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samizdat

A form of underground press commonly available in eastern European countries with state-owned media sources. Samizdat typically is a grassroots way to distribute censored content to citizens who otherwise would not have access to this material.  It can take many forms; books, magazines, newspapers, or other types of censored media such as film and photography are commonly reproduced.

Consumers of samizdat historically have been educated citizens, and sometimes those with great political or social influence.  Samizdat has been disguised with book covers or alternative, accepted literary disguises.

Other forms can include banned religious texts or artwork that are not seen acceptable for a nation’s society.

one-house bill

A one-house bill is introduced by a legislator for the purpose of grandstanding or to demonstrate their effort to fulfill political promises without the ability to actually pass the bill into law.

One-house bills are often introduced to congress by members of the minority party, even when they do not have the support to pass these bills in the other legislative chamber.

running between the raindrops

To dodge or deflect repeated political attacks. “Running between the raindrops” is used to describe actions taken by politicians to avoid political aggression from other candidates or the media.

In other circumstances, “running between the raindrops” may be used to describe politicians who are able to deflect scandals or pass blame onto others while still in office.

ranked-choice voting

Ranked-choice voting is an alternative to plurality elections —  which are when whoever receives the most votes wins, even if they don’t earn a majority of all votes.

Bangor Daily News: “Voters can rank as many of the candidates as they wish as their first, second and third choices, and so on. If no candidate receives a majority of all votes cast, the last-place candidate is eliminated from contention. The ballots from voters who ranked that candidate first are re-examined and all of their second-choice votes are added to the first-round totals. This continues until a candidate receives a majority of all votes cast and is declared the winner.”

Maine adopted ranked-choice voting in 2016 and the state released a cartoon explaining how it worked:

FairVote has a list of jurisdictions that currently use ranked-choice voting.

sit-in

A form of peaceful protest that involves sitting down and occupying space, often preventing access to a business or public space.

Sit-ins are a common form of protest in the US, and have been around since the late 1930s. During the Civil Rights Movement, sit-ins were one of the main ways to protest segregation in restaurants, parks, universities, and other places.

Sit-ins are still considered an effective form of peaceful protest for their visibility and peaceful tactics.

History: “The Greensboro sit-in was a civil rights protest that started in 1960, when young African-American students staged a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, and refused to leave after being denied service. The sit-in movement soon spread to college towns throughout the South. Though many of the protesters were arrested for trespassing, disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace, their actions made an immediate and lasting impact, forcing Woolworth’s and other establishments to change their segregationist policies.”

scalawag

A pejorative term for a white southerner who supported Reconstruction efforts in the south in the late 1800s. They are often associated with carpetbaggers, who were their northern counterparts.

The term was used by southern Democrats who were not in favor of Reconstruction policies. The term originally was used to refer to a useless farm animal, so being called a scalawag was equal to being called a useless person. They were viewed as even lower than carpetbaggers, because they were seen as traitors to the culture they grew up in.

A scalawag could have supported Reconstruction for many reasons. Some believed in giving rights to Black people. Others were poor and saw the advantages of added labor to revitalize the economy. Others were just Republicans who supported the sought to fix the reputation of the South. However, the connotation of the word implies that scalawags only supported the policy for personal gain.

History: “Scalawags had diverse backgrounds and motives, but all of them shared the belief that they could achieve greater advancement in a Republican South than they could by opposing Reconstruction. Taken together, scalawags made up roughly 20 percent of the white electorate and wielded a considerable influence. Many also had political experience from before the war, either as members of Congress or as judges or local officials.”

send them a message

A call to action from a political actor telling supporters to use their political capital to voice their opinion.

This can be performed in many ways. A protest can be sending a message, because it shows large support for or against an issue. The same goes for political donations. The most typical call for a message to be sent is through voting. A politician may call on the people to “send a message” to America by voting for them, and showing that a majority of people support a certain policy.

sharp-elbowed

To be assertive and aggressive in pushing an agenda. It is typically given a positive connotation.

A sharp-elbowed person will take an active role in policy making as well as being stubborn on their agenda.

slogan

A short and catchy phrase used to promote a candidate or idea. Slogans attempt to be memorable so that people remember the person behind them more easily.

Examples of slogans used for candidates are: I Like Ike (Eisenhower); Make America Great Again (Reagan and Trump); and Yes We Can (Obama). Slogans used for ideas include: Better Dead than Red (anti-Communist); Free Labor, Free Land, Free Men (19th century GOP); and Me Too/Time’s Up (sexual assault awareness)

obstructionism

The act of deliberately stalling, delaying, or preventing legislation from being passed. It has a negative connotation, as politicians do not want to be seen as preventing progress.

Obstructionist politicians are typically either a a party with control of one branch or house of a legislature, or part of a minority party with enough of a plurality to prevent legislation (like through a filibuster)

Obstructionism is often a useful tool for an opposition party. Politico: “Still, for the most part, obstructionism worked. Americans always tell pollsters they want politicians to work together, but as Washington Democrats decide how to approach the Trump era from the minority, they will be keenly aware that the Republican Party’s decision to throw sand in the gears of government throughout the Obama era helped the Republican Party wrest unified control of that government.”

smear

To use false information and accusations to harm the reputation of another person.

A smear campaign is repeated uses of this to try to destroy another person’s reputation, typically to make them lose an election.

Psychology Today says that smear tactics work: “Assuming that acceptance of these slurs is related to voting choice, this suggests that in some cases, political slandering works. And not only that, it works on the group that is perhaps most important in swinging an election: politically undecided individuals. We may report hating these slanderous statements. But, it appears that they might make up our minds for us when we haven’t already.”

separate but equal

The infamous justification for the decision in Plessy v Ferguson, the case that formally legalized segregation. The justification behind the decision was that segregation was Constitutional as long as both black and white Americans had equal protection under the law.

Of course, the idea of ‘separate but equal’ was not followed at all, and segregation led to a huge disparity in access to nearly every aspect of life for many Black Americans. The 1956 Brown v Board of Education case would overturn the separate but equal doctrine, saying that separate could not possibly be equal.

