B

Borking

To attack a person’s reputation and views.

The term was popularized by the Wall Street Journal editorial page after the Senate rejected the nomination of Robert Bork the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987.

Bork himself later discussed the origination of the term in a 2005 interview with Frank Sesno on CNN:

BORK: Well, I knew what was happening. The core of the issue was, they were afraid I would vote to overrule Roe against Wade. And they were quite right.

SESNO: And your name became a verb.

BORK: My name became a verb. And I regard that as one form of immortality.

SESNO: To Bork means what?

BORK: I think to attack with — to attack a person’s reputation and views unfairly.

backbencher

The junior members in the British House of Commons who occupy the back benches of Parliament, sitting behind party leaders and top government officials.

BBC: “Backbenchers are also sometimes known as private members and thus a backbencher can introduce an original idea for legislation in the form of a Private Member’s Bill. Backbenchers have more freedom to speak as they are not as constrained by loyalty to the government. This can also pose problems for the party whips who try to impose party discipline.”

The term has also come to refer to the rank-and-file members of the U.S. Congress who are not part of their party’s leadership.

bed-wetting

Someone who expresses doubt or excessive worry about a political outcome.

ABC News reports that David Plouffe, President Obama’s former campaign manager and top political adviser, first coined the term in 2008 when Democrats began openly fretting about their political challenges.

Plouffe used the term again before the 2010 midterm elections in a Washington Post op-ed when he urged “no bed-wetting” among Democrats: “This will be a tough election for our party and for many Republican incumbents as well. Instead of fearing what may happen, let’s prove that we have more than just the brains to govern — that we have the guts to govern.”

barnstormer

To travel around the country or state making political appearances during a political campaign. The phrase was first used when pilots would travel around the country to entertain with their flying skills.

All-Things-Aviation: “A typical barnstormer (or a group of barnstormers) would travel across to a village, borrow a field from a farmer for the day and advertise their presence in the town by flying several low passes over it – roaring over the main street at full throttle. The appearance of the barnstormers was akin to a national holiday. Entire towns were shut down and people would flock to the fields purchasing tickets for the show and plane rides. Locals, most of them never having seen planes before, would be thrilled by the experience. In several towns parties would be organized on such occasions in the honor of the barnstormers.” Now the word has come to mean a political speech given on the road.”

bundlers

Political fundraisers who can collect contributions from their networks of friends, family members and business associates and then deliver the checks to the candidate in one big “bundle.” Campaigns often recognize these bundlers with honorary titles.

Bundling has always existed in various forms, but has become more important with the enactment of limits on campaign contributions at the federal level and in most states during the 1970s.

brokered convention

A brokered convention occurs when there are not enough delegates “won” during the presidential primaries for a single candidate to have a majority during the first official vote at a party’s nominating convention. The nomination is then decided though political deals between candidates, party bosses and subsequent votes until one candidate receives a majority.

Before the era of presidential primaries, political party conventions were routinely brokered. The most recent brokered convention nominees were Adlai Stevenson at the 1952 Democratic convention and Thomas Dewey at the 1948 Republican convention.

More recently, a brokered convention is mostly just a political junkie’s fantasy. The modern party primary system almost always determines an overwhelming winner of delegates. And as David Frum notes, it’s hard to imagine a “brokered convention” when there is no such thing as political “brokers” any more. Elected delegates to a convention aren’t going to be swayed by political leaders deciding the nominee in a backroom.

A brokered convention was portrayed in the film The Best Man starring Henry Fonda.

by-election

A by-election is an election held to fill a political office that has become vacant between regularly scheduled elections. It’s also frequently referred to as a special election.

Typically, a by-election occurs when the incumbent has resigned or died, but it may also occur in the case of a recall or as a result of election results being invalidated by voting irregularities.

blue-slipping

If the Senate initiates appropriations legislation, the House practice is to return it to the Senate with a blue piece of paper attached citing a constitutional infringement since all measures are supposed to originate in the House. The practice of returning such bills and amendments to the Senate without action is known as “blue-slipping.”

C-SPAN: “Without House action, Senate-initiated spending legislation cannot make it into law. So in practice, the Senate rarely attempts to initiate such bills anymore, and if it does, the House is diligent about returning them. Regardless of one’s opinion of the correct interpretation of the Constitutional provision, the House refusal to consider such Senate legislation settles the matter in practice.”

bundling

The practice of rounding up contributions from friends and associates to bypass campaign finance limits.

San Antonio News-Express: “Welcome to the world of bundlers: a semi-secretive though perfectly legal practice in which super-duper fundraisers deliver bundles of campaign contributions to their favorite candidates that they induce, entice or, some would say, strong-arm others to make. Bundling allows candidates of both parties to finesse the federal caps on individual political contributions and allows the bundlers to gain more-than-ordinary access to presidents and presidential hopefuls.”

bunk

Empty or nonsense talk.

