Political Words

It is election day in Virginia, which shares a media market with Washington. So, this past weekend, while watching the Sunday talk shows or the Lakers-Magic game, I was bombarded with television spots for the three Democratic candidates for governor. This has put me in mind of one of my pet peeves of contemporary liberal campaign rhetoric, the phrase "working families."

Everything about the phrase is clunky. "Working" is one of those words that sounds more German than English. But, the real problem with the phrase is that families do not work; they love. There is no mental image you conjure when you hear the phrase, except maybe the horrific image of a slave family heading into the cotton fields in a movie about the ante-bellum South. At least in my family, the roles were pretty defined and they cut through the family and did not encompass the whole lot of us. Dad did the mowing and worked the pool filter. Mom did the cooking. I weeded the garden which my Dad had tilled and planted. Of course, my mother decided what would be planted. Actually, my mother decided everything.


Another problem with contemporary campaign rhetoric, especially for Democrats in Virginia, is their allergy to the word "liberal." I understand they are trying to get elected Governor not etymologist-in-chief, and that in still conservative Virginia, being tagged a liberal is maybe a little bit better to for your political future than be tagged as a lesbian, but not my much. Still, the substitution of the content-less adjective "progressive" in place of the content-laden "liberal" marks a decisive decline in political verbiage.

Don’t get me started on that other great content-less, and ubiquitous, campaign word: "change."

So, speechwriters and candidates, think before you speak. Words matter. They shape the discussion. They shape the way we perceive the world. They even shape our self-perceptions as individuals and as a people. Writers of the World – Unite! You have nothing to lose but your refrains.


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9 years 7 months ago
Be glad you don't live there - the robocalls and emails are driving us all nuts.  Of course, in September and October it will all ramp up again.  It will be interesting to see if any crossover Republican voting occurs and who benefits from it.  If Republicans vote for who they agree with most, they will vote for Deeds (although this will give their nominee trouble).  If they vote for who is the most beatable, they will vote for MacAuliffe, who managed to help engineer losses for Gore, Kerry and Clinton by concentrating resources on battlegrounds and ignoring other opportunities (not the kind of instinct I want in a statewide campaign or in government). The working families add is likely a creature of the AFL-CIO, not any particular campaign.  They are going after McConnell, who wants to make Virginia "job" (meaning employer) friendly by keeping unemployment benefits and taxes low and retaining right to work (hire undocumented worker) laws.


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