Time: “The case reached the Supreme Court in 1896, and the court ruled that Louisiana’s law, calling for ‘equal but separate’ facilities on trains, was constitutional. The majority opinion held that Negroes were equal to whites ‘civilly and politically,’ but not ‘socially.’

In 1954, with Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court finally declared what Americans could long have seen with their own eyes: that which was kept separate was inherently unequal. “Even if physical facilities are equal, said the court,there are intangible factors which prevent ‘separate’ from being ‘equal,’””

slow-walk

Moving through the legislative process incredibly slowly in an attempt to find a way to stop progress altogether.

The term comes from equestrianism, where horses who would slow-walk would drag their feet.

It is commonly used in modern politics as a way to prevent legislation from being passed or to delay it.

Saturday Night Massacre

The Saturday Night Massacre refers to October 20, 1973, the Saturday night when then-President Richard Nixon gave the order to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox, leading to the resignation of his Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General.

Nixon ordered the firing of Cox after Cox subpoenaed the secret White House tapes Nixon kept, which held key information in the case against him. Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox, who would not compromise with Nixon’s attempts to delay the process in any way. Richardson refused and instead resigned. When Deputy AG William Ruckelshaus was told to fire Cox, Ruckelshaus did the same. Finally, Solicitor General Robert Bork fired Cox, leading to outrage.

News coverage of the Massacre was harsh, and protests quickly gathered over what was seen as an abuse of power. Polls showed this was the first time a majority of Americans wanted Nixon impeached. Nixon would resign less than a year later.

The Nation provides a good graphic on the timeline of the event.

red meat

Rhetoric on an issue used to inflame supporters. It is often associated with populist ideas.

The phrase was first seen in 1911 in the movie industry, describing movies that were sensationalized. It shifted into a political term in the 1940s. A quote from the Baltimore Sun shows one of its first uses:

“Most of the audiences… were looking for red meat in Dewey’s carefully reasoned discussions of world affairs. Since he disdained mudslinging they seized upon his withering treatment of bureaucracy and governmental incompetence as a satisfactory substitute.”

Today, red meat is almost always associated with right-wing populist speech. Things that get crowds riled up and angry — such as the “Lock Her Up” chants during the 2016 presidential election — are good examples of red meat.

purple state

A term used for a swing state on an electoral map. It is purple because it could either go blue or red. They are sometimes shown as gray on a map instead of purple.

Purple states tend to vary from election to election. When the election actually happens, they will either swing blue or red (Democrat or Republican), but until that is decided, they remain purple.

Typically, states that would be shown as purple on an electoral map include Ohio, Florida, and Nevada. In many cases, states like North Carolina, Iowa, or Colorado could be considered purple, but would depend on the context of the race.

salami tactics

A strategy for gaining power that involves slicing away opposition slowly, gaining power without the opposition realizing until it is too late. It is also known as the salami-slice strategy.

The unusual name comes from 1940s Hungary, where Communist leader Mátyás Rákosi described his consolidation of power as “cutting [opposition] off like slices of salami.”

This strategy is most commonly associated with the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. In both, leaders slowly created laws giving themselves more power, while simultaneously demonizing opposition groups. The gradual change eventually led to authoritarian regimes.

A quote by economist Thomas Schelling, found in the Washington Post gives a metaphor for how this works: “Tell a child not to go in the water and he’ll sit on the bank and submerge his bare feet; he is not yet ‘in’ the water. Acquiesce, and he’ll stand up; no more of him is in the water than before. Think it over, and he’ll start wading, not going any deeper; take a moment to decide whether this is different and he’ll go a little deeper, arguing that since he goes back and forth it all averages out. Pretty soon we are calling to him not to swim put of sight, wondering whatever happened to all our discipline.”

Rumsfeld’s rules

A list of guidelines by which former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld managed his staff. His rules were often cited when talking about both his managerial style and his personal interactions.

In the 1970s while he worked under Gerald Ford, Rumsfeld got by in Washington well, and Ford had Rumsfeld’s Rules given out to many members of his staff. The rules were seen as an effective guideline to being successful in politics.

In the 2000s, the rules were a source of ridicule during the Iraq War. Critics pointed to rules that Rumsfeld seemed to not follow during the Bush administration.

Rumsfeld published a book of these and other rules to live by in 2013, also titled Rumsfeld’s Rules

blue state

A state whose voters elect primarily Democratic candidates. It is the opposite of a red state.

There are different levels of how ‘blue’ a state can be. If a Democratic candidate wins the vote in that state, that state has ‘turned blue.’ If a state votes for a Democrat in nearly every statewide race, it could be considered a ‘deep blue’ or ‘dark blue’ state (New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, etc.). If a state typically votes Democrat but will occasionally vote for a Republican, they are known as a ‘light blue’ state (Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, etc.).

There is no hard and fast rule as to what makes a state dark or light blue. Some people may consider Colorado or New Mexico light blue states, and others may consider them swing states. Conversely, some people may consider Maine or Minnesota dark blue states, but others may consider them light blue due to their potential to switch in an upcoming election.

The electoral map in 2016 shows what states went red and what states went blue.

robocall

An automated telephone call that delivers a prerecorded message to multiple phones. Typically, robocalls are used for mass messaging.

In politics, a robocall is typically a way of campaigning. Robocalls are sent out to potential voters, and the fact that they are simply recorded messages makes them easier to send out than in-person phone calls.

An advantage of robocalls is that the candidate can be heard by many constituents without the effort of that candidate making hundreds of calls. They can also take one message from an influential person and distribute it to many people. A disadvantage of robocalls is that they are less genuine and may be ignored by some.

The website Local Victory gives tips on what makes an effective robocall: “The real place where they shine is as a quick, cheap way to get out breaking news (like an endorsement right before Election Day) or to respond to last minute attacks from your opponent. Watch out though, some voters get turned off by too many robocalls.  Even if your campaign only does one or two rounds of calls, if your opponents have been bombarding the phone lines with calls, the voters may penalize you when they hear your call”

red state

A state whose voters elect primarily Republican candidates. It is the opposite of a blue state.

There are different levels of how ‘red’ a state can be. If a Republican candidate wins the vote in that state, that state has ‘turned red.’ If a state votes for a Republican in nearly every statewide race, it could be considered a ‘deep red’ or ‘dark red’ state (Alabama, Texas, Idaho, etc.). If a state typically votes Republican but will occasionally vote for a Democrat, they are known as a ‘light red’ state (Indiana).

