A

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 (and vocal) worshippers sat. Over time, the phrase expanded to mean a group of people with strong, fixed political beliefs.

A politician’s “amen corner” supports him unquestioningly, in much the same way as church’s amen corner supports the preacher.

William Safire said that amen corner was first used back in 1860, in a religious context. By 1884, the expression was used to refer to political support. It had a negative connotation right away. In 1894, for example, the Congressional Record sneered at “those saintly Republican monopolists who sit in the ‘amen corner’ of protected privilege.”

In 1990, Pat Buchanan used the term “amen corner” to criticize supporters of the first Gulf War. Buchanan was a former presidential candidate and a staunch isolationist. In a TV appearance, he said, ”There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East – the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States.”

In 2009, Barack Obama gave a speech to the NAACP. He received a warm welcome. The crowd hung on his words, sometimes repeating his words right back to him. The president got such a positive reaction that at one point he laughed and said, “I’ve got an amen corner back there.”

More recently, Bloomberg News revisited the term. In 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the US and gave a speech to Congress. Bloomberg reported that a select group of Netanyahu supporters was thrilled with the speech (Pat Boone, Joe Lieberman, Newt Gingrich, and Sheldon Adelson). The article was titled “At Netanyahu’s Speech, Scenes from the Amen Corner.”

Pundits often use the term as a way to jab at politicians, implying a kind of guilt by association. In 2016, the progressive Right Wing Watch published an article titled “Donald Trump’s Amen Corner: Prosperity Preachers and Dominionists.” The article charged that Trump was supported by “preachers who tout wealth as a sign of God’s favor” and by “a leading advocate of Seven Mountains dominionism, which teaches that government and other spheres of influence…are meant to be run by the right kind of Christians.”

In Pittsburgh, there is a real club which calls itself the Amen Corner. That club – one of the most exclusive organizations in Pennsylvania – caters to politicians and lawyers. It’s often described as an “old boy’s club” and has been around since 1870. In 1965, Gerald Ford was invited to be a member of the club. In a speech to his fellow members, Ford gushed with gratitude and said that becoming an “Amener” was a much bigger deal than being elected House minority leader earlier that year.

“There is absolutely no parallel between acceptance as a member of Amen Corner and an obscure political happening in Washington not so long ago,” Ford said.

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 the same meaning as “two faced.”

The phrase dates back as far as the Bible, or at least as far back as the 1611 King James translation. In I Corinthians (9:19-23) St Paul describes his strategy of converting people to Christianity. In order to reach as many ears as possible, he amends his approach to suit the needs of each listener.

“To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some,” he wrote.

Paul, of course, was moved by his own faith: “I do for the gospel’s sake,” he said. In modern times, however, the phrase “all things to all men” usually connotes pandering and insincerity.

In recent memory, the phrase was used by Bill Clinton’s critics. The president was seen by many as being too slick and too eager to be liked; he was perceived as caring too much about people’s opinions. Writing in the Observer, Alexandra Jacobs said,

“Is he polymorphous? Is he perverse? He is the man about whom Toni Morrison wrote, “He’s our first black President.” And yet he’s not a black man. He’s just trained, as his generation was, to be all things to all men, and women. And not too much of anything to anyone.”

Barack Obama faced similar criticism when he came into office. Some political analysts argued that, in order to build up a coalition, candidate Obama had made a series of contradictory promises which he had no means of keeping. As a result, they said, the president found himself in a tight spot during his first hundred days in office. His supporters were all looking to see whether he’d comply with his promises, and it wasn’t clear what he’d start with.

“He’s under extraordinary pressure to be all things to all people, and he’s going to find that very difficult to manage during his first 100 days,” New York University political science professor Paul Light told USA Today. “There are a lot of people coming to him with checklists of issues they care about, but Congress is not capable of handling a mass rush of legislation.”

Sometimes, though, the phrase “all things to all men” is used to describe an unknown quantity rather than a two-faced con man. Jonathan Daniels, who served under Franklin Roosevelt, used the expression to refer to Harry Truman. Daniels’ phrasing suggested the high hopes that Americans placed in their new president:

“He seemed all things to all men, and all men including New Dealers and anti-New Dealers, Roosevelt friends and Roosevelt enemies, old friends and new ones, members of the 129th field artillery, old time Pendergast politicians, Truman Committee members, the eager and the ambitious, seemed to expect that he would be all things to them.”

alternative facts

alternative facts

Alternative facts was a phrase coined by White House adviser Kellyanne Conway to defend a false statement by press secretary Sean Spicer about the attendance of President Trump’s inauguration.

