R

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

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.

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.

Rumsfeld’s rules

Rumseld's Rules

“Rumsfeld’s Rules” are a series of aphorisms, sayings, and observations about life in leadership, business, and politics by Donald Rumsfeld, who was a Congressman, Chief of Staff and Secretary of Defense during his long, storied career.

These rules were collected over a period of time on 3×5 index cards, and were eventually compiled, typed up, and circulated throughout Washington and beyond.

The Wall Street Journal once referred to these rules as “required reading,” and they were touted in a New York Times review in 1988: “Rumsfeld’s Rules can be profitably read in any organization…The best reading, though, are his sprightly tips on inoculating oneself against that dread White House disease, the inflated ego.”

Over the years, Rumsfeld’s observations have been a staple of Washington, and in 2013 were published into a book: Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life.

From the book: “These eminently nonpartisan rules have amused and enlightened presidents, business executives, chiefs of staff, foreign officials, diplomats, and members of Congress.”

While the lion’s share of Rumsfeld’s rules are apolitical, they are not without controversy, as some that criticize Rumsfeld’s leadership style have wondered why his leadership rules have caught on. As it was diplomatically put by Forbes Magazine in an article called Rumsfeld’s Rules: Seriously?: “The question that students of leadership may raise when reading Rumsfeld’s Rules is this: is it okay to listen to some who writes well but does not hold himself to the same standards? My response is yes. When it comes to leadership you can learn as much from rascals, maybe even more so, than from saints. The challenge for readers is to read what he writes through the lens of history.”

From the Washington Post: “Dick Cheney, George P. Schultz, and Henry Kissinger – all very bright men with long establishment resumes – endorse the book on the back cover. Chenery reveals that he was ‘an early practitioner of Rumsfeld’s Rules….I came to regret it on the few occasions I violated them.’”

In 2004, 9 years before the Harper Collins book was published, The Atlantic put together a short list of the rules that they call “worth revisiting,” essentially creating a “best of”:

  • “Establish good relations between the departments of Defense and State, the National Security Council, CIA and the Office of Management and Budget.”
  • “Don’t divide the world into ‘them’ and ‘us.’ Avoid infatuation with or resentment of the press, the Congress, rivals, or opponents. Accept them as facts. They have their jobs and you have yours.”
  • “Don’t do or say things you would not like to see on the front page of the Washington Post.”
  • “If you foul up, tell the president and correct it fast. Delay only compounds mistakes.”
  • “Be able to resign. It will improve your value to the president and do wonders for your performance.”
  • “Your performance depends on your people. Select the best, train them, and back them. When errors occur, give sharper guidance. If errors persist or if the fit feels wrong, help them move on.”
  • “It is easier to get into something than to get out of it.”

As has been noted by many, that last rule resonates in light of Rumsfeld’s involvement in orchestrating the United States’ involvement in the Iraq War.

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.

Related: The origins of red states and blue states.

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.

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.”

Richards effect

The phenomenon in which polls consistently underestimate support for female candidates relative to white male candidates.

The termed was coined by political scientists Christopher Stout and Reuben Kline who noted that in the 1990 Texas gubernatorial race many polls predicted Clayton Williams (R) to beat Ann Richards (D) by as much as 8 points. However, Clayton’s “lead” evaporated on election day and Richards won.

From their research paper: “Perhaps it was not only the traditional polling problems that led polls to be less accurate, Ann Richards’ gender may have also played a vital role in these polling discrepancies. Our results indicate that female candidates, and in particular female candidates from gender-conservative states, like Ann Richards in Texas, tend to do worse in pre-election polls than in actual elections.”

roorback

A false, dirty or slanderous story used for political advantage, usually about a candidate seeking political office.

In 1940 the Chicago Tribune offered this definition: “A roorback is a false report about some alleged misdeed in a candidate’s past, often based on forged evidence, circulated in the final days of a campaign. It is timed for climactic effect when the candidate will not be able to expose the fraud before the voters go to the polls.”

According to Museum of Hoaxes, the term is derived from Baron von Roorback, the invented author of an imaginary book, Roorback’s Tour Through the Western and Southern States, from which a passage was purportedly quoted in an attempt to defame Tennessee Gov. James K. Polk in the 1844 presidential election.

Rose Garden campaign

rose garden campaign

A Rose Garden campaign is when an incumbent president takes advantage of the power and prestige of his office to help him run for re-election.

The phrase originally referred to a president staying on the grounds of the White House to campaign as opposed to traveling throughout the country. However, it’s taken on a broader meaning in recent years.

The term “Rose Garden campaign” was first used by then-candidate Jimmy Carter in 1976. At the time, Carter was challenging the incumbent president Gerald Ford. Carter complained that Ford was using a “Rose Garden strategy” to get himself free publicity, staying in the public eye by signing bills and making pronouncements. Meanwhile Carter, a relatively unknown peanut farmer from Georgia, had to work much harder to get attention.