There is no hard and fast rule as to what makes a state dark or light red. Some people may consider North Carolina or Iowa a light red state, and others may consider them swing states. Conversely, some people may consider Georgia and Arizona dark red states, but others may consider them light red due to their potential to switch in an upcoming election.

The electoral map in 2016 shows what states went red and what states went blue.

read my lips

A phrase used by George H.W. Bush in his speech for the 1988 GOP nomination for president. The full quote is “Read my lips: no new taxes.” The line is credited with both helping him win the presidency in 1988 and losing his bid for reelection in 1992.

The phrase became the main soundbite of Bush’s campaign in 1988, and it electrified the GOP base. His assertive promise to not raise taxes became what the American people expected from him. When he was forced to raise taxes in 1990, that promise was broken, and he was attacked from both sides of the aisle.

Time ranks it as the 3rd most unfortunate one-liner ever given in politics (behind Clinton and Nixon’s famous denials).

rattle the cage

To attempt to get attention, often through annoying, angering, or protesting.

In politics, rattling the cage of a politician or party typically happens when a large group of people get together to protest and demand whatever they are asking for.

In a more personal sense, it can be used for personal interactions if one person has been caught off guard by another.

political football

To take an issue that is non-partisan and turn it into a partisan one. Political parties do this to gain an advantage over the other party, tossing an issue back-and-forth as a “football.”

The term can refer to the game of political football, where parties do this, or the issue itself. In the former case, parties are playing political football; in the latter, the issue is a political football.

The first known use of the term dates back to 1857, where it was used in a Maine newspaper.

pussyfoot

To sidestep an issue as to not take a side.

The term was popularized in politics by Teddy Roosevelt. Contrary to what some may believe, the term is not meant as a gendered insult. It is called pussyfooting due to the quiet and stealthy way cats walk.

If a politician were to remain noncommittal on an issue in order to avoid backlash, it could be said they were pussyfooting.

quagmire

A situation that is difficult to get out of. It is named after a type of wetland where if you walk through it, you will begin to sink.

In politics, it typically refers to a military action that is difficult to pull out of. Typically this is because leaving would create as many problems as it would solve.

The ‘quagmire theory’ is based on one of these situations: the Vietnam War. It is the theory that the US slowly waded into the war based on misinformation and false promises, and when they finally realized what they had gotten into, it was too late to get out safely.

Chicago Tribune: “The first step into a quagmire inexorably draws one down a slippery slope. [historian Arthur] Schlesinger argued that officials in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations stumbled blindly into Vietnam without understanding where the U.S. commitment would lead. Escalation proceeded through a series of small steps, none of which seemed terribly consequential. Each succeeding step was taken in the optimistic belief that a little more effort – a bit more aid, a few more troops, a slight intensification of the bombing – would turn things around by signaling American resolve to stay the course. Faced with this prospect, the reasoning went, the North Vietnamese communists would sue for peace on American terms. These flawed expectations, Schlesinger argued, arose from a decision-making system characterized by “ignorance, misjudgment and muddle.” A dysfunctional bureaucracy fed presidents misleading and overly rosy intelligence. The Vietnam War debacle, in other words, arose from inadvertence and folly.”

Potomac fever

The condition where a politician is gripped by a desire to stay in government, whether to make a change or for power’s sake.

The term describes a politician who never intended to stay in Washington, D.C. (which is adjacent to the Potomac River) but eventually “gets infected” and decides to stay for a long time.

puppet state

A country that claims to be independent, but is controlled by an outside state or other power. Puppet states are not recognized by international law.

A puppet state has the appearance of being independent. It typically has things like its own flag, constitution, system of government, etc., but still cedes control to another power.

Examples of puppet states include countries that were under the Soviet bloc, like Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Mongolia. Some puppet governments are implemented through military force, like Vichy France in WWII. Many colonized countries in Africa and Asia would become puppet states controlled by their colonizers. Examples of this are pre-1960s Vietnam, India, and the Congo.

pol

A shorthand word for politician. Occasionally, it is used to describe anyone active in politics, including experts and political junkies.

plumbers

A task force who worked for Richard Nixon to stop classified information from getting out and gather information on political enemies. They were known as plumbers because of their attempts to plug leaks out of the White House.

The plumbers were involved in many covert and illegal activities, from stealing information to discredit the leaker of the Pentagon Papers to the Watergate burglary. The agents worked to protect the Committee for the Re-Election of the President as well.

Time ranks the activities of Nixon’s plumbers as one of the top 10 abuses of power of all time. Although Nixon denied knowledge of the plumbers activities, tapes subpoenaed during the Watergate investigation revealed years of political espionage and illegal surveillance.

play in Peoria

A phrase meaning how well something will appeal to the heartland or mainstream America. In politics, it is a gauge of how the average American will react to a policy or proposal.

Peoria is an actual city in Illinois. The phrase originated in the late 19th century, when vaudeville performers would say that if a show could be successful in Peoria, it could be successful anywhere (because Peoria was seen as an unremarkable city).

Richard Nixon popularized the phrase in political circles. He would ask how something would play in Peoria to ask how the average voter would respond to whatever he was planning.

old bull

An “old bull” is a powerful and influential Member of Congress.

Old bulls are typically senior members who have worked their way into positions of power through decades in Congress.

appeasement

Diplomatic policy in which nations attempt to make peace by making concessions to an aggressive nation. Appeasement is often linked with the policies of Neville Chamberlain during World War II.

The most famous case of appeasement is the Munich Pact, in which Britain and France, under the leadership of British Prime Minister Chamberlain, conceded Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany. The hope was that it would stop the aggression of Hitler and the Nazis, but it did not, and was largely seen as giving Germany a free pass.

Due to those failures, the policy today has a very negative connotation. Defense hawks regularly accuse opponents of appeasing the enemy.

Der Spiegel outlines how the strategy failed in the 1930s.

peace at any price

A term outlining the philosophy of appeasement, in which supporters argue that peace is worth the cost asked by an enemy. It was once used as a positive term, but became an attack on appeasement after World War II.

