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. 23-27, 2016


rhetorical claim: “white identity” is under attack by multicultural forces using “political correctness” and “social justice” to undermine white people and “their” civilization. Universalism, globalism, redistributionism, and egalitarianism are the common enemy, as represented by Beltway insiders, academics, social scientists, media pundits, entertainment elites, and policy professionals. Traditional conservatism, with its beliefs in liberty, freedom, free markets and capitalism, is an  inadequate response to today’s hyper-racialized world, which is eating away at America’s moral core.

rhetorical effect: euphemism for neo-Nazism, justifying racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, xenophobia, and white nationalism. Messianism wrapped up with Manifest Destiny.



rhetorical claim: critics who will, in knee-jerk fashion,charge Trump with conflicts of interest. They connive, via conspiracy and ideological dogma, to demonize Trump no matter what.

rhetorical effect:  Renders any criticism of Trump as conspiratorial and self-serving. Invites the question: in the eyes of the alt-right, is there any ethical way to criticize Trump?



rhetorical claim: any conventional form of tax, regulatory, and welfare policies is inherently self-defeating and thus doomed. Trump will “drain the swamp” and shatter all post-war orthodoxies. All that is solid melts into air.

rhetorical effect:  undermines any current shared assumptions about the rule of law, economic justice, human and civil rights, government regulation, women’s rights, etc. Characterizing these prevailing assumptions as inherently self-defeating is itself to argue for natural rights (and, of course, the inevitability of free markets).


zeroing-out the greens:

rhetorical claim: getting out from under Obama’s crushing environmental rules will end the take-no-prisoners reign of terror of the greens and ultra-liberal environmentalist elites. We need to compete with other energy-rich nations in taking advantage of our natural energy abundance, while still maintaining clean air and water.

rhetorical effect: makes any opposition to canceling Obama era environmental regulations, treaty agreements, clean-energy subsidies, bans on drilling or mining, building pipelines, etc. seem unpatriotic and economy-crushing. In actuality, zeroing out the greens means zeroing-out the environment. The claim that unlimited drilling can be done while maintaining environmental quality is fanciful at best, and dangerously misleading at worst. Trump’s zero-sum politics–his us-vs-them approach–guarantees a Total War on the environment, a scorched earth policy.



rhetorical claim:  Obama energy policies that protect the environment at the expense of energy production are already outdated, and will be quickly erased in the new Trump administration. Imposing any bans on energy exploration and production turns out to be nothing more than a form of moralizing by preening and self-satisfied green elites. In a realistic world, as understood by the Russians and Chinese, there is no room for moralizing.

rhetorical effect: neuters any moral defense of climate change mitigation, reducing the subject to a matter of opinion, with the reality to be determined by whomever is in power. Thus any kind of environmental regulation is a “politicization” of a supposedly neutral, “natural” process. In this world of outcomes, there is nothing more naive and impotent than idealism.

More broadly, the whole charge of moralizing covers over the moralizing assumptions behind the Tea Party’s nationalist, populist, statist,  law and order identity, their defense of cultural traditions not shared by everyone.



rhetorical claim: anti-Trump protestors intolerant sore losers who have nothing but scorn for Trump defenders.  Their disruptive protests undermine the common good and are inherently uncivilized.

rhetorical effect: One key step toward criminalizing dissent and defending censorship. The irony is that it was the Fox News hate machine that long ago destroyed civility in American political discourse. As Sofia MccLennen argues in Salon,

 Calls for civility are often a cover for censorship. While we don’t want to give up on the idea of civil society, we should recognize that it is often those in power who use the idea of civility to threaten the very idea of civil society itself.

It gets even messier. We also live in an era of mass-mediated manufactured anger. Trump couldn’t have come to power without tapping into the legacy of the Fox News hate machine. What used to pass for news is now just a bunch of angry vitriol that alternates between scaring viewers and getting them riled up.

repeal and replace

rhetorical claim: Obamacare will be replaced with a totally privatized insurance market relying on tax credits, savings accounts, competition, and caps on liability payouts.

rhetorical effect: covers over the fact that the new Ryancare (or Trumpcare) will offer restrictive, watered-down policies that will leave millions in bankruptcy or with no coverage at all. Just because the ACA has been replaced doesn’t mean it’s been improved.



rhetorical claim: to the progressives, the very idea of borders and national interests is reactionary and inherently racist. The New Globalization will lead to the eclipse of America.

rhetorical effect: renders any criticism of American power unpatriotic. This is the way the Tea Party/GOP  takes ownership of the word.


cosmopolitan broad-mindedness:

rhetorical claim: the identity politics of the contemporary Left is counterproductive, standing in the way of a genuine liberalism of principle and cosmopolitan broad-mindedness. Their implacable intolerance, all in the name of tolerance and multiculturalism, is steadily marginalizing the Dems

rhetorical effect: Makes any progressive moral stance on equity, tolerance, and justice seem unprincipled and self-serving. Thus, he only way progressives can prove their “cosmopolitan broad-mindedness” is to accede to Tea Party policies and principles.


polarizing and divisive

rhetorical claim: when educators and commentators  call the election “polarizing” and “divisive,” they are masking their contempt for Donald Trump. The Dems are the ones polarizing the country with identity politics.

rhetorical effect: cuts any criticism of the Trump administration off at the source by equating dissent with subverting the nation. Rhetorically, another step toward criminalizing dissent.


undocumented immigrant

rhetorical claim: really means “illegal alien.” Dems refuse to use honest, clear words such as “illegal” and “alien” out of fear of offense.

rhetorical effect: “others” all immigrants as illegal and “alien”. A major step toward regarding all migrants as criminals and as permanently “alien”–as if they are from a different planet.

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