The Citizen’s Guide to Politician Talk

Citizen’s Guide to Politician Talk
If only we had more politicians who thought for themselves, like Mayor Pike.

Citizen’s Guide to Politician Talk

If only we had more politicians who thought for themselves, like Mayor Pike.

If you pay any attention at all to politics, you’ve probably noticed that politicians speak a very specific language, refined over decades of political tradition specifically for the purpose of getting you to elect them and allow them to spend your money and hamper your freedom in any way they see fit.

When I was preparing this post I asked on Facebook for suggestions of common words and phrases used by politicians, and judging by the response I’d guess I’m not the only one tired of politicians. So, here’s a guide to help you translate what these guys are actually saying.

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Commonsense reform – This means that you’re not going to understand what we’re proposing, and we want you to think that it’s because you’re stupid, not that it actually doesn’t make sense.

“I’m the only one on this stage who” – Often heard in political debates. It has no correlation to facts and should be translated “Look at me! Listen to MEEE! Look at me!”

Come together – Can mean one of two things: a) I’m about to propose a compromise that no one will take, but I need to posture for the taxpayers, or b) I’m about to propose a compromise you will probably accept, and I hope the taxpayers aren’t looking.

“I appreciate your leadership on” – political equivalent to “bless your heart.” After you say it, you can say anything you like about that guy’s filibuster/bill/opposition/shenanigans. Could also be translated “That guy’s a %*#)% and needs to shut up.”

Comprehensive – means everything. Literally. Every aspect, nook, and cranny are covered in this bill, and they threw in the kitchen sink for good measure. You should get nervous when you hear politicians start tossing this one around.

“I’m fighting for you” – Whatever it is you think a politician should be doing, I’m doing it. (You’re probably not seeing results, which is why it’s “fighting for you” and not “winning for you”.) This one means nothing.

Budget/spending/tax cuts – This could refer to one of two things: a) shifting money around among programs without actually cutting anywhere, or b) increasing spending a little less than we had originally planned. You’ll know when this term is to be taken literally by all the politicians breaking out in hives and yelling that the sky is falling.

Take America back – this means “fix it.” Whatever “it” is, whatever is wrong with it, whoever did it – and you’ll get different answers for every person you ask, which is why politicians rarely go into specifics – we’re gonna fix it. If you show up wearing red, white, and, blue, they’ll be sure to use this one.

Balanced budget amendment – this is your silver bullet ticket to financial utopia. Passing this will guarantee that the politicians in charge will suddenly morph into miniature government versions of Dave Ramsey. (Here’s a hint: South Carolina has one. They’re not all they’re cracked up to be.)

“This administration has” – The guy currently in office is a two-faced, cheating, low-down scumbag who wants to see your babies dead. It’s his fault your Uncle Joe doesn’t have a job, your kid got a “D” on his last report card, and that your car had a flat tire. Oh, and that speeding ticket? His fault too.

“When I’m elected” – this is your silver bullet ticket to utopia, period. I will fight for you, cut spending, pass a balanced budget amendment, pass comprehensive reform, and take America back. *cue cheering*

Create jobs – Below are definitions of this phrase according to the type of person who’s using it:

  • Career politician: “I’m a good politician. Vote for me! What do you mean, what does this mean? It means I’m gonna create jobs!”
  • Bureaucrat: “Let’s eliminate technology and increase red tape. This will both require us to employ more people in low-wage jobs AND stifle the free market. Win-win!”
  • Republican: “We solemnly promise to take taxpayer dollars generated by small business and invest them in big business without a professional opinion on whether they are actually wise investments and without follow-up or accountability to ensure an actual return.”
  • Democrat: Any combination of answers 1-3
  • Conservative: [We were unable to find instances of true conservatives using this phrase. They don’t seem to think it’s government’s role.]

An alternative phrase is “grow the economy”.

Bipartisan – this means that it’s corrupt enough for all of them, and watered down enough to be practically unidentifiable. This is usually heard in conjunction with “come together”, “comprehensive”, and “I appreciate your leadership.” You should be nervous about this one too.

Transparency – We have decided to open up all the back rooms that we use for deal-making to the public, and they are now non-smoking zones. No, that’s not a bunch of new construction out back.

Accountability – We are aware of your odd impression that government is full of crooks and cheaters, so we’re proposing a plan to run everything through a board appointed by the Governor from nominations by a group of legislators from both bodies appointed by a select committee, composed by legislators appointed by the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem of the Senate and confirmed by both Houses. That way we’ll be sure to catch it if anything dishonest is going on.

On the fence – This means they haven’t decided yet which will cost them more: voting for, or voting against. When speaking with a politician who uses this phrase, it’s important to use the terms “votes”, “campaign donations”, and “press coverage”. If you really want to scare them, say “primary challenger.”

That’s just not how it’s done – This is the phrase they use when they are explaining things to you. It really means that doing what you ask would cost them too much. Disregard this one.

“I’m not a politician.” – I am a politician.

For the children – Should be translated “Ha! Gotcha! Now vote against it if you dare. (No, of course it has nothing to do with the children. What are you, an idiot?)”

Unconstitutional – This is a catch-all word that just means I hate your idea. It should not be taken to imply any actual violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Democracy – This perfect, glorious system of government which is awesome because Alexis de Tocqueville said so in a book. Yay America! *Waves flag frantically*

Pork – Lotsa bad stuff in the budget I wanna take it out doggone it

Move forward – This either means it’s the new guy’s turn to have a go at wrecking the country, or that the guys already in there are turning up the treadmill. Yay for progress!

Establishment – Them. Not me. Because I’m great. I’m not like those guys. *adjusts bow tie*

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