Peace at any price is often linked with former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who is famous for attempting to appease Nazi Germany before WWII. He signed the Munich Pact, which gave Czechoslovakia to the Nazis. The failure of Chamberlain’s attempt for peace, combined with the cost of an entire nation in that attempt, turned “peace at any price” into an attack on appeasement.

It is also sometimes referred to as “peace at any cost.”

realpolitik

A political philosophy based on using rationality, realism, and circumstance to define policy and action, rather than using morals or ethics. Realpolitik is often associated with power politics.

The term was first used in 1850s Germany (the term is a German one) by politician August Ludwig von Rochau, who used it to describe his view of a powerful Germany. The theory would become associated with German chancellor Otto von Bismarck.

Notable people associated with realpolitik include Niccolo Machiavelli, Bismarck, and Henry Kissinger. Critics of realpolitik often compare it to the harshness of Machiavellianism. Supporters simply equate it to pragmatism.

The Financial Times notes that in realpolitik, “politics is about power, about maneuvering coalitions, about social forces  and their capacity to influence politics, and about the power of ideas in shaping political possibilities.”

peace through strength

The idea that increased military power can promote peace.

The idea posits that with more military power, it will deter countries from declaring war. It can also be associated with a global peacekeeping nation, when one country can use their military might to patrol the globe and promote peace.

Peace through strength was most famously used by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, but it actually dates back to the first century AD. It was first said by Roman Emperor Hadrian.

Reagan used the phrase to describe his military plans in the Cold War. The phrase has appeared in every Republican Party platform since 1980.

party line

The ideology or the agenda of a political party. The party line consists of most core tenets of a party, as well as anything they are attempting to accomplish.

The phrase is most often used in terms of a party-line vote. A party-line vote is when most or all politicians vote with their party on a proposal. For example, if there are 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats in the Senate, a party line vote would be 51-49 Republican.

Forbes: “Party-line voting has become the new normal. As recently as the early 1970s, party unity voting was around 60% but today it is closer to 90% in both the House and Senate.”

party faithful

Those who have been loyal supporters of a party for a long time and make up the party’s base.

Vox points out that the appeasing party faithful can be difficult, as they are sometimes opposed to bipartisanship: “Immigration in particular puts a key slice of the party faithful in conflict with the national agenda — nationally, support for immigration reform tends to be high and bipartisan.”

patronage

Patronage is the power of a political official to fill government positions with people of their choosing. In many cases this leads to nepotism and favoritism.

In the U.S., there have been many fights against patronage since the mid-1800s. After the assassination of James Garfield by a man who was overlooked for a patronage-given position, many laws were formed to force officials to be qualified to do their job. Major patronage systems in the U.S. lasted until about the 1970s, when Chicago ended theirs.

Although often associated with corruption, patronage is not always seen as a negative. Many government positions are allocated through the patronage system, including many appointed by the President.

open convention

A party convention in which delegates are able to vote for the candidate of their choice, and are not tied to the results of primaries or caucuses.

Open conventions were the norm until about 1968. The Democratic Party’s delegates were never tied to primary votes before then, and could choose who they wanted (the Republican Party was tied to primaries much earlier). This led to many cases where candidates would forego primaries and focus on delegates instead.

According to Reuters, “the 1968 election, when Hubert Humphrey, who eschewed the primaries in favor of courting officials who controlled the delegates, lost to Republican nominee Richard Nixon, led to reforms that essentially gave control of the nominating process to the popular vote. A number of states decided the easiest way to comply with the new rules would be to hold primaries.”

Today, open conventions only happen when no candidate takes a majority of the delegates. The last open convention was in 1976, when neither Ronald Reagan or Gerald Ford was able to secure a majority of GOP delegates. The delegates were then free to choose a candidate without being tied to a vote.

movers and shakers

Those who have power and influence in business, politics, or other segments of the public sphere. Party leadership, committee leaders, or people with influence among certain demographics can all be considered movers and shakers.

The term was coined by 19th century poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy.

muckety muck

A person with the highest status or most power in an organization. From a political standpoint, this usually refers to someone in the party leadership or with another influential position.

The term is interchangeable with mucky-muck or muckamuck.

mollycoddle

As a verb, it means to shelter the people with welfare benefits to the point where they become incapable of contributing to society. The term is used pejoratively, often by those arguing against social welfare programs.

As a noun, it can be used for those who are pampered, sheltered, and weak. It often has a gendered connotation, implying that someone who is a mollycoddle is effeminate.

The term was coined by Theodore Roosevelt, who used it to describe colleagues he saw as weak.

Kevin P. Murphy explains: “Roosevelt asserted that colleges should never ‘turn out mollycoddles instead of vigorous men,’ and cautioned that ‘the weakling and the coward are out of place in a strong and free community.’ A paradigm of ineffectuality and weakness, the mollycoddle was ‘all inner life,’ whereas his opposite, the ‘red blood,’ was a man of action.”

New Frontier

“New Frontier” is used to describe the domestic and foreign policies of the Kennedy Administration.

The term was first used in John F. Kennedy’s acceptance speech for the Democratic party’s nomination for president. He referred to “the frontier of the 1960’s–a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils– a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.”

After Kennedy’s election, the term became synonymous with the collection of policies he put forward, similar to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, or LBJ’s Great Society. Everything from the Bay of Pigs Invasion to his tax cuts became part of the New Frontier.

off the record

A term used in journalism meaning that the information given to the reporter cannot be attributed to the person saying it. Off the record quotes are often used to protect sources who are giving information that could get them in trouble.

The term off the record has picked up many misconceptions. To be off the record, the journalist must agree to it. A person cannot declare himself off the record after statements are made and hope his statements will not be reported. If the source does not want the quote to be reported, with attribution or without, they must agree to it with the reporter beforehand.

Off the record quotes are used often in politics, typically to protect anonymous sources speaking out, and protecting them from being fired or silenced by politicians.

The Guardian: “Let’s face it, down the years we have been here many, many times. People say things to journalists, possibly in a light-hearted fashion, that end up in print. Inevitably, “official” denial follows. They may also fail to grasp what we mean by ‘off the record.’ For journalists, it simply means that it is reportable as long as the source is not identified.”

