Politics & Policy

Conservatives Can Win by Watching Their Words

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, c. 1932. (American Stock/Getty)
By echoing liberals’ slogans, conservatives unwittingly help them sell their bad ideas.

If Bonnie and Clyde were alive today, they would stop calling themselves bank robbers and, instead, introduce themselves as “financial-asset removal specialists.” Unfortunately, Republicans and conservatives then would start using that exculpatory mouthful to describe these legendary thieves.

Democrats and liberals are incredibly wily about ditching words associated with themselves and their causes as soon as they become unpopular or indefensible. And, with equal predictability, the Right stupidly plays into their hands by engaging in the same linguistic whitewash.

This shrewd leftist tactic and this vexing rightist tendency help liberals escape accountability, just as bank robbers vanish by abandoning getaway cars and slipping out of the clothes that they wear when they grab the loot.

Obama excels at this dark art. Like the wretched dictator that he is, Obama loudly boasts about “going around Congress” to do whatever he wants. But rather than employ “executive orders,” which suggest ordering people around, Obama adopts “executive actions.” How convenient! Most people appreciate “a man of action” and people who “take action.”

Similarly, Obama and the Left have abandoned the highly controversial term “gun control.” They now push “gun-safety laws.” While many Americans dislike gun control, most folks want guns to be safe. Of course, Obama’s quest has nothing to do with making guns less likely to misfire.

So, imagine my frustration when an anchorman on a reputedly conservative news channel recently said that “the president has advocated his executive actions on gun safety . . . ”

Conservatives and Republicans should stop giving Obama and other liberals this unwitting rhetorical assistance. Don’t take the bait. Repeat after me: “Obama issues executive orders on gun control.”

Satellite observations confirm that Earth’s average annual temperature has stayed flat since 1997. As this became increasingly clear, the Left very slyly changed their pet issue from “global warming” to “climate change.” This way, they could point to every rainstorm, tornado, blizzard, or beautiful day as proof of “climate change.”

So, what did conservatives do? They adopted the Left’s language. Rightists began debating “climate” this and “climate” that. This was Mission Accomplished for the Left.

Likewise, the term for those who have broken into America and broken the law in doing so has evolved. They were called illegal aliens, recognizing their lawlessness and their status as foreigners without permission to be here (unlike those with green cards). Liberals then dubbed them “undocumented workers.” Never mind their border crashing or expired visas. These are just laborers who happen not to have their papers. (“Oh, dear. They must be here somewhere!”)

When the Left tries to slip out of its old skin, like a molting snake, the Right needs to stick that old skin back on.

Obama now calls a big slice of these people “Dreamers” — as in those pursuing the American Dream. While these are children of illegals, who were brought to America through no fault of their own, they remain illegal aliens. But that term now has been subsumed into something that sounds like REM sleep during an afternoon nap.

When the Left tries to slip out of its old skin, like a molting snake, the Right needs to stick that old skin back on. So:

• They’re still liberals, not “progressives.”

• It’s still “global warming,” not “climate change.”

• It’s still carbon dioxide, not “carbon pollution.”

• It’s still Obamacare, not the “Affordable Care Act.”

• They’re still Food Stamps, not “SNAP.”

• They’re still regulations and mandates, not “standards.”

• And they’re still illegal aliens, not “undocumented workers” or “Dreamers.”

As the just-deceased conservative-Democrat wordsmith Jim Guirard — founder of the TrueSpeak Institute — recognized, liberal wordplay changes the subject. It shifts the terms of debate and obscures ground that liberals no longer can defend with words that have gone flat. When Lefties start playing these word games, Righties should spurn the Left’s new terminology. Parroting their words puts conservatives on the liberals’ court, playing by their rules.

Instead, Republicans and conservatives should continue to use the terms that Democrats and liberals try to jettison. Rather than sing from their sheet music, elephants should pin these linguistic tails on the donkeys.

— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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