Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in GOP language factories and fever swamps, Aug 31-Sept. 11, 2018

it oughta be illegal

rhetorical claim: President Trump said it ought to be illegal for audience members to shout out at Congressional hearings.

rhetorical effect: suppresses free speech. Other things Trump has said “ought to be illegal” include White House leakers and sources, protestors at his rallies, black or Hispanic judges ruling on race cases, Mexicans, Muslims, the free press, libel laws, flag burning, abortions, “flipping” in criminal cases to avoid jail time, not cheering and standing for Trump at the State of Union address, not kneeling for the national anthem, LGBTQ rights, migration, etc. He often uses “maybe”, “possibly” or “perhaps” to qualify “ought to be illegal” as a form of fake hedging. These are the wish-fulfillments of a would-be dictator. As the NYT editorialized:

Mr. Trump quickly corroborated these accounts by demonstrating precisely the sort of erratic, antidemocratic behavior that is driving administration officials to come forward with their concerns. He ranted that the stories were all lies and raved that the gutless traitors who had slandered him must be rooted out and handed over to the government. Finger-pointing, name-calling, wild accusations, cries of treason — it was an unsettling display, not simply of Mr. Trump’s emotional fragility and poor impulse control, but also of his failure to understand the nature of the office he holds, the government he leads and the democracy he has sworn to serve.

Twenty months into the job, Mr. Trump has yet to grasp that the highest law of this land is the Constitution, not whoever occupies the Oval Office at any given moment.


fair and unbiased

Constitutional originalism

rhetorical claim: Brett Kavanagh will restore the Constitution to its rightful place as the lodestar for law-making in the US. Left-wing justices legislating from the bench will be a thing of the past.  The task of a justice will no longer be to formulate new constitutional law according to his personal preferences, but, rather to exercise restraint and wisdom in preserving the original constitutional scheme of separation of powers and preeminence of state and local governments.

rhetorical effect: Makes it harder for minorities to vote, for workers to bargain for better wages and conditions, for consumers to stand up to big business and for women to control what happens to their bodies. It also means making it easier for people to buy and sell weapons of mass killing, for lawmakers to green-light discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender Americans, for industries to pollute the environment with impunity, and for the wealthy to purchase even more political influence than they already have. the court had laid the groundwork for the destruction of our constitutional scheme, and had nearly abandoned the traditional ideas that judges were not legislators and that it was the state and local bodies, not the federal government, that were supposed to be the primary movers in national life. Justices David Souter, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Anthony Kennedy, all Republican appointees, had been instrumental in this dismantling of jurisprudential tradition, but they are all gone now.


rigged search results

rhetorical claim:  Donald Trump denounced Google for having news results “RIGGED” against him, “so that almost all stories & news is BAD.” It happens on  various technology platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, all of which have a liberal bias. according to  PJ Media, “96 Percent of Google Search Results for ‘Trump’ News Are From Liberal Media Outlets.”

rhetorical effect: as Michelle Goldberg argues

Essentially, conservatives want to create a world where objective information and right-wing disinformation are treated equally. They’re running the same playbook on tech that they ran, for decades, on media, caterwauling about bias so that defensive editors would treat them with kid gloves. Only now, these howls about viewpoint discrimination have the force of the United States government behind them.


economic leveling

rhetorical claim: Congressional liberals want to change how GDP is measured in order to bring about a socialistic redistribution of wealth. This new, rigged way of counting–called distributional national accounts–will ignore trickle-down economics and be a stalking horse for fraudulent claims that a booming economy is stagnant. It is based on a misguided claim that economic inequality is a bug, not a feature, of capitalism.

rhetorical effect: best put by Paul Krugman:

By now everyone knows that conservatives routinely yell “socialist!” whenever anyone proposes doing something to help less fortunate members of our society — which is a key reason so many Americans now think favorably of socialism: If guaranteed health care is socialism, bring it on. But the right doesn’t just cry foul at any attempt to limit inequality; it does the same thing whenever anyone tries to talk about economic class, or measure how different classes are faring.