NIMBY

An acronym for ‘not in my backyard.’ It represents opposition to a proposal for development because it would be built close to them, and affect them in some way.

NIMBY is often used for local development projects like airports, pipelines, or local fracking. People who use the phrase may be supportive of the development, but do not want it near them due to the negative effects it could bring to their hometown.

Forbes: “From housing construction caps in San Francisco and the Keystone XL pipeline in Nebraska to bridge and subway construction in New York City and port expansion in Savannah, Ga., NIMBY has delayed, killed or inflated the expenses of more than 500 projects nationwide over the last decade at a cost to the economy of more than $1 trillion annually.”

Morning in America

A term used by President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 re-election ad to describe the hope and optimism of the people after years of turmoil.

The advertisement starts with the phrase, “It’s morning again in America,” and proceeds to show an idyllic and nostalgic landscape of the US, where the economy is good and everyone is happy. It told of a nation that was hopeful after years of negativity in government.

Today, the phrase can be used to describe the beginning of an era of hope.

misunderestimate

“Misunderestimate” is a malapropism invented by President George W. Bush that has come to mean “to underestimate by mistake.”

Bush accidentally used the term in a 2000 interview, saying, “They misunderestimated me.” He likely meant to say “underestimated” but the term became linked with Bush, often as evidence for his lack of intelligence.

missile gap

A Cold War-era phrase that was used to describe the difference in number and power of missiles between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.

The term was first used by Sen. John F. Kennedy in 1958 to accuse then-President Eisenhower of being weak on defense. The idea of a missile gap was debunked, but the perception of one persisted. The missile gap actually favored the U.S., but false claims of Soviet superiority led to a surge in military expansion.

silent majority

The idea that a majority of people do not express their opinions publicly. In doing so, they are drowned out by a ‘vocal minority’ who get more attention from politicians and the media.

The term was popularized by Richard Nixon in 1969, when he described the Americans who did not protest the Vietnam War. He (correctly) believed that the majority of Americans supported him, and that media coverage of protests gave the impression that the war was unpopular.

Chris Cillizza: “It was seen by Nixon supporters as a populist call for conservatives to rally to his side amid the protests (and the counter-culture) movement that was growing in voice and support at the time. But to Nixon detractors, the term…was racially coded language meant to rally whites against perceived encroaching threats to their culture and way of life.”

shy voter

A shy voter is one who does not admit to supporting a certain candidate to pollsters, but still votes for that candidate in the election.

The term comes from the “Shy Tory Effect,” a phenomenon that found British conservatives greatly outperforming their poll numbers.

Shy voters seem to not make up a large percentage of the voting population, and have not been found to affect an election. However, the idea of the “shy Trump voter” was talked about in the 2016 election as a means to explain how Trump outperformed polls.

Harry Enten: “The ‘shy Trump’ theory relies on the notion of social desirability bias— the idea that people are reluctant to reveal unpopular opinions. So if the theory is right, we would have expected to see Trump outperform his polls the most in places where he is least popular — and where the stigma against admitting support for Trump would presumably be greatest… But actual election results indicate that the opposite happened: Trump outperformed his polls by the greatest margin in red states, where he was quite popular.”

limousine liberal

A pejorative for wealthy liberals who do not want to bear the cost of the liberal policies they support. It is typically used by populists to criticize the rich members of the Democratic Party.

Examples of a limousine liberal include Democrats who champion distribution of wealth but pay their workers minimum wage, or those who claim to support environmental regulation but have a large carbon footprint.

According to Time, the term comes from the 1969 NYC Mayoral race, where it was first used by candidate Mario Procaccino to attack his wealthy opponent:

[Limousine liberals] were, according to Procaccino, who was then the city’s comptroller, insulated from any real contact with poverty, crime, and the everyday struggle to get by, living in their exclusive neighborhoods, sending their children to private prep schools, sheltering their capital gains and dividends from the tax man, and getting around town in limousines, not subway cars. Not about to change the way they lived, they wanted everybody else to change, to have their kids bused to school far from home, to shoulder the tax burden of an expanding welfare system, to watch the racial and social makeup of their neighborhoods turned upside down.

lid

A term used by White House press secretaries to indicate that there will be no news coming out of the White House that day. It can also be called a ‘Full Lid.’

A lid is typically called when the White House does not want to release any information about a key topic. They call a lid to give notice to journalists that no questions will be answered.

Although the term has been around for decades, it was popularized by fictional Press Secretary C.J. Cregg on TV show The West Wing.

Kelly O’Donnell: “The White House has again called a ‘lid’ meaning no other news is expected tonight.”

cuckservative

A pejorative used by alt-Right conservatives to insult moderate Republicans. It implies they have sold out and is similar to the term RINO. The term is a combination of ‘Conservative’ and ‘cuckold’ (one whose wife is cheating on him). It implies that those moderates are weak and effeminate.

The term originates from the white-supremacist blogospher which started using it in 2015. The term gained favor during the 2016 Republican presidential debates and has continued through the presidency of Donald Trump.

youthquake

Social, cultural, or political change brought about by young people. In politics, it is typically used to mean a surge of young voters in a key election.

The term originated in the fashion industry in 1965, when it was used by Vogue magazine. It has taken on a more politically charged meaning in recent years, and was voted the ‘Word of the Year’ for 2017 by Oxford.

The Guardian: ‘Youthquake’ Behind Labour Election Surge Divides Generations

cromnibus

Legislation which combines a long-term omnibus spending bill with a shorter-term continuing resolution.

Marketplace: “It’s that time of year again. No, not the holidays, but Congress’ annual maneuvering to pass a budget. It has to figure out a way to keep the government running beyond Dec. 11, when current funding runs out. A lot of terms have been used to describe this annual ritual. Remember fiscal cliff? Now there’s a new one: Cromnibus. It’s part omnibus – that is, a long-term funding bill – and part continuing resolution, or CR – for short-term funding. CR plus omnibus equals cromnibus.”

poison the well

A rhetorical device often used by politicians where adverse information is pre-emptively presented to an audience, with the intention of discrediting or ridiculing what another politician intends to say.

