*On a recent Sunday, I was eating breakfast and casually read the Los Angeles Times comics, as is my ritual. My favorite strip is “Doonesbury,” drawn and written by Garry Trudeau, one of the most insightful “left-of-center” artists/commentators ever.
This particular week’s strip was a “Flashback” reprint from 2008, but which proved to be as timely today and relevant as it was several years ago.
Trudeau has, for years, taken on the “establishment,” specifically the right-wing Republican bulldozers who feel a self-righteous urge to have our entire population march in lock-step to their blatantly manipulative directives, speeches, discourses, addresses and sundry other vernacular – all the while pontificating that anybody who doesn’t totally agree with them is anti-American.
This particular “Doonesbury” strip focused on the infamous 1996 Newt Gingrich “Hate Speech GOPAC Memo” in which Gingrich suggested that Republican candidates and incumbents use key words and phrases to degrade their Democratic opponents. When I first heard of the infamous memo (hmm, “infamous” is a manipulative and suggestive word), as a wordsmith, I had to see/read what the fuss was all about.
Indeed, as I listened to Republicans, Tea Party-ers, Sarah Palin, John McCain and even a right-leaning EUR columnist use strident words both on television, radio, print and in person, I noticed that key words were constantly being used; all aimed at stimulating audience emotions rather than offering any direction or guidance whatsoever. It’s a ploy used throughout history with an underlying understanding that peoples’ attitudes and thought are more easily manipulated by tugging at emotions rather than using clear and concise reasoning. Gingrich gathered such wordage and implored Republicans to utilize them whenever and wherever they stomped for votes.
As a public service of “To The Left,” here is the memo in its entirety. Use at your own discretion, or whenever you have an enemy you might want to discredit. More importantly, learn these words to know when you are being manipulated – then ask questions:
As you know, one of the key points in the GOPAC tapes is that “language matters.” In the video “We are a Majority,” Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: “I wish I could speak like Newt.”
That takes years of practice. But, we believe that you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate if we help a little. That is why we have created this list of words and phrases.
This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media. The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used.
While the list could be the size of the latest “College Edition” dictionary, we have attempted to keep it small enough to be readily useful yet large enough to be broadly functional. The list is divided into two sections: Optimistic Positive Governing words and phrases to help describe your vision for the future of your community (your message) and Contrasting words to help you clearly define the policies and record of your opponent and the Democratic party.
Please let us know if you have any other suggestions or additions. We would also like to know how you use the list. Call us at GOPAC or write with your suggestions and comments. We may include them in the next tape mailing so that others can benefit from your knowledge and experience.
Optimistic Positive Governing Words
Use the list below to help define your campaign and your vision of public service. These words can help give extra power to your message. In addition, these words help develop the positive side of the contrast you should create with your opponent, giving your community something to vote for!
active(ly) activist, building, candid(ly), care(ing), challenge, change, children, choice/choose, citizen, commitment, common sense, compete, confident, conflict, control, courage, crusade, debate, dream, duty, eliminate good-time in prison, empower(ment), fair, family, freedom, hard work, help, humane, incentive, initiative, lead, learn, legacy, liberty, light, listen, mobilize, moral, movement, opportunity, passionate, peace, pioneer, precious, premise, preserve, principle(d), pristine, pro- (issue): flag or children or environment or reform, prosperity, protect, proud/pride, provide, reform, rights, share, strength, success, tough, truth, unique, vision, we/us/our
Often we search hard for words to define our opponents. Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. Remember that creating a difference helps you. These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast. Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.
abuse of power, anti- (issue): flag or family or child or jobs, betray, bizarre, bosses, bureaucracy, cheat, coercion, “compassion” is not enough, collapse(ing), consequences, corrupt, corruption, criminal rights, crisis, cynicism, decay, deeper, destroy, destructive, devour, disgrace, endanger, excuses, failure (fail), greed, hypocrisy, ideological, impose, incompetent,
insecure, insensitive, intolerant, liberal, lie, limit(s), machine, mandate(s), obsolete, pathetic, patronage, permissive attitude, pessimistic, punish (poor …), radical, red tape, self-serving, selfish, sensationalists, shallow, shame, sick, spend(ing), stagnation, status quo, steal, taxes, they/them, threaten, traitors, unionized, urgent (cy), waste, welfare