Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in The Wall Street Journal and other GOP language factories and fever swamps, Nov. 18-21, 2016

making America great again

rhetorical claim: Donald Trump has a green light to restore American pride and dominance, unimpeded by progressives, activist judges, and lifer bureaucrats.

rhetorical effect: Creates the expectation (probably really just a self-fulfilling prophecy) that Trump will waive his magic wand and transform America overnight.In reality, of course, as The Economist points out, Trump will be faced with daunting obstacles, restraints, precedents, complexities, and least-bad-choice decisions:

Take his policies first. After the sugar rush, populist policies eventually collapse under their own contradictions. Mr Trump has pledged to scrap the hated Obamacare. But that threatens to deprive over 20m hard-up Americans of health insurance. His tax cuts would chiefly benefit the rich and they would be financed by deficits that would increase debt-to-GDP by 25 percentage points by 2026. Even if he does not actually deport illegal immigrants, he will foment the divisive politics of race. Mr Trump has demanded trade concessions from China, Mexico and Canada on threat of tariffs and the scrapping of the North American Free Trade Agreement. His protectionism would further impoverish poor Americans, who gain more as consumers from cheap imports than they would as producers from suppressed competition. If he caused a trade war, the fragile global economy could tip into a recession. With interest rates near zero, policymakers would struggle to respond.

Abroad Mr Trump says he hates the deal freezing Iran’s nuclear programme. If it fails, he would have to choose between attacking Iran’s nuclear sites and seeing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East (see article). He wants to reverse the Paris agreement on climate change; apart from harming the planet, that would undermine America as a negotiating partner. Above all, he would erode America’s alliances—its greatest strength. Mr Trump has demanded that other countries pay more towards their security or he will walk away. His bargaining would weaken NATO, leaving front-line eastern European states vulnerable to Russia. It would encourage Chinese expansion in the South China Sea. Japan and South Korea may be tempted to arm themselves with nuclear weapons.


economic nationalism

rhetorical claims: “America First” when it comes to trade pacts, currency  controls, fiscal policy, and tariffs. America’s greatness is best measured by economic prosperity.

rhetorical effect: normalizes the hard-edged  (Manifest Destiny, Lebensraum, etc) concept of nationalism  a fraught concept–far more threatening than “patriotism,” and, with the ascension of Stephen Bannon, linked to “white nationalism.” So making it innocently mean only economic autonomy is a way of laundering it.


rhetorical claim: Islam is a malignant cancer, according to General Michael Flynn, who has also claimed that Sharia law is about to overtake the country.

rhetorical effect: literally demonizing the very name of a religion is a bedrock Goebbels rhetorical maneuver.  This accomplishes two goals: 1) delegitimizes Obama’s reluctance to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” out of fear of needlessly antagonizing and alienating Muslims worldwide, and, 2) paves the way for mandatory registries for Muslims, and eventually detention camps, especially if there is another terrorist attack in America.


media hysteria

rhetorical claim: mainstream media attacks on Trump are “fake news” and amount to hysteria over his election. Most Americans are jubilant about it, but don’t demonstrate in the streets or break windows to prove it. Any lamestream media critique of Trump amounts to hysterical overreaction, scaremongering, crying wolf, etc.

rhetorical effect: paves the way for new libel laws, widespread media suppression, and, eventually, the criminalization of free political speech. If Trump critics are, by definition, hysterical,  they should be ignored and put away for their own good, just as women used to be.


onerous fuel mileage  standards:

rhetorical claim: federal fuel mileage standards cripple the auto industry and thus cost jobs, effectively serving as a politicized, domestic tariff on car makers. The market will determine what mileage standards the American public can live with.

rhetorical effect: makes any mileage standard sound unreasonable and only existing as a political payoff to the “greens.” Undercuts any attempts at clean air regulation or environmental planning. Any regulation, in fact, is at bottom “onerous” because undue and punishing. Also makes it easier to argue for making higher-profit SUVs rather than smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.  Also makes profitability the sole criterion for measuring prosperity, ignoring the costs of dirty air.


individual ratings

rhetorical claim: that individual health care rates will be the ultimate expression of a free health care market, with quality, patient-centered, affordable health care.

rhetorical effect: leaves patients at the mercy of insurance companies. The myth is that a pure free-market approach to health care is reasonable, fair, and transparent, whereas the truth is that such an approach cannot succeed because the market will squeeze out low income patients and anyone with pre-existing conditions.  Vouchers will only go so far, and subsidies will be necessary in order to offer everyone affordable insurance. Thus the “repeal and replace” ploy will only lead to either a soaring rate of uninsured or to re-inventing the Obamacare wheel, several years henceforth.


patient responsibility

rhetorical claim: health care costs will come down only when working families take responsibility for rationing and paying for health care. Until then, they live heedless of health outcomes because they assume that their employers are paying the bill.

rhetorical effect: Blames individual patients for their medical conditions, and will inevitably lead to rationing, which is  inevitable in any insurance scheme because everyone can’t be covered for everything. In Ryancare (or Trumpcare), individuals will get the blame for unaffordable insurance rates. Anyone not healthy will be labeled “irresponsible”.


boorish and self-c0ngratulatory demonstrators

 rhetorical claim: bringing up issues of diversity and equality , as the cast of Hamilton recently did to Mike Pence, is rude and condescending. Tolerant and decent Americans don’t need lectures from race-baiters.

rhetorical effect: even bringing up race and redistribution will become politically toxic. Racism and bigotry will become so normalized that they will either disappear as concepts or become their opposites.


political violence

rhetorical claim: that anti-Trump activists are thuggish brownshirts, anarchists, and hypocrites as they indulge in the same behavior they chastised Trump for when he as a candidate.

rhetorical effect: potentially criminalizes dissent by calling it violence, a tactic right out of the Nixon playbook


fast-track drug approval

 rhetorical claims: drug approval by the FDA should be based  on safety and efficacy, not long-term outcomes. The Internet of Things will make sure that consumers and physicians can make their own decisions about long-term effects  because the market is always the most efficient source of informationt puts the public

rhetorical effects:makes it seem perfectly reasonable and even advantageous to get drugs to market as quickly as possible, regardless of long-term effects. This inevitable outcome of insufficient proofs of efficacy puts the public at  risk while all the while increasing drug company profits.

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