When pressed during an interview to explain why Spicer would “utter a provable falsehood”, Conway stated that Spicer was simply giving “alternative facts.”

As the Washington Post noted, this “wasn’t the first time the Trump team and its supporters have responded to journalists calling out their falsehoods by claiming the truth isn’t so black and white or that it’s not a big deal.”

Indeed, many said it’s part of a broader “gaslighting” strategy used by Trump and his allies to control public discussion.

In discussing the origins of the phrase, Psychology Today notes that George Orwell wrote the novel 1984 “which portrays a totalitarian state that limited freedom of thought by creating its own language called ‘Newspeak.’ The political purpose of of Newspeak was to reduce the English language to simple concepts that reinforced the totalitarian dominance of the State. Moreover, words with negative meanings were removed, such that ‘bad’ became ‘ungood.'”

Many news reports also described Conway’s use of the phrase as “Orwellian.” Within four days of the interview, sales of George Owell’s book 1984 had risen by 9,500%.

appeasement

appeasement

“Appeasement” is a diplomatic policy in which nations attempt to make peace by making concessions to an aggressive nation. Appeasement is often linked with the policies of British Prime Minister 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 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, along with a related concept “peace at any price.” Defense hawks regularly accuse opponents of appeasing the enemy.

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

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.”

agitprop

Agitprop is political propaganda, especially in the form of art or literature, which is used to advance a political stance.

The term originated in Soviet Russia and is an abbreviation of agitatsiya propaganda (agitation propaganda.) Propaganda was a key aspect of Soviet governing strategy.

In a 1902 pamphlet, What Is to be Done, Vladimir Lenin set out his beliefs about the roles of propaganda and agitation. In Lenin’s view, each had an important role to play. The propagandist worked mainly in print and produced logical analysis of social problems like poverty. The agitator, for his part, operated on an emotional level, rousing people to take an interest in social ills.

By the 1920s, the Agitation and Propaganda section was a well-established part of the Soviet government. The section operated at the most local level, and agitators were the Party’s chief means of communication with most people. Posters, sculptures, and paintings – usually done in a stylized, hyper-realist style – also were a major part of Russian agitprop.

Agitprop is also deeply rooted in North Korea. The posters and statues produced by North Korea’s government look like something straight out of a 1950s-era Soviet propaganda department. The leaders depicted are different, of course, but the stylized, heavy-handed imagery is the same. And today, decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, North Korea continues to churn out posters of beaming factory workers.

In the west, the term “agitprop” is usually associated with artist and left-wing causes. The work of street artists like Banksy is often described as agitprop. Certain conservative pundits argue that the entire output of Hollywood amount to “pro-communist” agitprop. But the term isn’t restricted to the left. It’s also thrown around – usually in a derogatory sense – to describe anyone who tries to push a strong ideology.

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, the freshman congressmember from New York, has often been described as a master of agitprop. Ocasio Cortez is widely acclaimed for her use of social media and her ability to stir people with slogans and imagery. Her critics, though, complain that Ocasio Cortez veers to close to Soviet-style propaganda.

Conservatives said that a series of posters that Ocasio Cortez produced in 2019 looked “like something the Soviet Union would post throughout the Red Square.” (The posters were produced to highlight Ocasio Cortez’s proposals for a “Green New Deal.” Ocasio Cortez’s staff has said that their retro style was inspired by New Deal-era artwork.)

President Trump’s former adviser, Steve Bannon, is also seen as a master of agitprop. Bannon was at the helm of the conservative Breitbart Media, but he also spent many years working in Hollywood, as a producer and a director. Bannon directed a series of documentaries, including one about the Tea Party movement (“Battle for America”) and another about the Occupy movement (“Occupy Unmasked).

Bannon himself once said that his goal was to “overwhelm” his audience. Bannon’s critics wrote that watching the documentaries was like being in an “agitprop fever-dream.”

Astrotweeting

“Astrotweeting” is the creation of fake Twitter profiles to show support for a political candidate.

Bill White described the practice in an Texas Monthly interview about his 2010 race against Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R):

There were also some silly things that happened that are still hard to believe. One consulting firm of his created artificial people to tweet. [The campaign] wanted to question my support in the African American community, but they couldn’t recruit an African American person to do it, so on Twitter they used a stock photo of a black person. One of the people who supported my campaign clicked on the image and found out it was a singer from Atlanta. The Twitter address was registered at the same location as one of Mr. Perry’s political consultants.

