Dem 51
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GOP 49
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The War of Words: Baubles, Bangles and Beads

John Blake, writing for CNN, has an interesting piece about what he calls "verbal jiu-jitsu." He observes that in most aspects of modern politics, the Democrats and Republicans are fairly evenly matched. However, the one area where the red team absolutely crushes the blue team is in the use of charged language. Over several generations, Republican politicians, activists, and staffers have mastered the art of seizing on words, changing (or pumping up) their meaning, and using those words as tool to enrage and/or distract voters.

Why does Blake call it jiu-jitsu? In his own words:

Republicans are masters of verbal jiu-jitsu. It's a form of linguistic combat in which the practitioner takes a political phrase or concept popularized by their opponent and gradually turns into an unusable slur. Like the Japanese martial art known as jiu-jitsu, its devotees avoid taking opposing arguments head on and instead redirect their opponents' momentum to beat them.

In other words, take something that the other side regards as innocuous or positive, and turn it into a weapon.

Blake lists a number of examples, dating back to the Civil Rights era. He covers a fairly large number of obvious ones, including more general words like "woke" or "liberal" and more specific phrases like "Critical Race Theory" and "global warming." For whatever reason, he didn't include what we would say is the foremost example of this from the last decade, namely "Defund the police."

So, which Democrat has been best at parrying these kinds of verbal assaults? Blake thinks it's John F. Kennedy, who famously said: "If, by 'a liberal,' they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people—their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties... if that is what they mean by a 'liberal,' then I'm proud to say I'm a liberal."

Clearly, we think Blake has the right of it. And it would seem the readers do, too. Tomorrow, we'll reveal some of the "moo words" readers suggested; most of them are examples of conservatives twisting the meaning of a word beyond all recognition. Not all, mind you, but most. (Z)

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