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, Sept. 16-24, 2017.

de facto eugenics

rhetorical claim: abortion rights are inseparable from Dem shibboleths such as women’s rights and economic and racial justice. But is it really racial justice to practice de facto eugenics by advocating abortion as an essential “right” for minority women?

rhetorical effect: likens a woman’s right to choose to murder, and undermines any calls for racial justice or equal rights.


taxes on the poor

rhetorical claim: social “safety net” programs (such as Obamacare), assumed by the Dems to help the poor, actually hold the poor back and impose an unfair tax burden on them. Obamacare substitutes  the government’s political preferences for individual judgment, and forces the poor to pay for benefits they don;t want or need,

rhetorical effect: turns the argument inside out by blaming poverty on the government. By this logic, the quickest way to prosperity for all is no social safety net, and the imposition of a “pure market economy” (see below). As usual, the best way to understand the rhetorical effect of a GOP claim to help the poor is to “follow the money” in the sense of seeing what this argument justifies–in this case, repealing Obamacare and taking millions of poor people off Medicaid.


tremendous business potential

rhetorical claim: Addressing African leaders at the UN, Trump said:

Africa has tremendous business potential, I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich. I congratulate you, they’re spending a lot of money. It has tremendous business potential, representing huge amounts of different markets. … It’s really become a place they have to go, that they want to go.

rhetorical effect: “congratulates” Africa for its neo-colonial status as a place to be plundered and exploited by Americans; makes business potential the sole criteria for national success. In a section on the African economy titled ‘Why Has Africa Failed To industrialist?‘, the UN’s own website sums up the West’s – i.e. Trump’s friends’ – approach to the continent, using a book by Ha-Joon Chang to illustrate the perspective.

In the book, “Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism,” Mr. Chang, whom The Financial Times describes as “probably the world’s most effective critic of globalization,” argues that rich countries have historically relied on protectionist approaches in their quests for economic dominance.

In its review of the book, The Publishers Weekly, a US-based news magazine on book publishing, says rich nations that “preach free market and free trade to the poor countries in order to capture larger shares of the latter’s markets and to pre-empt the emergence of possible competitors are Chang’s bad Samaritans.”

So it’s probably not something to brag about, particularly as leader of the world’s capitalist powerhouse.



rhetorical claim: in his “America First” UN speech, Trump made national sovereignty the core criteria for foreign policy.  Stressing self-reliance, as the National Review put it,

Trump sees the norm-based international order not as an end in itself but as a very high-order means by which the United States, and other democracies, defend their own safety and sovereign rights. That means he values the global system but is willing to accept or even create stress on it where necessary to protect important American interests.

rhetorical effect: as Gail Collins put it, ” it was a little like going to the first meeting of the PTA and repeatedly pointing out that you only care about your own kid.” This lone wolfism promotes the opposite of collective security– a Hobbesian (“the war of all against all”) , every-country-for-itself world (best expressed by E. J. Dionne:

The notion that “sovereignty” is in such danger that it demanded 21 mentions is absurd. No member state at the United Nations rejects national sovereignty, and many use it as a cover for dismissing the values of democracy and human rights, casting both as the impositions of outsiders.

No wonder Trump won applause when he said that “you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first.” Selfishness is popular. Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping no doubt nodded approvingly when they were briefed about Trump’s words.

But Trump was so selective and inconsistent in his application of sovereignty that the concept itself had collapsed before he finished. If sovereignty is the highest principle, what justification does he have for threatening to destroy North Korea (which asserts its sovereign right to nuclear weapons)?

Trump’s world is a stark state of nature.


principled realism

rhetorical claim: the Trump Doctrine–“principled realism”–combines resolve, national sovereignty and a principle of peace through strength.

rhetorical effect: ennobles bullying, swagger and threat into a “principle.” In foreign policy circles, “realism” used to mean non-ideological countervailing forces, diplomacy, and trade-offs, but now the only “realism” seems to mean “whatever America wants” .



rhetorical claim: the Steele dossier has been widely discredited, and is probably an FBI plant.