The origin of the term lies in well poisoning, an old wartime practice of pouring poison into sources of fresh water before an invading army, to diminish the attacking army’s strength.

wave election

When one political party makes major gains in the United States House and Senate and the other has few losses.

Mark Barabak: “There is no authoritative definition of a wave election. (Which is not to be confused with a realigning election, like those in 1932 and 1968, in which a party forges a new and enduring presidential coalition.) A wave election is commonly considered one in which a political party wins a large and lopsided number of House and Senate seats while sustaining minimal losses.”

“In the past 20 years, there have been several wave elections of that type, including 1994 when Republicans netted 54 House and 10 Senate seats; 2006 when Democrats won 31 House and six Senate seats; 2008 when Democrats gained 21 House and eight Senate seats, and—most spectacularly—the last midterm vote, in 2010, when the GOP won 63 House seats and four in the Senate.”

Jacob Smith: “Unfortunately — and surprisingly given the widespread use of this term — there is not a precise definition of this concept. To try to correct this, I have developed my own definition that combines both scholarly rigor with the basic intuition of a wave election being a ‘big win’ for one side at the expense of the other.”

“Specifically, I define a ‘wave election’ to be a congressional election that (1) produces the potential for a political party to significantly affect the political status quo as (2) the result of a substantial increase in seats for that party.”

Charlie Cook says wave elections are usually the result of a “overarching, nationwide dynamic.”

grifter

A con artist or someone who swindles people out of money through fraud and deception. In politics, the term has been used to describe those who use the political process to enrich themselves.

Former Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH), writing for Politico, noted that today’s political grifters “are a lot like the grifters of old—lining their pockets with the hard-earned money of working men and women be promising things in return that they know they can’t deliver.”

“Political grifting is a lucrative business. Groups like the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots are run by men and women who have made millions by playing on the fears and anger about the dysfunction in Washington… These people have lined their pockets by promising that if you send them money, they will send men and women to Washington who can ‘fix it.’ Of course, in the ultimate con, the always extreme and often amateurish candidates these groups back either end up losing to Democrats or they come to Washington and actually make the process even more dysfunctional… The grifting wing of the party promises that you can have ideological purity—that you don’t have to compromise—and, of course, all you have to do is send them money to make it happen.”

Mike Lupica: “You could call people like this the brand new Washington generation of the boys of Tammany Hall, except that in another New York, Tammany Hall was actually known for providing services, starting with jobs. That’s how those boys got the vote in the old days, how they kept their power. Something else separates Tammany Hall from the current U.S. Senate. In old New York, they did their skimming out in the open and never tried to pretend they were doing something noble.”

Fancy Farm

An annual picnic in Fancy Farm, Kentucky that has come to represent the traditional starting point of the fall campaign season in Kentucky. The gathering attracts statewide and occasionally national candidates and is held on the first Saturday in August.

The picnic was mainly a local affair until A. B. “Happy” Chandler began making appearances, going for the first time in 1931 while running for Lieutenant Governor. So many Kentucky politicians now attend that it tends to only be news when a major politician decides not to make an appearance.

Said Chandler in an interview: “I guess I was one of the first candidates for statewide office to ever go to Fancy Farm. I ended my 1931 campaign for lieutenant governor down there. I won that election and thought Fancy Farm was good luck, so I kept going back.”

Sam Youngman: “Politically speaking, there are two main attractions at Fancy Farm: The specter of a career-ending gaffe hanging over every politician who takes the stage, and the crowd, half of which is trying to will that gaffe to happen through endless heckling and occasional chants.”

The Louisville Courier Journal has a good video explainer of the event.

Chicago-style politics

Used to characterize a supposedly offensive tough, “take-no-prisoners” approach to politics.

Jacob Weisberg: “Chicago-style politics, in common parlance, refers to the 1950s-1970s era of the Richard J. Daley machine… The strength and durability of the Daley machine was its ethnically based patronage network, a complex system of obligations, benefits, and loyalties that didn’t depend on televised communication with a broader public. It was a noncompetitive system that in its heyday had a lock on urban power and the spoils that went with it.”

Don Rose: “Time was the term ‘Chicago politics’ or ‘Chicago-style politics’ had a special meaning based on our history from the Al Capone years through the regime (1955-76) of one Richard J. Daley, aka Da Mare. Nowadays, like our unique political lexicon, it seems to have become a generic insult for just about any politics one disagrees with.”

ego wall

A wall where people flaunt their political connections by displaying photos of themselves with more famous people.

The phenomenon is also sometimes called the “glory wall” or “me wall.”

Mike Nichols: “The ego wall is where the politician hangs pictures of himself or herself beside other, more famous politicians. It is why, when a president flies into town, there are usually about 495 lesser politicians waiting on the tarmac. They want a picture for the ego wall.”

Slate: “Lobbyists have glory walls in the office to impress clients. Staffers have them to impress other staffers. Socialites have their glory walls on the piano… For aspiring Washingtonians, the glory wall allows you to brag about conversations you never really had with the chief justice and intimacies you never really shared with the president.”

Borking

To attack a person’s reputation and views.

“Borking” 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.

nut-cutting time

The point when you have tried everything but failed.

While the “nut-cutting time” originally refers to the effort required to remove a rusted or stripped nut, it has come to be used in a legislative context as the time to exert maximum effort to round up votes to get a bill passed due to an approaching deadline.

While the term did not originally refer to castration, many have used that as its double-meaning in a political context.

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.”

strategery

A term coined for a Saturday Night Live sketch mocking George W. Bush and his reputation for mispronouncing words during the first presidential debate in 2000.

Comedian Will Ferrell played Bush in the sketch and was asked by the debate moderator to summarize “the best argument for his campaign.” His answer was “strategery.”

After the 2000 presidential election, the Washington Post reported that Bush staffers reportedly began using the term as a joke and even referred to the president’s political team as “The Department of Strategery.”

Bush himself used the term in a 2001 interview with CNN, presumably as a self-deprecating nod to the comedy sketch.

firehouse primary

A primary to select candidates what is run by a political party and not the state.

Similar to a party canvas, a firehouse primary allows the party to keep control of the nominating process while allowing more participation than a party caucus. Participants generally arrive at multiple polling places anytime during announced polling hours, cast a secret ballot, and then leave.

