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, Dec. 15-23, 2016

suitable financial products

rhetorical claim: the Labor Dept’s new Fiduciary Rule should be replaced with the “suitable product” rule,  a looser standard for the products financial advisers offer to retirees.

rhetorical effect: the Fiduciary Rule simply says that financial advisers must offer retirees financial products that are in the clients’ best interests. “Best interests” are not necessarily served by one-size-fits-all products, whose “suitability” is thus defined by the financial firms, not the clients.


global warming scare

rhetorical claim: To the extent that the global warming movement has anything to do with “science,” EPA is supposedly where that science is vetted and approved on behalf of the public before being turned into policy.  In fact, under Obama, EPA’s principal role on the “science” has been to prevent and stifle any debate or challenge to global warming. The US will no longer cripple its economy with meaningless fossil fuel restrictions.  All of the money spent on alternative “green” energy under Obama was completely wasted on things that are uneconomic and will disappear as soon as the government cuts off the funding spigot.

rhetorical effect: belittles any fact-based, scientific theories of man=made climate change, calling it nothing more than a “scare” tactic. (Just as during the campaign, Trump called climate  nothing more than a Chinese conspiracy to weaken the US economy.) Scare tactics are hyperbolic fictions created to make something that doesn’t exist appear to be real. Thus this rhetorical tactic aims at entirely undoing even the theory of climate change as the Trmp administration agenda, as defined by Eugene Robinson, is to “fire up the smokestacks, stop collecting all that annoying climate data and marginalize federal employees who best understand global warming.”


school choice

 rhetorical claim: school choice vouchers are the most effective way to improve US educational outcomes. Teachers’ unions are the main obstacle in the path of the voucher revolution, and Betsy DeVos will be the death knell for teachers’ unions.

rhetorical effect: makes the conversation about school choice rather than improving school quality. This emphasis on choice is a political agenda, not an educational strategy. Choice and quality should be pursued in tandem.

neo-Confederate arguments

rhetorical claim: sanctuary cities are making an illegal, neo-Confederate claim of sovereignty from US law. They also talk of secession in order to protect violent alien criminals.

rhetorical effect: undermines any attempts to protect the human rights of immigrants by branding them all as potential or actual criminals, and likens the urge to protect human rights as akin to the Confederacy’s defense of slavery. The GOP wants it both ways: to say very power should devolve downward from the federal government to the states, but then to attack any state or city policy they disagree with as “neo-Confederate.”


emperor-has-n0-clothes syndrome

rhetorical claim: as Victor David Hanson puts it in the National Review, the key to understanding Trump is

his emperor-has-no-clothes instinct that what is normal and customary in Washington was long ago neither sane nor necessary. And so far, his candidacy has not only redefined American politics but also recalibrated the nature of insight itself — leaving the wise to privately wonder whether they were ever all that wise after all.

rhetorical effect: excuses any Trumpian abuses of power as his “animal instincts” at work. Justifies any breaking of law or custom as Trump’s unmasking of the “old” ways of Washington.


labor flexibility

rhetorical claim: Right to work is an example of how the interests of workers and unions divide. Unions want to coerce workers into joining unions and paying dues even if this means there will be fewer jobs available. Workers want to be free to join a union, or not, and the best guarantee of higher pay is a buoyant job market that comes from more business investment and labor flexibility.

rhetorical effect: flexibility in reality means lower wages, differential wages, curtailed workplace safety rules, abusive overtime rules, and a loss of the ability to strike for better working conditions or higher wages and benefits. It turns labor from a collective movement to an every-worker-for-himself free-for-all.


Trump’s campaign promises

rhetorical claim: Trump should be taken fig but not literally. None of his campaign promises are binding because they are just opening moves in his art of  deal-making. In the same way, no one should worry about his conflicts of interest because everyone knew ahead of time that, as a businessman, he has personal stakes in the economy. No one objects to his getting rich.

rhetorical effect:  campaign promises were just slogans. Nothing Trump says can be used against him because he’ll just change his mind, lie, or ignore criticism.


conflicts of interest

rhetorical claim: No one should worry about Trump’s conflicts of interest because everyone knew ahead of time that, as a businessman, he has personal stakes in the economy. No one objects to his getting rich.

rhetorical effect: by definition then, he is above the law, and any so-called conflicts of interest are just fake news, hate, jealousy, or speculation. Trump can’t have a conlficy of interest because he only has one interest–Trump.



rhetorical claim: the lamestream media has so distorted the news with lies and innuendos that it can no longer be relied upon to tell the truth. Thus we live in a post-truth world.

rhetorical effect: the media no longer covers issues, but only candidates, controversies, and scandals. According to one reliable source, the three major US networks only devoted about 45 minutes to issues coverage –as opposed to candidate coverage, horserace stuff-during the entire 2016 presidential election. This trend continues in the Trump transition period, with most of the coverage devoted to conflicts of interest, Trump’s appointments, Trump’s tweets, and political rumors.


midnight regulations

rhetorical claim:  Obama has to resort to clandestine executive orders because he has no support from Americans. Obama’s only legacy will be the abuse of power.

rhetorical effect: undercuts the Presidency, confuses our allies,  mistakes rule-making that comes after years of hearing and comments  for arbitrary rules that come out of nowhere.


monopoly rents

rhetorical claim: unions only exist because they extort money from workers and demand monopoly rents from government. Infrastructure projects should insist on non-union workers.

rhetorical effect: makes unions sound like nothing but shakedown artists and obstructionists, and in doing so denigrates any notions of qworkers’ rights, workplace safety, living wages, social justice, etc.

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