Politics & Policy

How Democrats Win Debates by Corrupting English

(Darren Hauck/Getty)

Human beings have been using euphemisms ever since Adam first “knew” Eve. In politics especially, obfuscating and twisting the meaning of words has been going on forever. But today’s debates aren’t just littered with rhetorical distortions; in some ways, many of Democrats’ most potent arguments are built on corrupt language.

One word that’s really getting a workout this cycle is “loophole.” Basically, all of life is a giant loophole until Democrats come up with a way to regulate or tax it. In its economic usage, “loophole” — probably more of a dysphemism — creates the false impression that people are getting away with breaking the law. It’s a way to skip the entire debate portion of the conversation and get right to the accusation.

So when Hillary Clinton promises to close the loophole of corporate inversion, what she means to say is that Democrats disapprove of this completely legal thing that corporations do to shield their money from the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. Loopholes are like giveaways, money that D.C. has yet to double and triple tax.

It’s one thing for Democrats to try and set the parameters of a debate before the debate is even begun, but it’s quite another to watch the press participate.

Euphemisms are a way to skip the entire debate.

Here’s CNN: “Clinton to push closing corporate tax loopholes.” Here’s The Hill: “Obama calls for Congress to close corporate tax loopholes.” Here’s how Halimah Abdullah and the Associated Press reported the issue on NBC: “President Obama on Tuesday criticized loopholes that help protect offshore tax havens and U.S. companies that move abroad for lower tax rates.”

But Bernie Sanders, bless him, just skips the entire game and just comes out with it by Tweeting: “The offshore tax haven network isn’t something that we need to reform or refine. It’s a form of legalized tax fraud that must end.”

“Legalized tax fraud” is a revealing statement about the progressive belief system. For progressives, taxation is moral. So when you fail to pay an imaginary tax that doesn’t exist but Democrats think should, you are by default engaged in fraud. The law has just to catch up with sin.

Take “access,” formerly meaning having the ability to approach, enter, or use. In today’s liberal parlance, when the state doesn’t give you something for free, it’s taking something from you. It’s denying you access.

When there’s a lack of access to birth control, it doesn’t, as the dictionary might lead you to believe, mean that Walgreens and CVS have been dissuaded from selling condoms, or that someone is bolting the door when women attempt to purchase birth control at the local pharmacy. It means that government has not made condoms free for anyone who desires them.

To oppose the latter — whatever you make of the position — is not tantamount to a ban or outlawing. Yet Clinton has accused Cruz of attempting to “ban” contraception. Neither Cruz nor any Republican in office today has ever tried to ban — prohibit, forbid, proscribe, disallow — contraception altogether. This is a fairy tale with a thriving political fan-fiction community.

Voters who pay only marginal attention to political debates (i.e., most of them) are probably left with some vague notion that men are working to deny women access to birth control. It would be understandably disconcerting if this were true. The idea of a War on Women loses a bit of its bark when it’s really a War on Having Taxpayers Pay for Everyone’s Pill.

“Any right that requires you to take extraordinary measures to access it is no right at all,” Clinton recently lamented as she spoke about the persistence of the anti-abortion movement’s activism. Women won’t have a true right on this issue, she says, “as long as we have laws on the book like the Hyde Amendment, making it harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.”

By “extraordinary measures,” Clinton means walking past anti-abortion protesters who might say something that makes a woman uncomfortable. Any genuine attempt to hinder a person from walking into a Planned Parenthood clinic is already illegal, after all. Some of us, you see, are imbued with special rights, or full rights. Women who support the right to an abortion, for instance, have full rights — not women who want to express themselves in opposition.

There are plenty of other distortions. “Disenfranchisement” once meant revoking the rights gained through suffrage, but has been corroded to mean asking a person to provide a picture ID or to wait in a line before voting. Today, a country that deports hundreds of thousands of people every year has open borders, while millions of illegal immigrants are called everything but “illegal.” Today, tax cuts “cost” Americans something, but state spending is an “investment.”

And so on.

This is just a small taste of the war on meaning, of course. And to allow them this falsification language is to surrender a debate before it even begins.

David Harsanyi is a senior writer for National Review and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun

Most Popular

Media

‘Undiagnosed Sociopath’

As we abandon moral language for clinical language, we run into technical difficulties. Writing in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman describes the 2020 presidential election as one that may be a contest between “a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath.” There is no such thing as an ... Read More
Media

‘Undiagnosed Sociopath’

As we abandon moral language for clinical language, we run into technical difficulties. Writing in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman describes the 2020 presidential election as one that may be a contest between “a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath.” There is no such thing as an ... Read More
Elections

Bernie Sanders Is a Moral Monster

Bernie Sanders complains that some criticism of the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro is “unfair.” The Castro government lined up political dissidents and shot them. It tortured them. It weaponized the medical profession to torture and deform its critics. Its campaign of murder was extraordinary, its ... Read More
Elections

Bernie Sanders Is a Moral Monster

Bernie Sanders complains that some criticism of the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro is “unfair.” The Castro government lined up political dissidents and shot them. It tortured them. It weaponized the medical profession to torture and deform its critics. Its campaign of murder was extraordinary, its ... Read More
Elections

A Bad Night for Democrats

The CBS-moderated debate on Tuesday was bad. The topic choices were bad: We heard yet another litigation of barely different visions of never-gonna-pass health-care policy an hour before we heard a question about coronavirus and pandemics. The moderation was bad: Bernie was attacked by five candidates ... Read More
Elections

A Bad Night for Democrats

The CBS-moderated debate on Tuesday was bad. The topic choices were bad: We heard yet another litigation of barely different visions of never-gonna-pass health-care policy an hour before we heard a question about coronavirus and pandemics. The moderation was bad: Bernie was attacked by five candidates ... Read More