My favorite example here is still former senator Rick Santorum, who denounced the term “middle class” as “Marxism talk.” But that was just an especially ludicrous version of a general attempt on the right to suppress talk about and research into where the economy’s money goes. The G.O.P.’s basic position is that what you don’t know can’t hurt it.



rhetorical claim: the subversive who penned the anonymous NYT attack on Trump ought to be exposed, fired and jailed.

rhetorical effect: the exercise of free speech becomes subversive: the First Amendment is turned upside down. Anyone criticizing Trump is undermining the country because Trump is now synonymous with America.


your body is a battleground

rhetorical claim: your body is a battleground for the life of the fetus, which should be protected at all costs.

rhetorical effect: militarizes the abortion rights debate by turning women’s bodies into occupied territory and  robbing them of their autonomy.


the circus Resistance

rhetorical claim: the anti-Trump resistance continues to hit new lows: 1) Apparently, in the case of Elizabeth Warren, fabricating an ethnic identity is sane, and getting out of the Iran deal or the Paris Climate Accord is insanity and grounds for removal; 2) Barack Obama, in his sanctimonious way, has taken credit foe the economy that he failed to resuscitate for eight years; 3) according to Victor David Hanson:

Contrary to popular opinion, there was nothing “newsworthy” about the recent anonymous op-ed, written by an unnamed “senior official” about the supposed pathologies of President Trump.

Or rather to the extent the op-ed was significant, it confirmed what heretofore had been written off as a “right-wing” conspiracy theory of a “deep state.” The anonymous author confessed to being part of a group that is trying to use subterranean methods to thwart an elected president, not because his record is wanting (indeed, the author admits it is often impressive) but because he finds Trump unorthodox and antithetical to the establishment norms of governance and comportment….

To cut to the quick, the op-ed was published to coincide with the latest Bob Woodward “according-to-an-unnamed-source” exposé, Fear. The intent of anonymous and the New York Times was to create a force multiplying effect of a collapsing presidency—in need of the Times’ sober and judicious handlers, NeverTrump professionals, and “bipartisan” Democrats of the sort we saw during the Kavanaugh hearing to “step in” and apparently stage an intervention to save the country…The recent op-ed is yet another episode in an endless resistance cartoon, another pathetic effort of self-important grandees to undo by fiat what the voters did by voting in 2016.

The op-ed is the latest cartoon of Trump, the Road Runner, finally, at last, and for sure driven off the cliff by the Resistance as Wile E. Coyote—infuriated by yet another Road Runner beep-beep. There were earlier and serial Looney Tunes efforts to nullify the Electoral College, to sue about election machines, to boycott the Inauguration, to introduce articles of impeachment, to invoke the 25th Amendment, to try out the Emoluments Clause and the Logan Act, to sue by cherry picking liberal federal judges, to harass officials in public places and restaurants, to warp the FISA courts, to fund a foreign spy to do opposition research, and to weaponize even further the FBI, NSA, and Justice Department—along with the now-boring celebrity assassination chic rhetoric of blowing up, stabbing, shooting, burning, hanging, smashing, and decapitating Donald J. Trump….

The media’s hatred of Trump is not necessarily determinative, but it is a force multiplier of the 24/7 unhinged narrative of the universities, popular culture, and Hollywood. Their shared goal is to make saying that one supports the Trump agenda so socially unpalatable, so culturally Neanderthal, that no sane person wishes to confess his delight with a new economy, foreign policy, and approach to the administrative state.

rhetorical effect: minimizes the mounting internal criticism, of Trump as nothing bur Dem propaganda and unsubstantiated rumor; dismisses all attempts to derail Trump  as desperate measures of an increasingly unhinged and totally unscrupulous Deep State Resistance; portrays Trump opponents as, curiously enough, both clowns and “grandees”–in the latter case, stirring up old class warfare, us-vs.- the elites-sentiments.