As we count down the days until the 2010 midterm election, we’re likely going to be treated to a swelling, tumescent heightened political rhetoric on television and in newspapers, as loud debates echo through student union arcades, in town hall meetings, on the steps of state capitals and in the dankest of Red State outhouses. Many lies will be told. Many ribs will be eaten. Your gay friends will be used as political fodder for people scoring cheap points. Thanks, gays!
As you careen through this veld of poison poppies, you are likely to feel sometimes like other people control the terms of debate, leaving you speechless and/or helpless to raise your own concerns and objections. Many memes and buzzwords will be used, like electrical shunts, to skirt you around the troublesome ideas underlying them. You will hear some of your older friends, for example, say things like “I am not politically correct,” as a shorthand way of saying, “Actually, I still don’t like black people.” You will hear phrases like “Barack Obama thinks I’m trash because I’m white,” which actually means, “I am actually trash, and I hate successful people who remind me of that fact, even more so if they are black.” You will hear some Democrats say President Obama’s critics are racist, but really they just hate being unemployed.
The best way for you to fight back against word games played by partisans is to try to drill down into semiotics and try to figure out the code. Here are some of the words you will hear a lot of in the next few weeks:
Elites: this refers to somebody who corrected you when you got something wrong.
Maverick: somebody who doesn’t look things up.
Going rogue: failing to finish a sentence
Socialist: to most of us, this word is pretty clear. It has given us Medicare, Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps, home loans, student loans and everything else that buttresses the American middle class and keeps the streets free of homeless mendicants and the other signs of blighted pre-revolutionary France. But if you think of it instead as robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, then you are undoubtedly not a fan of childhood favorite Robin Hood.
Unemployment: depending on who is using this word, it either means the natural result of socialist tendencies (which is a complete contradiction in terms) or the natural result of corporations finding American workers too expensive (which is so true that saying it out loud will get you pelted with eggs).
Obamacare: legislation passed in early 2010 that has already resulted in many of your friends and family members being sent to euthanasia camps. (Really! It checks out on Snopes!)
Nanny state: a nanny is somebody who doesn’t let you eat a dog turd off the ground. Anti-union, anti-minimum wage, pro-restaurant lobbyist Rick Berman reminds you: “Don’t listen to the nannies, kids. You go ahead and eat that turd.” You don’t have to be mollycoddled by government when you’ve got corporations looking out for your best interests with absolutely positively no agenda of their own.
Middle class: Both sides will use this phrase liberally over the next few weeks, and you’re sure to be confused, because both sides will claim they are protecting it and blaming each other for its disappearance. I’m sure that both liberals and conservatives on the Titanic would have blamed each other for it sinking, too. So let’s just stay there’s a hole in the boat and nobody knows how to fix it. The Democrats onboard will blame the Chinese for the disaster and the Republicans will declare war on Iran. “Nearer My God to Thee” in the key of F major, please.
Racist: anybody angry about the bank bailouts
Racist: Anybody who doesn’t fully support the beliefs of the Honorable Clarence Thomas.
Bigot: Anybody who doesn’t believe Jesus was two substances brought together in hypostatic union and now lives at the right hand of God in a milky ball of interstellar gas like the Bible says. (Checks out on Snopes!)
Racist: anybody who believes in a progressive income tax, which hurts rich black people
Racist: Anybody who supports abortion rights, which is really a black genocide scheme.
Racist: Anybody who supports unions, which use black members’ money only to support Democratic causes, which is not fair since some of those black people are probably secretly Republican.
Racist: Anybody who Rush Limbaugh says is racist, and by the way, he also says poor black people getting subprime loans caused the recession, not overly leveraged Wall Street banks. (Checks out on Snopes!) Anybody who blames the overly leveraged Wall Street banks and not the black people is just a racist.
Racist: President Barack Obama, who, unlike white people, is a member of a “race.” (Checks out on Snopes).
Purple: This word is politically neutral. You are free to have no opinion on it.
Multiculturalism: The auspices under which black racists will take over our country.
Libertarian: somebody with a strict, prescriptivist adherence to the Constitution as it pertains to the WASPs who wrote it.
WASPs: These people are still in charge. So you will not likely hear this word at all.