President Ford’s “Rose Garden strategy” was not literally confined to the White House Rose Garden. In October of 1976, President Ford invited Queen Elizabeth to visit him at the White House to celebrate the bicentennial for America’s declaration of independence. Inevitably, the visit garnered a lot of media attention. Ford also held a series of televised interviews with the former baseball star Joe Garagiola.

Rose Garden strategy has both a literal and a figurative meaning. On the literal level, incumbent presidents use the White House Rose Garden as a stage for signing bills and holding media events. The setting evokes presidential power and stability. It’s an iconic location, and being photographed there sends a clear message to the public.

On a metaphorical level, a Rose Garden strategy refers to any time the incumbent president distributes political favors or largesse as part of his re-election strategy. This can mean offering economic packages to certain key states. It can also mean making key announcements about military victories, or about trade, or anything which impacts voters. Ahead of the 1936 election, for example, Franklin Roosevelt famously pushed for more economic support for workers and farmers, telling his aides that he wanted cotton prices to go up and that he didn’t want workers to be laid off.

In the first half of  2019, the New York Times reported that President Trump had held at least 11 events in the Rose Garden – more than twice the number of such events that he held in 2017. The Times concluded that Trump wanted to use his Rose Garden appearances to bolster his public image as part of his re-election campaign.

“He’s an indoor creature, but he wants to be seen outdoors,” Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, told the Times. “He likes the Oval Office because he could do the big signature and show power. But after a while, it becomes an image of a guy who is locked in a room. This is a deeply image-driven president. In the Rose Garden, he’s able to project that he’s outside and enjoying the compound.”

Also in 2019, The New Republic accused presidential hopeful Joe Biden of employing a “wilted Rose Garden” strategy. The publication argued that Biden, who served as Barack Obama’s vice president, was basing his campaign around his vice presidential past. The strategy, New Republic argued, was one born out of weakness, rather than strength. Its goal was to bypass Biden’s problematic voting record in the Senate and to keep voters focused on his two terms serving under a popular president.

red herring

A political diversion which draws attention away from something of significance.

Michael Quinlan notes the term likely originates from an article published on February 14, 1807 by journalist William Cobbett in the Weekly Political Register. In a critique of the English press, which had mistakenly reported Napoleon’s defeat, Cobbett recounted that he had once used a red herring to deflect hounds in pursuit of a hare, adding “It was a mere transitory effect of the political red-herring; for, on the Saturday, the scent became as cold as a stone.”

RINO

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

The phrase, without the RINO acronym, became first popularized during the Theodore Roosevelt presidency, as he was often labeled a “Republican in name only” by both critics and proponents, as his trust-busting policies were at odds with long-standing Republican Party ideologies.

By 1992, the acronym “RINO” had shown up in print, with an article in the New Hampshire Union Leader, written by John Distaso, being cited as the first instance of RINO in print.

“The Republicans were moving out and the Democrats and ‘RINOS’ (Republicans In Name Only) were moving in.”

The use of the term RINO arose as polarization increased in the political parties. Prior to the 1992 election of Bill Clinton, the Democratic and Republican parties had been in a long process of realignment where conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans were quite common. With the election of Bill Clinton, Republican ideological unity became increasingly fixed. This is exemplified by Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which called upon signatories to reject and oppose all measures to increase tax rates. By 2012, nearly every Republican presidential candidate was a signatory to this pledge.

The increasing ideological unity of the Republican Party made holdovers from the previous political alignment look like outliers. Whereas historically liberal Republicans comprised a wing of the Republican Party, they had (by 1992, and especially by 2020) become incompatible with the Republican Party itself.

Therefore, in an age of party unity, the term RINO was often used as a political weapon. It could be used as a threat: vote how your party wants or be branded a RINO. It could also be used as an effective tool in a primary campaign: the incumbent is a RINO, vote for the challenger. Indeed, in the 2010 Congressional Elections, the Tea Party effectively used the term RINO as a way to “primary” Republican Incumbents whose policies were not conservative enough.

RINO is also related to the historical term “Rockefeller Republican” which referred to (traditionally) Northeast Republicans who championed business friendly practices while remaining relatively socially liberal. Named after Nelson Rockefeller who served as the Governor of New York before running unsuccessfully for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1960, 1964, and 1968. This term has largely died out as the Rockefeller family’s political successes have dwindled.

recall election

A recall election allows voters to oust an elected official, by means of a direct vote,while that official is still  in the middle of their term. Recall elections are relatively rare and usually take place after the official does something which their opponents believe to be illegal or immoral.

