By now you may well have noticed that politicians tend to speak in catchphrases and soundbites — handy little prefabricated pseudo-thoughts designed to catch your attention and convey something resembling a position on an issue, often without actually telling you anything.
And even when these nuggets of “wisdom” seem to say something, they are often euphemisms for what the candidate is really thinking but does not dare say in any straightforward manner — because, as we know, politicians who speak their mind are widely considered whacko crackpots (most often by people who have grown soft in our PC-dominated culture and couldn’t deal with stark honesty if their lives depended on it, but that’s a topic for another day).
Since we can’t depend on politicians telling us what’s truly on their minds, let’s take a look at some common clips of dialogue and examine the meaning behind them.
“Business as usual.”
What the candidate will be conducting after getting into office. C’mon, when was the last time a candidate decried “business as usual” in government and then actually did anything differently?
“I challenge my opponent to limit his campaign spending” or “I challenge my opponent to reject special interest money.”
This particular gauntlet is always thrown down by the candidate with far less money to spend.
This ploy works on two levels, both of which can be played to the challenger’s advantage. If the opponent accepts this challenge, it levels the financial playing field and gives the challenger a better shot at not getting buried beneath an avalanche of radio ads and roadside signs large enough to show “Iron Man 2 – The IMAX Experience” on.
But if he rejects this challenge — which is always the case — the challenger can then portray himself as having a sense of fiscal restraint, whereas ol’ Scrooge McDuck is going to go dipping into his money vault and buy the election with what he finds in the petty cash box.
“I don’t pay much attention to endorsements.”
Simply put: “I’m not getting any endorsements, so my only choice is to try to undermine their value.”
“I offer common-sense solutions.”
Common sense in the context of that candidate’s party, at least. Example: cutting taxes is common sense to a Republican but not to a Democrat. Painting it as a non-partisan idea routed in some sort of mythical universal perspective is an attempt to appeal to the state’s many unenrolled voters.
“I will always talk straight and be honest with the voters.”
Ahem…sorry about that.
“I will fight for my constituents/to bring money back to my district/the vital issues!”
A favorite of new candidates, this makes the speaker sound dedicated and hard-working. It also reveals that the candidate actually has no game plan for making happen whatever he says he will make happen.
“What will you do about education funding, Mr. Candidate?”
“I will fight for more money!”
See how that seems like a real answer?
“I will reach across the aisle and work with members of the (opposite party as the candidate).”
Also known in political circles as “Baby’s First Lie.” Notice how incumbents rarely use this one? That’s because they know it’s crap. No one reaches across the aisle, except maybe to borrow a dollar for the snack machine. No one works in a bipartisan manner, especially if they’re in the majority party.
“My opponent needs to come clean on (insert controversy here).”
A favorite of the 2010 election year, candidates say this in a lame effort to get an opponent to hang himself with his own rope, thus weakening his own campaign without the speaker risking his own image by engaging in negative campaigning. Never works. Because politicians aren’t that dumb. For the most part.
Do you have a favorite political euphemism? Feel free to add yours!
The views and opinions in the Enterprise blogs are those of the author and are not neccessarily shared by Falmouth Publishing.