Once the use of political jargon was confined to men in smoke-filled rooms. In today’s 24-hour political news cycle, commentators want to sound like insiders. So these catchphrases (many defined below) are tossed out to the public as soon as they’re invented, with presidential election years providing bumper crops of fresh slang.
Pollsters identify voter demographic groups with phrases like angry white men and waitress moms. Commentators go on news programs to do TV hits where they slap scoffing nicknames like birther and tree hugger on people whose beliefs don’t match their own. Derogatory terms are also partisan: Conservatives favor hack as an insult for liberals, while liberals use extremist with conservatives.
Some catch-phrases reduce a complex idea to a few words. Take dog-whistle politics. That’s the art of rousing one segment of the electorate without waking others (think of shrill tones that canines hear and humans don’t). A NASCAR dad doesn’t drive a race car on family vacations. To political pros he’s a lower-middle-class man — probably white, middle-aged and Southern — who is a good bet to watch NASCAR races and vote Republican.
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