In order to persuade or frame message, you first have to have command of your own language. Trump/Republican operatives have done a masterful job of manipulating the English language beyond recognition, creating “negative branding” and misleading terms that are deceptive and deceitful. It is past time everyone else stands up and calls out the twisted conspiracy to alter meaning that the GOP and their confederacy have created and perpetuated.
The most politicized words and their meanings:
“Liberal.” The word liberal means “advancing the ideals of liberty, open to new behaviors and opinions, concerned with broadening a person’s general knowledge;” also “in generous amounts.” Adjectives for liberal are: accepting, generous, open, unbiased, tolerant, humanistic. These are fine qualities in a person. Be proud to be a liberal and help those who do not know the meaning of the word to correct their misunderstandings when they use the word liberal as disparaging. You might remind them that making up nasty words such as “librals” and “libtards” make them appear limited in their knowledge.
“Pro” in front of any word that Republicans use to distort the word’s intended meaning:
Pro-life sounds good but is intended to distort in an argument over control of a woman’s body through legislation outlawing abortion. It is strange how Republicans claim to stand for less government intrusion, yet, on this issue (as well as others when it suits them) are all for full government controls on the individual, all the way into her uterus. Pro-life, surprisingly, is never used by Republicans when discussing the lives of children, their health care, their educations, or their human rights.
Pro-Second Amendment certainly sounds positive based on word etymology but is no longer positive in connotations. Who wants to be against the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution? But when analyzed, “pro-Second Amendment” actually means “pro-NRA and pro-gun manufacturer’s unfettered rights to sell assault weapons to terrorists, children, mentally ill individuals, criminals, and abusers in order to make obscene profits off the lives of its citizens. The Second Amendment has nothing to do with today’s gun control debate. Until the rise of these grotesque profits from gun manufacturing and their lobbyists, the NRA, and the Republican decision to use the discussion of gun control as a wedge between Americans, the Second Amendment was largely treated as a “dead letter.” The right for Continental Armies and state militias to bear muskets and some air rifles in 1791 is not up for debate. The right for 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who was known to have a mental health problem and ties to neo-Nazis, to buy assault weapons (the AR-15) and walk into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and horrifyingly mow down masses of students, killing 17 young people, was not a right our Founding Fathers had in mind. The Second Amendment was not designed to legally put assault guns in the hands of domestic terrorist Omar Mateen who methodically killed 49 people in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The Second Amendment was not adopted to put the AR-15 into the hands of children, terrorists, and disturbed individuals. Enough with this deception.
“Reform” as used by today’s GOP leaders in the misnomer “Tax Reform” to discuss and sell their legislation that further and grossly (pun intended) widens the wealth gap in the United States. There is no reform in this recent tax legislation.
“Entitlements” to pervert the meaning of social service programs in a humane society. Republicans claiming to push for “entitlement reforms” actually are perverting two words, both the words “reform” and “entitlements” to mean that, under GOP rule, Americans are bound to lose long established and needed programs such as Social Security and Medicare. If GOP Congressional leaders used the more honest term of “social service program cuts,” there would be a huge outcry from the public.
“Accomplishments.” Trump, in particular, is fond of talking endlessly about his “accomplishments” when he actually has few, if any. His skills and abilities are largely limited to lying well and often. He has, however, “appointed” vastly underqualified or unqualified people to key positions in government. He has “signed” Executive Orders on everything from removing consumer protections and removing protections of our air and water supply.
“Voter Fraud.” When the GOP and Trump cried “Voter Fraud” repeatedly before the presidential election when Trump (and everyone else) thought he was going to lose, even with Putin’s assist, he was perpetuating a lie. Trump had to keep up the lie, however, and set up a commission that has already been found to be fraudulent. Trump was recently forced to disband the Commission on Voter Fraud.
“Conservative.” This one is so absurd, it is laughable as used by today’s Republicans to describe themselves and their ideology. Conservative actually means preserving existing institutions. Think about what Trump has done to the Federal government in dismantling it, department by department, and attacking our free press. Conservative also means cautiously moderate. Is there anything about the Trump administration and today’s GOP leaders that approaches either caution or moderation? A quick look at what has happened to the Federal budget deficit under today’s GOP Congress and Trump would show the opposite of conservative. Conservative also means “avoiding showiness or novelty.” Stop laughing. Yes, Trump/GOP is today’s bastardization of the word “conservative.”
As long as Democrats and Progressives allow themselves to be drawn into discussions using these terms as twisted beyond recognition by Republicans, they will continue to struggle with message. Take our language back. Reframe the argument, using the real meanings and as calmly as possible point out the differences. Strip the lies from the layered deceptions of Republican phrasing. Give the English language meaning again.
Nancy Avery Dafoe