William Safire noted the earliest in print reference to a firehouse primary was a 1990 Washington Times article about the selection of Democratic Party candidates for the county board in Arlington, Va.

McConnelling

The practice of setting music to awkward, B-roll footage of a politician.

The term was coined after Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) re-election campaign in 2014 posted a two-and-a-half minute video of the senator campaigning set simply to music. As Time points out, the footage “was most likely placed there for outside PACs supportive of McConnell to use, a practice circumventing campaign finance rules barring coordination used by both Republicans and Democrats.”

The Daily Show coined the term “McConnelling” and provided a few hilarious examples, putting the footage of McConnell to Salt-n-Pepa’s “Whatta Man,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence” and Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.”

Said host Jon Stewart: “Here’s the secret. It works with every song that has the word ‘eyes’ in it.”

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.”

kingfish

A nickname for Louisiana Gov. Huey Long because of his larger-than-life status in Louisiana. He was assassinated in 1935.

The Social Security website states that: “A farm boy from the piney woods of North Louisiana, he was colorful, charismatic, controversial, and always just skating on the edge. He gave himself the nickname “Kingfish” because, he said, “I’m a small fish here in Washington. But I’m the Kingfish to the folks down in Louisiana.”

goo goo

Short for “good government guys,” referring to people who would fight for government reform.

This was used during the 1970s as a derisive term for those who were fighting to clean up city municipalities. James Merriner writes that the phrase was “attributed to Charles A. Dana, editor of the New York Sun in the late nineteenth century. Goo goo might have originally been applied to members of the Good Government Association of Boston, energized by Harvard reformers in suburban Cambridge.”

kangaroo ticket

A ticket for an election in which the lower position is occupied by a more attractive candidate than the higher position.

The Chicago Tribune defines it “a combination of nominees in which the running mate is more appealing than the presidential candidate (possibly coined to refer to a kangaroo’s propulsion from its hind legs, or to the weight it carries in its bottom half).”

The phrase originated during the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Democratic party leaders wanted a more experienced nomination.  As Salon notes, “The choice of John Nance Garner, Speaker of the House, for the second spot on the ticket exacerbated the problem. The popular Texan was much better known and more experienced than Roosevelt. One disappointed Texas colleague complained, ‘It’s a kangaroo ticket. Stronger in the hindquarters than in the front.'”

The Great Mentioner

The phenomenon whereby certain people are “mentioned” to journalists as possible candidates for higher office.

Scott Simon of National Public Radio explained: “The late Art Buchwald used to talk about the Great Mentioner — some unnamed person who told pundits and reporters a lot of people say this, a lot of people say that. Art said that if you trace back exactly who said this and that, it was usually just the reporters and analysts themselves that tried to splash a coat of credibility over sheer speculation by putting it in the mouth of the Great Mentioner.”

Ryan Lizza attributes the term to New York Times columnist Russell Baker who used it “to describe the mysterious source who plucks politicians from obscurity and mentions them to political journalists as contenders for higher office.”

Akinize

Attempting to diminish a political foe by likening his or her words to remarks on “legitimate rape” made by former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) while seeking a U.S. Senate seat in 2012.

Bill Lambrecht: “Akinize has been used often to describe political attacks since those remarks about rape and pregnancy effectively scuttled Akin’s political ambition. Google finds Akinize 15,000 times.”

nuclear option

When the presiding officer of the U.S. Senate disregards a rule or precedent.

This most commonly refers to an effort by the Senate to end a filibuster by a simple majority, even though rules specify that ending a filibuster requires the consent of at least 60 senators.

An opinion written by Vice President Richard Nixon in 1957 concluded that the U.S. Constitution grants the presiding officer the authority to override Senate rules in this way. If a majority vote to uphold the presiding officer, his interpretation of the rules becomes a precedent.

Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) first called the option “nuclear” in March 2003, using the metaphor of a nuclear strike to suggest it might provoke retaliation by the minority party.

plausible deniability

The ability to deny blame because evidence does not exist to confirm responsibility for an action. The lack of evidence makes the denial credible, or plausible. The use of the tactic implies forethought, such as intentionally setting up the conditions to plausibly avoid responsibility for one’s future actions.

The term was coined by the CIA in the 1960s to describe the withholding of information from senior officials in order to protect them from repercussions in the event that certain activities by the CIA became public.

Hastert rule

A philosophy that requires the “majority of the majority” to bring up a bill for a vote in the House of Representatives.

Republicans have used this rule consistently since Speaker Dennis Hastert wielded it in the mid-1990s to effectively limit the power of the minority party. Democrats were prevented from passing bills with the assistance of a small number of members of the majority party.

six-year itch

The election held in the 6th year of a president’s tenure in which the party holding the White House historically loses a substantial number of House and Senate seats.

The Atlantic: “For decades political analysts have been intrigued by an ironclad pattern in American politics: the President’s party loses seats in the off-year election that follows his White House triumph–a phenomenon that has occurred in every off-year election save one since the Civil War. Since the Second World War, off-year losses for the President’s party in the House have averaged fifteen seats in the second year and forty-eight in the sixth; in the Senate the average losses are zero in the second year and seven in the sixth.”

Charlie Cook: “There are a variety of reasons, but at that midway point in a party’s second four years in the White House, the ‘in’ party tends to lose energy and focus. Party leaders run out of ideas, and the ‘first team’ in terms of personnel—the people who were there when the president took office—have often bailed out, and the second or third team is sometimes not as good. Voters tend to grow weary and to look for something different.”

elastic state

A state whose voting outcome in a presidential election is relatively sensitive or responsive to changes in political conditions, such as a change in the national economic mood.

Nate Silver: “Elastic states are those which have a lot of swing voters — that is, voters who could plausibly vote for either party’s candidate. A swing voter is very likely to be an independent voter, since registered Republicans and registered Democrats vote with their party at least 90 percent of the time in most presidential elections. The swing voter is also likely to be devoid of other characteristics that are very strong predictors of voting behavior.”

An inelastic state, by contrast, is one which is relatively insensitive to these changes.

deduct box

The locked box where legendary Louisiana Gov. Huey Long kept “deducts” from state employee salaries to fund his political operation.