rhetorical effect: proves that a well-coordinated GOP talking point can take the place of reality and become its own reality, turning the Trumpian colluders into the victims. In this case, a few incorrect facts in the dossier are used to discredit the entire document, even though the vast bulk of it has been upheld by subsequent disclosures. In such a case, “widely” refers only to GOP echo chambers, and “discredited” means denied but not refuted. In their furious attempt to make the dossier itself the smoking gun in a Democratic conspiracy to rig the election, the GOP has turned reality upside down and inside out.



rhetorical claim: Donald Trump is a great populist because he represents the will of real Americans, stands up to the elites, and is draining the swamp in Washington.

rhetorical effect: moralistic populist logic turns anyone opposed to Trump into an enemy of the people, since Trump represents 100% of the people–any opposition is thus immoral, corrupt and illegitimate, and even any negative poll or voting outcome is “rigged” or fake news. As Jan-Werner Muller puts it in his important book What Is Populism?

populism is always an exclusionary form of identity politics that is a danger to democracy…the idea of a single, homogeneous authentic people is a fantasy.

Even though they speak the language of democratic values, political populists will only be happy when their opponents are excluded. Opposition members are not considered proper members of the political community. Populists such as Trump have always already been the spokespersons of the real people, and anyone opposed to Trump simply doesn’t want America to be Great. Populists lay claim to exclusive moral representation of American values, so they cannot be proven wrong.

irresponsible policies

rhetorical claim: Dem social policies create dependency, irresponsibility, and a sense of entitlement. The welfare queen porch monkeys need to get off their butts, get off welfare, and get a job. Uncle Sam is your uncle, not your sugar daddy. As the Tea Party placard put it, “redistribute my work ethic.”

rhetorical effect: since the policies most often denounced as irresponsible always benefit the worst off, by definition anything that helps the poor actually hurts them.


direct representation

rhetorical claim: Trump’s tweets directly represent the will of the people, so he should not be vetted or restrained in making them.

rhetorical effect: makes it conceivable to have a representative democracy without  the majority being represented.


discriminatory legalism

rhetorical claim: not everyone is entitled to full protection under the law. For example, those who would undermine America, or are working actively against the people– criminals, illegal immigrants, suspected terrorists, Leftist thugs–should be harshly treated. Above the law stands the good of the nation.

rhetorical effect: translation: “for my friends, everything, for my enemies, the law.” The decline of the rule of law goes hand in hand with a lack of democratic accountability.


pure market economy

rhetorical claim: in a pure market economy, regulations wouldn’t exist, so any economic slowdown is the fault of regulation. Only free markets and limited government bring economic efficiency and clarity, and only the free market has the right to guide our civilization.

rhetorical effect: assumes that free markets are a fixed law of nature, so opposing them is unnatural or perverse. Government itself is framed as perverse because the only thing between us and permanent economic prosperity is government regulation. Also assumes that markets are “perfect” when left alone, because they self-regulate.


the New Segregation

rhetorical claim: coffee shops and restaurants displaying virtue-signalling ‘”All Are Welcome” signs are engaging in the New Segregation, as explained by the PJ Media website:

Let me interpret that for you, you low IQ dunce. These signs are to let you know, you hateful lover of law and order and restraint and decorum, that you are not welcome here. Contrary to “all are welcome,” you will notice that one group is decidedly missing. You. You think abortion is murder, so you don’t “stand with women,” even though half of those babies being killed are girls. You favor legal immigration, so you don’t “stand with immigrants,” which means allowing anyone including ISIS to just sally over the border willy-nilly as they please. You believe in traditional marriage and that children should not be denied a mother and father and so you do not “stand with the LGBTQWTF” crowd, even if you have no ill will toward them. Just the fact that you believe children have a right to their biological parents makes you a “hater.” You believe in biology and know that chromosomes don’t change because you want them to. This makes you “anti-science.”

You who believe that Black Lives Matter burning down cities and hurting people resembles domestic terror activities means you don’t like black people and so you can’t get a latte in this establishment, you cretin! And Allah forbid you should not believe the rallying cry that Islam is a “religion of peace,” even though it is drenched in the fresh blood of the infidel daily. YOU do not stand with “all” religions and so you are not welcome to do business with the super virtuous people inside this establishment. This establishment wants you to know they stand with “Our Community” and not yours. Got it?