s good for the business/interest is really what’s good for you — and they do a remarkable job of it. Political hot buttons, and the rhetoric surrounding them, are really less like debates and more like arguments in a courtroom. You, the public, are the judge, and the two political parties are opposite sides in a legal battle (Republicans, as a whole, prefer the underdog role of defense attorney in this metaphor).
Both sides are going to bend the truth to the point of breaking as much as possible, and it is up to you to figure out which one is lying the least, or which one will represent you best. They’re both representing the interests of people and companies with a lot of power, and it’s up to you to pick which side’s support makes you less uncomfortable. During the debate to sway your allegiance, they toss words around. The words are carefully chosen — designed, like the argument itself, to sway your opinion. In fact, they may actually have more influence on your decision, especially if you’re the average voter and don’t look too deeply into anything. “Feelings” will have a much higher influence on you if you choose not to pay any real attention.
In the spirit of this, my friend and colleague Elisabeth Parker wrote up a list of ten words/phrases that are linked to hot-button issues and that are designed to hurt the progressive cause — and why we shouldn’t use them. I highly recommend reading it.
With reference to my politician-bashing above, I feel I should clarify. I don’t think of politicians as universally useless or evil. I do believe that democracy itself creates a sort of culture of lying, especially by those in power, by creating a positive reward system for lying. I think that campaign finance laws are in dire need of some changes, and that the corporate representation rampant in government needs to be restricted via laws. That’s because the majority of the population will never pay enough attention to prevent corruption; we need laws and oversight for that.
There are good politicians. People that say “all politicians are the same” are the same people that are allowing that many bad ones to be elected; they aren’t paying enough attention to do anything about it. If a politician is running for a huge election (and one that is in an area representing you) and you’ve never heard of them before this (and you pay a decent amount of attention to politics), don’t vote for or against them based on a commercial on TV. In fact, ignore every political ad. Ever.
All of our shouting about Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission and other dangerous legal decisions, laws and loopholes will do nothing if action does not come of it. What you’re seeing with things like this is the collapse of America in a very real sense. The Citizens United decision (in conjunction with one other) vastly increased the buying power of corporations — including overseas corporations — in American politics. We can’t blame the corporations for that; it’s a sound business prospect! They’re buying a controlling share of the American market, which is the biggest economy in the world. Every election period that passes with Citizens United still in effect is increasing corporate power even more. More corporate money means more controlled politicians, which means more legislature enacted to allow more corporate money.
It just strikes me as funny. The incredible power that only a few individuals — or organizations — hold, and yet the American people will continue to bleat about what evil thing Obama did on Fox News because the pretty blonde reporter said “entitlements” in a voice indicating that social safety is the worst thing ever.
It’s all just words.