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amen corner

In politics, the “amen corner” refers to the most fervent supporters of a politician or an ideology.

The term originally was used in a religious context. Inside a church, the “amen corner” referred to the section where the most devout …

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all things to all men

“All things to all men” is a phrase applied to politicians who seem to be making contradictory promises and statements so that they can appeal to the broadest possible group of voters. The expression is usually derogatory; it carries roughly …

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sandbagging

Sandbagging is deceptive behavior intended to lower someone’s expectations so that they can be taken by surprise later.

Typically, sandbagging involves lulling someone into a false sense of security and then taking advantage of them. It’s an act of psychological

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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scalawag

A “scalawag” is 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 …

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send them a message

To “send them a message” is a call to action from a politician 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 …

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sharp-elbowed

In politics, the term “sharp-elbowed” refers to being aggressive and assertive when it comes to pursuing a legislative agenda or pushing one’s point of view.

The phrase is traditionally intended to describe a positive attribute in a politician, suggesting that …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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.…

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slow-walk

In politics, “slow walk” is a term used to describe an effort to prevent legislation or a political process from moving forward by intentionally slowing it down to a crawl. Another similar term is “obstructionism.”

The origin of …

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red meat

“Red meat” is rhetoric on an issue used to inflame supporters. It is often associated with populist ideas and campaigns.

The phrase was first seen in 1911 in the movie industry, describing movies that were sensationalized. It shifted into a …

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salami tactics

“Salami tactics” refers to a divide and conquer approach, which aims to split up the opposition. The expression evokes the idea of slicing up one’s opposition in the same way as one might slice up a salami.

The phrase was

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blue state

A blue state is one 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 …

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robocall

A “robocall” is an automated telephone call that delivers a prerecorded message to multiple phone numbers. Typically, robocalls are used for mass messaging.

In politics, robocall are used in campaigning. Robocalls are sent out to potential voters, and the fact …

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red state

A “red state” is one 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 …

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rattle the cage

To “rattle the cage” is an 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 …

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pussyfoot

To “pussyfoot” is to proceed with caution; to move warily but steadily.; or sidestep an issue as to not take a side. It is almost always used in a pejorative sense and, as such, its synonyms include equivocating, hedging, or …

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puppet state

A “puppet state” is 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 …

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pol

A “pol” is shorthand word for politician.

Occasionally, it is used to describe anyone active in politics, including experts and political junkies.…

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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.…

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party line

A “party line” is 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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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.…

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mollycoddle

In a political context, the term “mollycoddle” means to treat certain constituents or voters in an almost absurdly overprotective way. Typically used in the context of the “welfare state” and those who feel entitled to government assistance, those who have …

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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 …

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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 …

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missile gap

“Missile gap” is 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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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lid

A “lid” is what White House press secretaries use to indicate that there will be no news coming out of the White House that day. It can also be called a “Full Lid.”

The White House sometimes calls a lid …

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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). …

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youthquake

A “youthquake” is aocial, 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 …

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cromnibus

A “cromnibus” bill is 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 …

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poison the well

To “poison the well” is to pre-emptively present adverse information 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 …

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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 …

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grifter

A grifter is a con artist, someone who obtains money by swindling or tricking others. In politics, the word refers to people who use the political process as a way to enrich themselves.

Merriam Webster notes that the word first …

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