The laws on recalls vary from state to state. In all but eleven states, some form of recall is allowed. In some states, recalls are allowed for all elected officials. In most states, though, there are strict rules about which officials can be subject to a recall. Many states also have rules about how long officials must serve before they can be recalled.

Federal law does not have any provision for recalling federally-elected officials, although some people have argued that voters have the right to recall members of Congress. The Supreme Court has never ruled on that issue, although the court has ruled that states cannot impose qualifications on members of Congress.

Analysts generally describe the recall as a populist initiative, an attempt to ensure that elected officials remain accountable to their constituents. The recall system dates back to colonial times; the laws of the Massachusetts Bay Colony allowed for officials to be recalled. After independence, 11 states passed laws allowing for recalls of state officials.  At the time, state legislatures, rather than voters, carried out the recall.

In modern times, voters have mainly used recall elections against local government officials, like mayors and judges. However, governors have also been recalled. In 1921, North Dakota voters used a recall election to oust the state’s governor; the same thing happened in California in 2003.

One of the most dramatic recall elections in recent history happened in Wisconsin, in 2012. The states Democrats and Republicans were locked in a battle over the rights of unions. The fight, which attracted national attention, saw Democratic politicians physically flee the state to avoid having to vote on a bill that would have restricted the right to collective bargaining. With so many lawmakers absent, it was impossible to vote on the measure.

Finally, the Republican leadership amended the bill to make a vote possible, and governor Scott Walker signed it into law. In response, Democrats petitioned to recall Walker. Walker ultimately survived the recall vote, defeating both the Democratic candidate, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett,and independent candidate Hariprasad Trivedi.

Some pundits believe that recalls are becoming more common in recent years. In August 2019, FiveThirtyEight reported that there were five governors being targeted for recall around the country. Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, may be the most high profile case. As of early 2020, Newsom was facing two separate recall efforts, although it was not clear whether either effort would succeed.

Only two governors have ever been successfully recalled. In 1921, Gov. Lynn Frazier of North Dakota was recalled during a dispute about state-owned industries, and in 2003, Gov. Gray Davis of California was recalled over the state budget.

recess appointment

A presidential appointment typically requiring Senate approval that is made during a Senate recess. To be confirmed, the appointment must be approved by the Senate by the end of the next session of Congress or the position becomes vacant again. Recess appointments are authorized by  Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution.

Recess appointments permitted the president to make appointments when the Senate was adjourned for lengthy periods. More recently, however, the president has used the privilege to push through unpopular candidates. For example, during his second term, President Bush appointed several controversial candidates while the Senate was in recess.  In 2007, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, retaliated by holding pro forma sessions during Senate recesses. As a result, the Bush administration was unable to make further recess appointments.

rubber chicken circuit

In politics, a “rubber chicken circuit’ is the nickname given to the endless parade of dinners that political candidates must attend during a campaign for office in order to meet donors and raise money.

The term refers to the pre-cooked, stale and unappetizing meals often served at these fundraising dinners. As described in The Guardian, it describes “the abundance of cold drumsticks on the buffet tables.”

The first known use of this term dates back to the 1950s when improvements in transportation made it easier for candidates to travel the city, state or country in which they were running to meet with potential supporters. Perhaps the earliest use is from a 1953 New York Times article: “Pity the poor coach. This is his twenty-first engagement on the ‘rubber chicken circuit’ in the past month and he has to drive 200 miles to the next town after he has finished his pleas for John and the other departing seniors.”

Over the years, countless candidates have hit the “rubber chicken circuit” to pound the flesh, raise money and meet wealthy donors. In 2012, Politico described then Maryland governor, and future presidential candidate, Martin O’ Malley’s appearance at Iowa steak dinner as ‘ramping up his presence on the national rubber-chicken circuit.”

During the lead up to the 2016 presidential race, in describing what Hillary Clinton will have to do to win the Oval Office, the Washington Post noted: “She’s going to have to spend time on the rubber-chicken circuit, looking inquisitive in factories (donning safety goggles as well) and dealing with a whole lot of minutiae.”

The term “rubber chicken circuit” is not just limited to campaigning, but also refers to the spate of high-profile speeches given by former officeholders, as in the case of Newt Gingrich, whose “rubber chicken circuit” speeches are described here in Wired Magazine as earning the former Speaker of the House “$50,000 a pop.”

While the rubber chicken circuit has long been a staple of donor-based campaigning, in more recent years it has become more associated with elitism in the political arena: From a 2020 article from The Independent, quoting Donald Trump, Jr.: “I am not an elitist. Never have been, never wanted to be and certainly never tried to get on the BS rubber chicken dinner circuit,”

Of course, the food served at these countless political dinners is not limited to poultry: the “rubber chicken circuit” is also sometimes referred to as the “mashed potato circuit.”

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