In 1820, Rep. Felix Walker from Ashville, North Carolina justified his long-winded and somewhat irrelevant remarks about the Missouri Compromise by arguing that his constituents had elected him “to make a speech for Buncombe.” One member said that his pointless speech “was buncombe” and soon “buncombe” became synonymous with vacuous speech.

As the new meaning of buncombe grew in use, it was eventually shortened to the now familiar word “bunk.”

Bradley effect

A theory that seeks to explain discrepancies between opinion polls and election outcomes when a white and black candidate run against each other.

Newsweek: “The Bradley effect is named after Tom Bradley, the former Los Angeles mayor who, in 1982, narrowly lost a bid to become California’s governor after having led substantially in the polls. The same pattern reflected itself in other instances involving African-American candidates: Douglas Wilder underperformed his polling in 1989 (but still narrowly won the Virginia governor’s race), as did David Dinkins in the New York mayoral race that same year. The theory goes that, in these races, white voters wanted to appear politically correct by telling pollsters they were going to vote for a black candidate when, in fact, they were not prepared to do so.”

boll weevil Democrat

Boll weevil Democrats were conservative southern Democrats in the mid 1900s, largely known for their opposition to civil rights. They used the term because the boll weevil, a southern pest, could not be eliminated by pesticides – politicians therefore thought of them as a symbol of tenacity.

The term fell out of use in the 1980s, and conservative Democrats are now known as Blue Dogs.

body man

A body man assists an executive branch official or political candidate by shadowing him at virtually all times.

The term was first used in a 1988 Boston Globe article, which said that body men “fulfill a kind of mothering role,” securing their bosses accommodations and ensuring he always has his favorite breakfast. Past body men have become very close with their employers: George W. Bush’s body man, Blake Gottesman, dated Bush’s daughter Jenna, and Richard Nixon’s body man followed his boss into retirement.

William Safire: “The informal job title is not be confused with the man with the briefcase, the ever-present carrier of the codes needed by the president to respond to a hostile missile launch. It is more specific and intimate than gofer, a term applied to any aide ready to ”go fer” coffee or do other menial tasks.”

blanket primary

In a blanket primary system, voters are not required to affiliate with a political party and may vote for any candidate on the ballot. The candidate from each political party who receives the most votes in the primary advances to the general election.

A blanket primary is sometimes confused with an open primary in which voters may pick candidates regardless of their own party registration, but may only choose among candidates from a single party of the voter’s choice.

bandwagon

To follow a group that has a large and growing number of followers.

A bandwagon is literally a wagon which carries the band in a parade. The phrase “jump on the bandwagon” first appeared in American politics in 1848 when Dan Rice, a famous and popular circus clown of the time, used his bandwagon and its music to gain attention for campaign appearances. As campaigns became more successful, more politicians strove for a seat on the bandwagon, hoping to be associated with the success.

However, by William Jennings Bryan’s 1900 presidential campaign, the term was used in a derogatory way, implying that people were associating themselves with the success without considering what they associated themselves with.

bill

A proposed law introduced in either the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate.

A bill originating in the House is designated by the letters “H.R.” followed by a number and bills introduced in the Senate as “S.” followed by a number. The sequential numbering of bills for each session of Congress began in the House in 1817 and in the Senate in 1847.

In 1975, Schoolhouse Rock aired an educational segment, “I’m Just a Bill,” introducing children to the concept of how a bill becomes a law.

bleeding heart

A term that describes people whose hearts “bleed” with sympathy for the poor and downtrodden.

It’s frequently used to criticize liberals who favor government spending for social programs. However, former Republican Vice Presidential nominee Jack Kemp was remembered in a Los Angeles Times obituary as a “bleeding heart conservative” for policies he supported to empower poor people.

Blue Dog Democrats

The Blue Dog Democrats were formed in 1995 by approximately thirty conservative-leaning House Democrats who sought to challenge the liberal tilt of the broader Democratic party. After Republicans took control of Congress in 1994 by a narrow margin, the Blue Dogs sought to become the swing vote.

Former Rep. Pete Geren (D-TX) is credited with the term by explaining these conservative Democrats had been “choked blue” by liberals in his party.

The group still exists today as the Blue Dog Coalition.

bully pulpit

A bully pulpit is a public office or position of authority that provides the holder with an opportunity to speak out and be listened to on any matter.

The term was coined by President Theodore Roosevelt, who referred to the White House as a “bully pulpit.” Roosevelt often used the word “bully” as an adjective meaning that meant terrific or wonderful.