Thursday, October 16, 2008

political phrases that need to die

After watching the (thankfully) last presidential debate between Obama and McCain, we heard some old tropes and some new ones that deserve a quick axe from our political discourse. In no particular order they are:
  1. Litmus test As in, I will not use Roe as a litmus test for my appointees to the US Supreme Court. Both candidates lie about this, and it is only due to the Georgetown Cocktail circuit that they have to maintain this fiction that Democrats won't appoint pro-Choice judges and Republicans won't appoint pro-Life judges. Give me a break. This is especially disheartening since there is an article about John McCain privately pledging to social conservatives that he would do just that the last time he ran for president (when he was running much more as a moderate Republican). I think the American people can handle the truth on this one.

  2. "How are you going to pay for that?" This is another Beltway Bloviator hang up. The Sunday talk show hosts and their wannabes still believe it is 1990 or something when the Concord Coalition had a point about balancing budgets and fiscal conservatism. But here in 2008, we are on the brink of a global recession with our financial systems in as bad a shape as they were in 1929. And in order to prevent it from becoming the Second Great Depression, we need to listen to the economist who helped get us all out of the last one: Maynard Keynes. FDR taxed the rich heavily, engaged in deficit spending on infrastructure in the 1930s and tanks bombs and airplanes in the 1940s and as a result, we came out of World War II with a global economic boom and with America as the number one economic power. Obama hinted at his support of Keynesian economics last night, but had to be oblique because the gasbags are obsessed with the gotcha question of balancing the budget and squaring a campaign's plans with basic math. All of us who know the basics of the legislative process know that whatever passes out of the 111th Congress will be drastically different than Obama's campaign literature. So get over yourselves moderators, that was the second time that question was asked, and the second time the candidates chose not to answer it.

  3. Main Street The linguist Geoffrey Nunberg shows that even when the term first debuted (1928), the phrase was nostalgic to a time long gone. America is an overwhelming urban and suburban country. Most people do not live in small towns/cities. The idea of "Main Street" is evocative of 19th Century America, a time when women couldn't vote (but could be raped by their husbands), blacks were enslaved, Native Americans were slaughtered, and children worked in factories. Personally, it is not a time I look back at with much fondness.

  4. Joe the Plumber/Soccer Mom/Hockey Mom/Joe Six-pack/NASCAR Dad I could really write a bit on each one of these, but they all are essentially the same thing: making voters into demographicial stereotypes. You never hear politicians or pundits say, "I'm a middle aged upper income male." Or "my policies make sense to unmarried women." But somehow it is OK tell suburbities they are just cliches. Last night's repeated reference to "Joe the Plumber" was annoying even to the pundits. Turns out too, that the real Joe is a tax deadbeat and might be related to John McCain's old friend Charles Keating. So much for your average blue collar small businessman.

  5. Kitchen table as family budgetary HQ They are called Kitchen Table Issues, Joe Biden talks about families sitting around their kitchen table discussing how they are going to make ends meet. I don't know about you, but I pay bills online/at a desk, and discuss my family's finances with my wife any place and time. In fact, the only place we haven't done budgetary stuff is at the kitchen table. That's reserved for EATING FOOD.

  6. Thanking the moderator and the venue for hosting a debate in opening and closing statements Is this just buying time to remember your talking points? Why waste a minute or two thanking this folks publicly when you only have about 45 minutes at best to describe all of your policies each time? I am sure the host and moderator appreciate it, but it would be no less polite and gracious to thank them privately before and after the debate. Americans don't need to hear you thanking them, they need to hear what you will do as president, governor, senator, congressman, etc. This thanking ritual is an invitation for viewers to tune out the rest of your statement. Someone please have the guts to drop it next time.

  7. strict constructionists and legislating from the bench These phrases are code ones for conservatives to mean "overturn Roe v. Wade" and "put them gays in their place." When the Supreme Court reads into an amendment designed to prevent former Confederate states from excluding newly-freed blacks from basic civil rights to mean that giant corporations--such State Farm and Exxon--cannot get punitive damages assessed against them in excess of a 9:1 ratio, these so-called strict constructionists don't say a peep. If your policy ideas are so great, you should not need to hide behind euphemisms that only your followers understand.

Oh, and this freeze frame to me summed up last night's debate:

1 comment:

Clint Gardner said...

I am, no doubt, totally out of it, but where did you get that capture? I've seen another from the other side, but no commentary.

McCain cannot seem to escape his dislike of Obama. Nor can he escape his campaigns obvious racism through such shenanigans or calling Obama "that one." Man, this is really messed up.