Estimates suggest Long collected between $50,000 to $75,000 each election cycle from government workers. The deduct box was kept at his Roosevelt Hotel headquarters in New Orleans.

After being shot in 1935, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports Long was asked on his deathbed by Roosevelt Hotel owner Seymour Weiss, “Huey, where is the deduct box?” Before falling into a coma, Long responded, “I’ll tell you later, Seymour.”

The deduct box was never found.

press gaggle

An informal briefing by the White House press secretary that is on the record but video recording is not allowed. It can occur anywhere, such as on Air Force One, but it often describes the informal interactions between the press and the press secretary that occur before a formal White House briefing.

The term likens the members of the press corps to  a “gaggle of geese” honking.

Washington Monthly: “Gaggles historically refer to informal briefings the press secretary conducts with the press pool rather than the entire press corps. They used to happen in the morning, they were more or less off the record, and their purpose was mostly to exchange information – the president’s schedule and briefing schedule, from the administration side; heads-up on likely topics or early comment on pressing issues, from the news side. Briefings were what everybody knows them to be.”

DINO

Democrats In Name Only (DINO) is a disparaging term that refers to a Democratic candidate whose political views are seen as insufficiently conforming to the party line.

suspended campaign

Federal law does not define or officially recognize the act of a presidential candidate “suspending” their campaign instead of formally ending it.

CNN: “Practically speaking, if a candidate removes him- or herself from the race without the intent of re-entering at a later date, then there is not a big difference between ‘suspending’ a campaign vs. dropping out entirely. The end result is usually the same: the candidate is no longer seeking that particular office… That said, there are two main differences between ‘suspending’ and ending a presidential campaign: delegates and money.”

Candidates who suspend their campaigns usually get to keep any delegates they’ve won and can continue to raise money beyond what’s needed to retire their campaign debts. In contrast, candidates who actually drop out of a race, usually have to forfeit certain delegates and are limited in how they can raise future funds.

Slate: “The phrase has been employed at least as far back as the 1970s and continues to serve as the most popular way for candidates to end their primary bids without closing down their campaign committees.”

stalking horse

A candidate put forward in an election to conceal an anonymous person’s potential candidacy. If the idea of the campaign proves viable, the anonymous person can then declare their interest and run with little risk of failure.

A stalking horse candidate is also sometimes used to divide the opposition in order to help another candidate.

Daryl Lyman: “The expression originated hundreds of years ago in old English hunting practices, especially among fowlers. Many kinds of game that would flee at the first sign of humans would not be alarmed by the approach of a horse. Therefore, fowlers trained horses to serve as covers during hunting.”

Dorothy Dixer

A planted or pre-arranged question asked of a government minister by a backbencher of his or her own political party during Parliamentary Question Time.

The term refers to American advice columnist Dorothy Dix’s reputed practice of making up her own questions to allow her to publish more interesting answers.

The term has been used in Australian politics since the 1950s, and has become increasingly common in everyday usage, but interestingly is virtually unknown in other countries where Dix’s advice column was equally popular.

GOTV

An acronym for “get out the vote.”

The process by which a political party or campaign urges its supporters to vote in the immediately approaching election.

hiking the Appalachian Trail

Euphemism for a politician who claims to be doing one thing but in reality went to meet with his mistress.

The term was coined after South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) went missing in 2009, claiming that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when in reality he was in Argentina with his mistress.

entryism

A political tactic of joining an organization with which you do not agree with the intention of changing it from the inside.

In his 1959 book Masters of Deceit, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover described entryist tactics by Soviet agents to infiltrate school boards, trade unions, and major party precinct organizations.

leak

The spread of secret, often unfavorable, news about a politician to the media by someone in his or her inner circle.

Some leaks by politicians are intentional, also called a trial balloon, so that they can judge the reaction to a proposed policy change before publicly committing to the new position.

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.

Godwin’s Law

An observation made by Mike Godwin in Wired in 1990 which states:

“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”

Friday news dump

Releasing bad news or documents on a Friday afternoon in an attempt to avoid media scrutiny.

NPR: “Often, the White House sets the release of bad news and unflattering documents to late Friday afternoon. The Pentagon and other agencies also use the practice, a legacy of earlier administrations.”

The television show The West Wing had an episode on the technique called, “Take out the trash day.”

Donna: What’s take out the trash day?
Josh: Friday.
Donna: I mean, what is it?
Josh: Any stories we have to give the press that we’re not wild about, we give all in a lump on Friday.
Donna: Why do you do it in a lump?
Josh: Instead of one at a time?
Donna: I’d think you’d want to spread them out.
Josh: They’ve got X column inches to fill, right? They’re going to fill them no matter what.
Donna: Yes.
Josh: So if we give them one story, that story’s X column inches.
Donna: And if we give them five stories …
Josh: They’re a fifth the size.
Donna: Why do you do it on Friday?
Josh: Because no one reads the paper on Saturday.
Donna: You guys are real populists, aren’t you?

smell of jet fuel

A reference to the impatience that sets in when Members of Congress are ready to leave Washington, D.C. to return to their districts for the weekend or a legislative recess.

pen and pad briefing

A press briefing held by lawmakers or White House officials at which video and photography is not allowed.

While reporters used to gather around the person doing the briefing with their pads of paper and pens, they now typically use a voice recorder.

ping pong

Reconciling the differences between a House-passed bill and a Senate-passed bill by amendments between the chambers, rather than forming a conference committee.

The New Republic: “With ping-ponging, the chambers send legislation back and forth to one another until they finally have an agreed-upon version of the bill. But even ping-ponging can take different forms and some people use the term generically to refer to any informal negotiations.”

jungle primary

A primary election in which all candidates for elected office run in the same primary regardless of political party.

Also known as the “Nonpartisan Blanket Primary” or “Top Two Primary”, the top two candidates who receive the most votes advance to the next round, similar to a runoff election. However, there is no separate nomination process for candidates before the first round, and parties cannot narrow the field. In fact, it is entirely possible that two candidates of the same party could advance to the second round. For this reason, it’s not surprising that the parties haven’t rushed to embrace jungle primaries because they ultimately reduce their power.

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