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, April 21-25, 2017.

common values

rhetorical claim: Mainstream America wanted jobs and racial healing, secure borders and safety from jihad.  Obama gave them the opposite.  Once elected, he went further and repeatedly dissed his white voters as bigots.  Obama’s radical millennial shock troops, financed and trained during his eight years in office, now pipe the tune to which the Democrats dance. Americans began to lose their lives to jihadis and cop killers and illegal criminal aliens.  If you didn’t like it, you were called a racist and Islamophobe.  Progressives boasted that whites would soon be a minority in America.  People could see the exploding Hispanic and Muslim population in their towns and cities, brought into this country for the good of the Democrat Party, not for America’s good.  The culture war Obama launched against religious freedom was the coup de grace.  Happily, the rest of us are not stuck in Obama’s scenario.  America is not as racist as he is.  We have a unified vision of success for the whole country, based on our common American values. A renewal of freedom and personal responsibility has the potential to unleash enormous prosperity for every American citizen.

rhetorical effect: blames Obama for Trump’s victory. Polarizes the country by calling the Dems–especially the centrist Obama– polarizing. Normalizes a rhetoric of fear, overt racism and Islamophobia to justify racist and Islamophobe policies, and calls these racist, Islamophobic and xenophobic values “common” values. Plays the race card to prove they don’t play the race card.


a big beautiful wall

rhetorical claim: To stop the onslaught of illegal immigrants from eneering the US and taking American jobs, America will build a big, beautiful border wall and Mexico will pay for it. They just don’t know it yet.

rhetorical effect: justifies a fake solution to a  manufactured crisis, making  the wall sound like an inevitability. The American people are going to have to pay for, they just don’t know it yet.


health care regulatory discretion

rhetorical claim: from the WSJ:

Setting essential health benefits and pre-existing conditions allows states that want to continue to ruin their insurance markets to go right ahead. But the deal creates an exit ramp for reform Governors who want to experiment with market-based solutions. States that apply for waivers and then stimulate more liquid insurance systems with more choices and lower costs could nurture public confidence in non-ObamaCare alternatives.

The Affordable Care Act gave the Health and Human Services Department the regulatory discretion to achieve similar results, but the new waivers would carry fewer conditions for states. One reason the temperature of American politics is so hot is that too many questions have become binary decisions imposed by Washington, and decentralizing power to the states would be a pluralistic achievement.

rhetorical effect: much to unpack here. The gist seems to be that “market-based solutions”–aka, “waivers” or “regulatory concessions” –will provide an “exit ramp” for Governors who do not want mandated coverage of community rating of preexisting conditions. So this “compromise” bill will appear to be keeping essential benefits and covering preexisting conditions, but, in reality, actually won’t do either . “Market-based” is a synonym for Darwinian or fraudulent.

Instead, we will get “liquid insurance systems,” which simply means they will disappear when you make substantial claims. What they call a “pluralistic” outcome will in effect be the one outcome they seek: much leaner “junk” policies that will appear to lower costs but will end up sending everyone back to the e.r. because their insurance is useless.

The “fix” is in.


student thuggery

rhetorical claim: “snowflake” college students are suppressing free speech when they exercise soft totalitarianism to ban unpalatable speakers. Mugging the First Amendment is hardly the sign of a tolerant, educated person.

rhetorical effect: tars students as thugs and totalitarians if they simply oppose their school’s support of racist, sexist speakers. Shifts the focus from the hate-filled words and malign intent of the speakers to the supposed naivete and imperiousness of the students. Creates a false equivalency between “free” speech and “hate” speech.


hoax of the month

rhetorical claim: Bill O’Reilly is hated because he sees through the progressives’ hoax of the month: global warming, evil bankers, sympathetic criminals, Black Lives Matter, Cops Lives Don’t Matter, etc. There will be no patience for the likes of Black Lives Matter and the anarchist groups seen disrupting Berkeley and the colleges. Traditional cultural norms will reassert themselves, and the exotic lifestyles that have flourished in the last 20 years will be frowned on.

rhetorical effect: all liberal causes are linked together as fake news, and progressivism is perceived as a gigantic hoax on the American people.