Derived by Rick Hasen, with inspiration from Ben Smith, from the term Astroturfing.

advance man

The “advance man” is someone who makes arrangements and handles publicity for the candidate during a campaign. The advance man travels to a location ahead of the candidate’s arrival and sets everything up so that things run smoothly for the candidate’s media appearance, or for whatever event the candidate is participating in.

As Time reports, “There is no such thing as a spontaneous campaign appearance. Every candidate has his advance men, the harried unsung experts who go from town to town to make as sure as humanly possible that the crowds will be out, the schedule smooth, the publicity favorable.”

According to Merriam Webster, the phrase dates back to at least 1882.

An advance man can also be compared to a fixer. He, or she, plans every moment and every detail of the candidate’s day in order to make sure that the upcoming appearance is completely successful. It’s similar to a body man who handles a politician’s personal and logistical issues through the day.

This means figuring out where a rally will take place and organizing the local fundraisers. It also means deciding where the candidate will sleep at night, and how he’ll travel from place to place within the area. An effective advance man plans out even the tiniest details, like where exactly the candidate’s car will pull up to the event, and who will stand next to the candidate on stage.

In today’s media-saturated world, candidates are subjected to greater scrutiny than ever before. This means that the work of an advance man is more difficult than ever before.

Josh King, who served as an advance man under Bill Clinton, compared his job to that of a roadie or of a movie director. King told PopSugar that his job boiled down to making sure “that something that is designed to entertain and impress and inform comes off without a hitch.”

Marc Levitt served as advance man for Bernie Sanders in 2016; Levitt also worked as an advance man on the presidential campaigns of John Kerry and Barack Obama. Levitt said that he was astonished when he first saw what intense planning went into organizing John Kerry’s days.

He later said that an advance man does all of the behind-the-scenes work which people tend not to even notice. Levitt said, “at every place that a presidential candidate goes and every event that he appears at, I think there’s a perception that these things just happen magically. When, in fact, they are the most planned and coordinated aspect of the campaign.”

Most of the time, advance men stay out of the public eye — the very nature of their work means that they avoid the spotlight. When they do get media attention, it’s usually because something has gone wrong – or because they’re retiring. But an effective advance man cultivates a close relationship with the candidate and occupies a position of trust.

Donald Trump was known for sometimes “namechecking” his advance man, George Gigicos, from the stage. In 2016, for example, candidate Trump was speaking at a campaign event in Pensacola, Florida. Frustrated at the sound quality, Trump yelled, “The stupid mic keeps popping! Do you hear that, George? Don’t pay ’em! Don’t pay ’em!”

Gigicos also worked as an advance man for George W Bush and for the Mitt Romney campaign; he joined the Trump campaign in 2015 and was one of the longest-serving members of the team.

aardvarking

Aardvarking is recruiting candidates for public office with the main objective of having their names begin with the letter A.

GOP consultant Roger Stone: “In the late 1970’s a Republican consultant and I examined a series of races on Long Island when two candidates who were complete unknowns and who had no campaign resources to raise their profile. In 90% of the races the candidate who’s name began with A won. We called this phenomena ‘Aardvarking’ and urged GOP leaders to recruit candidates for lower office who’s names started with the first letter of the alphabet. Why does Adam Alberts beat Ricky Jones 90% of the time? Who knows.”

absentee ballot

absentee ballot

An absentee ballot is a vote cast by someone who is unable to visit the official polling place on Election Day.

This type of vote is normally submitted by mail.

Increasing the ease of access to absentee ballots are seen by many as one way to improve voter turnout, though some jurisdictions require that a valid reason, such as sickness or travel, be given before a voter can participate in an absentee ballot.

aisle

The aisle refers to the space which divides the majority side from the minority on the House and Senate floor. When debating, members frequently refer to their party affiliation as “my side of the aisle.”

When facing the front of the chamber, Democrats sit on the left side of the aisle; Republicans on the right.

Astroturfing

Astroturfing is an artificially-manufactured political movement designed to give the appearance of grassroots activism.

Campaigns & Elections magazine defined astroturf as a “grassroots program that involves the instant manufacturing of public support for a point of view in which either uninformed activists are recruited or means of deception are used to recruit them.”

Unlike natural grassroots campaigns which are people-rich and money-poor, an astroturf campaign tends to be the opposite, well-funded but with little actual support from voters.

advice and consent

Under Article II of the United States Constitution, presidential nominations for executive and judicial posts take effect only when confirmed by the U.S. Senate. In addition, international treaties become effective only when the U.S. Senate approves them by a two-thirds vote.

© 2020 Goddard Media LLC