The new lexicon
Words matter. This is a maxim many will embrace or ignore selectively according to their immediate needs, but it is always accurate: word choice, inflection, syntax, spelling–all of it matters.
The American Left has a dictionary, which it shares freely among its adherents. Most liberals now have common and very specialized definitions of scores of words: choice, labor, tolerance, together, revenue. They dominate these definitions in media, through sheer saturation and repetition (and infiltration). They plan and they execute. The Right seems at a loss to keep up.
Every day, conservatives pundits and politicians get hours of airtime, over the Internet and cable news channels. The exposure is there, yet the official lexicon is not established. This is improving slowly: some soundbites do manage to coalesce from nebulous buzzwords into firmer terms: debt crisis, Obama Phones, Taxmageddon. Some are spawned from the Right and some from elsewhere. But after all the speeches, emails, flyers, and blog posts, the 2012 presidential election results say that the words the American people identified with were those of the Left. And that is disappointing, because they were, and are, entirely misleading.
Perhaps conservatives perpetuate fewer buzzwords because we tend not to follow, but lead: because our bent is decidedly individualist and not collectivist (therein lies our diversity), we want to create our own mark on the world, not use someone else’s stamp. Self-reliance breeds an anti-bandwagon mentality. Not to swing too far toward one extreme, however, we could benefit from a little premeditated coordination.
Toward that end, I offer a list of words–a short lexicon–for conservatives to use and embrace. Few if any are new, and some represent ground the Right needs to reclaim.
Family. At the heart of the Left’s redefinition of the word family is the philosophy of collectivism. With the word family, liberal politicians appeal to a sense of togetherness that some, sadly, may not have experienced within their biological families. Recently Jennifer Granholm appealed to Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race to “make the moral choice [between the candidates] clear” and talk about how we all as “an American family” need to look out for each other.
It’s a lovely sentiment, but where does it lead? Practically, of course, no one American would be able to meet the needs of all those he comes in contact with. Naturally and appropriately, we all serve those in our immediate circles: our biological families, our close friends, friends of friends. Sometimes, to help or get involved with someone we don’t know is dangerous. So if we as Americans are all to help everyone else, what form does that take?
Logically it means that a select few–those in government–oversee the redistribution of monies, and possibly labor, to anyone who might be in need. Do we really trust our elected officials to faithfully do this? Some are perhaps virtuous enough to execute it ethically–but even then, why would we want to create a middleman between ourselves and those we intend to help? This only costs more money and removes us from the benefits of service.
To recapture this word, we must use family to mean father, mother, and children. We must talk about those who have no father or no mother, or other brokenness in their families, and not what can be done to help them, but what is continually being done–through churches and private organizations that never stop their giving, their counseling, and their sacrifice on behalf of the downtrodden. This work never stops. Government is involved, but it is the last link in this chain.
Obstructionist. Obstructionism is the practice of deliberately impeding or delaying the course of legal, legislative, or other procedures (Oxford English Dictionary). Liberals accuse conservatives (and Democrats accuse Republicans) of being obstructionists, and what they mean by this is that conservatives are either doing so out of warped philosophies, or simply for the sake of “holding hostage” the political process, or a group of people, or whatever other object the Left finds it convenient to hold up as victim.
Is obstructionism always wrong? No, it is not. When legal proceedings need to be stopped because they are unconstitutional, obstructionism is completely warranted. Our bicameral legislature is designed with several obstructive latches, like locks in a river. In the time it takes the water level to change, more thought can be devoted to the crafting of law, ideally avoiding excessive and knee-jerk legislation. The soldiers landing at Normandy were an obstructionist force, and a wholly laudable and incalculably valuable one. If the obstructionist is providing an impediment completely out of spite or in an assertion to gain power, however, then his is the impetuousness of which the Left speaks. Obstructionism is a tool, like a gun or a sword: it can be used for good, or for evil.
How do we distinguish between the two in true service to the American people? For one, call Leftists the obstructionists that they truly are. We have a perfect example in Harry Reid: he has complete power to bring a budget to the floor of the Senate, which is his constitutional duty, but he refuses to do so. Many conservatives are pointing this out, especially now that the debt ceiling debate is on the front page, but it needs to be done every day. Everything that happens in government has a price tag attached, and budgets mean constraint; and that is exactly what liberals do not want, particularly with the people’s money.
Barack Obama continues to obstruct justice by his exertion of executive privilege over the Fast and Furious documents. This is selfish obstructionism. Decry him for it.
Every time we call someone obstructionist, give the reason. By doing so conservatives will be above reproach, even if liberals lambaste us anyway.
Compromise. This is a double-edged word. Like pride, it has two alternate meanings that are easily manipulated with the flick of an unscrupulous tongue.
It also goes hand-in-glove with obstructionist, as the Democrats wield it. They use the good form of compromise to bludgeon: “If only Republicans would compromise with us, then Washington would work again.” Yet they twist the meaning. Compromise by statesmen in the interest of society is well and good, as long as no principles are compromised. Compromise in the hands of the politician in his own service becomes a mirror with which he can bend the light of his own convictions, and of ethics themselves, and say that it was all in service to the country.
To take this word back, coordinate media appearances and use it often in its true senses. Give the negative sense more use, as a foil to the Left’s “if only” rhetoric. Don’t be afraid to call to task public figures who have compromised their morals, their own promises, or the faith of their constituents. Rep. Darrell Issa is doing an excellent job of this.
Pro-death. Liberals call those of us against abortion “anti-choice”. Probably in the interest of civility, anti-abortion groups have called themselves “pro-life”, but have refrained from branding abortion supporters “pro-death”. Well, the abortionist’s gloves are still on–so ours must come off.
Those who support the culture of abortion, one in which college students or married professionals alike can book an outpatient appointment to get rid of a perceived inconvenience, must be labeled what they are: pro-death. They not only support the death of the babies in question, but also of their own consciences and those of people around them. This kind of thinking, bred through a warped culture, is destruction on a score of levels, psychological, spiritual, and physical. I have seen and heard it, I have friends who have been through it, and it is nothing but death. There is no freedom here, no choice, only slavery.
Intolerant. Conservatives are too afraid of this word. Reclaim it. Use it often.
At first it will have shock value to the Left and they will probably craft whole media segments on conservatives’ new embrace of it. But as a result, after a while its usefulness to them will decline. List everything you are intolerant of and all the reasons: intolerant of racial hatred; intolerant of killing children in the womb; intolerant of politicians–Left or Right–who do not follow the Constitution; intolerant of filth and sin before the eyes of our children. We can be defined by what we denounce, because our intolerance broadcasts our morals. When people see public figures who know what they love and what they abhor, they see leaders.
In many places and in many ways, these words and others are already under reclamation for conservative causes. It’s time to continue the effort, and do more. Words matter. We must be intolerant of their disuse, and obstruct any effort to misrepresent conservatism as hateful, backward, or bigoted. In its uncompromised form, conservatism is the opposite of all these things.