the Fourth Turning

rhetorical claim: Steve Bannon is right: there is a new cycle in American history in which the real Americans will prevail with lower taxes, fewer sex offenders, and real borders. Free people with guns and money to use as they choose will control the country. . Criminal justice will be swift and rough. Vagrants will be rounded up, the mentally ill recommitted, criminal appeals shortened, and executions hastened.

rhetorical effect: “Free people with guns and money” want to foment a civil war.The Fourth Turning is code language for racism, sexism, political repression, and attacks on free speech.


leading from the side

rhetorical claim: America is once again leading the world via economic, military and political influence, as opposed to Obama’s abandonment of global leadership otherwise known as “leading from behind.” This “leading from the side strategy” emphasizes engaging with allies. The Mattis-McMaster foreign policy taking shape looks like a flexible strategy born of military experience in fast, fluid circumstances—our world. It is based on both formal and mobile alliances with partners willing to use diplomatic, financial, political and, if necessary, military pressure to establish stable outcomes. The word “abandon” doesn’t fit here.

rhetorical effect: beneath the blather about honoring alliances and being flexible, this is either the same as Obama’s foreign policy or else a smokescreen for Trump’s erratic, kneejerk volatility, which only warns the world that America is unstable and unreliable.


American economic exceptionalism

rhetorical claim: The best way to gauge America’s capacity to reignite economic growth through tax reform is to move beyond congressional economic models and look to the empirical evidence of our historical ability to grow and prosper. America’s economic exceptionalism has been the product of freedom and opportunity, secured through limited government–and especially in Reagan’s administration. When government policies have strengthened or impeded these sources of American exceptionalism, they have yielded quantifiably different results.

rhetorical effect: Paves the way for tax cuts for the rich–the only group that really ever enjoy economic exceptionalism, freedom, and opportunity. The trickle-down fantasists  claim about Reagan’s tax cuts is designed to cover up his military keynesianism that exploded the debt. Reagan inherited a $90 billion national debt and left his successor a  $2.9 trillion debt, mostly because of his Pentagon build up. In addition, Reagan’s big tax cuts overshot so badly that he subsequently raised taxes eleven times to stanch the flow of red ink. And, from page 276 of Principles of Macroeconomics, 7th edition, written by N. Gregory Mankiw, a conservative: “When President Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, he was committed to smaller government and lower taxes. Yet he found cutting government spending to be more difficult politically than cutting taxes. The result was the beginning of a period of large budget deficits that continued not only through Reagan’s time in office but also for many years thereafter. As a result, government debt rose from 26 percent of GDP in 1980 to 50 percent of GDP in 1993.”

The tax-cutting, deregulating snake oil salesmen always claim that economic progress in subsequent years is due to Reagan’s policies, as if George W. Bush and Bill Clinton had nothing to do with Clinton’s surpluses.

We saw what happened with Junior Bush’s tax cuts and unfunded war/legislation — he left Obama a $1.4 trillion deficit. The tax fairy abandoned him, as well.

An remember: under Obama we had 75 months of continuous job growth — despite inheriting an 800,000 monthly job loss.


economic nationalism

rhetorical claim: an ”America First” economic policy will revive the economy and create thousands of good-paying jobs. The coming economic boom will be fueled by American-made products.

rhetorical effect: As Kevin Williamson argues in National Review

To call it “economic nationalism” would be too grand: It is merely a very narrow form of special-interest politics consisting of backdoor handouts to favored corporate interests.

Trump has signed an executive order organized around two themes: “Buy American” and “Hire American.” In sum, the executive order is intended to provide incentives for American businessmen to . . . not act too much like the guy who built Trump Tower with illegal-immigrant labor and who relies on the H-2B visa program to keep Mar-a-Lago stocked with dishwashers and housekeepers. That guy, if we are to take Trump’s rhetoric seriously, is kind of a jerk, one who doesn’t care about the country at all. The “Buy American” order is, in Trump style, pretty vague, with a lot that will need to be filled in later by people who know what the hell they’re talking about. (Fortunately, he does have a few of those around.) It makes minor administrative changes to existing “Buy American” federal procurement rules, which date back to the “Buy American Act” passed in 1933, a year not renowned for the excellence of its political and economic ideas. Bad call, Herbert Hoover.


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