There seem to be 3 or 4 main languages in the United States. English is the most common language, and Spanish is common. But Washington DC speaks 2 different languages altogether: Legalese and Politics.
Legalese is a very precise language, though never concise. I have some skill in interpreting this language, having worked in law enforcement. We spend entire courses on understanding this language. Good Legalese is written in such a way as to be entirely specific: meaning that there can be no misunderstanding (given a knowledge of the Legalese language). Bad Legalese is deliberately vague, and when used, writes bad law.
But I want to talk about the other language used in DC: the language of politics.
This language sounds more like English than Legalese, but is much more pernicious. Why? Because it changes rapidly and meaningfully. This is the language which, if used incorrectly, can end careers and, at times, has ended life.
But there are some old and some new terms and words being thrown around in the world of politics, and an understanding of them will become important for you in the months leading up to the election. Please note that this list is not comprehensive. Also note that the political language, by design, rapidly changes when a term becomes viewed as negative: as such, some of these terms don’t mean the same thing they meant even last year, and some will change soon as well. I intend to editorialize.
Alt-Right – self described as an ‘alternative to the right,’ (hence, alt-right) or as an ‘alternative to conservatism.’ This group is neither conservative nor right wing. Many have an openly socialist ideology, or are at least sympathetic to socialism. They are, almost universally, nationalist in nature. They fundamentally oppose immigration (not just illegal immigration) as an invasion on the ‘American Culture,’ (note that they, generally, aren’t concerned about immigration from Western European countries… Their fear is that non-European originated, read “white,” people are not capable of integrating into American Culture.) Their beliefs are Statist in nature, favoring ever increasing federal power in an effort to protect their twisted view of Americanism. They base their views largely on the concepts of tribalism, which is, each race naturally forms tribes which are definitive to the race – black people, white people, Jews, orientals, etc should maintain separate counties based on their own tribes and should not try to intermingle. If you feel slimy reading this, that’s good: it’s pretty slimy stuff. For more detailed information about the Alt-Right, please refer back to my post The “Alt-Right,” Triangle Badges, and the Lie of Otherism.
Communism – differs from pure socialism because rather than being a purely economic system, it is a governmental system of forced equality. Communist governments have always, however, lead to a two class system: the extremely impoverished ruled class, and the wealthy ruling class. Communists, however, like Marxists, call for power to be gained by revolutionary means: they, like Marxists, want to violently overthrow the current government to install a new government.
Conservative – in the last century, this term has come to mean “classic liberal,” but recently has come to mean something entirely different. This term now holds a substantially negative connotation because it has come to mean “regressive.” It has come to represent a person who desires a return to the systematic racist and misogynist past. This change is, of course, patently ridiculous; however, the change is nearly complete. Before long, all those who identify as conservative will be actively dismissed by the mainstream. Those of you who have been conservatives, consider redefining yourself as what you really are: “classically liberal.”
Democratic socialism – a term actually coined by Stalin himself. Democratic socialism, like communism, is forced socialism. However, unlike Marxists or Communists, democratic socialists desire the governmental change by elective means. These are less violent… But still desire the force of government to enforce economic equality – this “equality” is, without exception, a low standard of living: everyone is equal in poverty.
Federalism – the belief that the Federal government should be restricted to constitutionally defined authority only, and that all other powers and authority shroud be decided at the state level. This term might also be, rightly, interchanged with ‘Constitutionalist.’ Most federalists are classic liberals, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. One could, theoretically, be a federalist and a Statist, though I’ve never met that person.
Globalist/Globalism – this term is used strongly by the alt-right to describe anyone who opposes them. The real meaning is used to describe those who favor global governance rather than national control over law. Some people are rightly described as globalist, for example, President Obama, who continually issues Executive Actions or pushes for laws and treaties that transfer power and infrastructure to the UN, power that overrides American Laws; or that consistently appeals to so called ‘international law,’ rather than deference to American law. While there are those who rightly are globalists, generally speaking, if you hear this term, the person speaking it is probably part of the dangerous, nationalist Alt-Right.
Liberal/Liberalism – classically, liberal has meant one who believes in and supports individual liberty. The founding fathers could easily be classified as classic liberals. The term was adopted by the progressive movement in the early 20th century. Since then, “liberal” has come to mean “progressive.” Today, however, the term is beginning to find its way back to its roots. There are many social liberals who are struggling to identify with the extreme authoritarian progressive left, and thus are beginning to identify more with classical liberalism despite being socially left. Those identified as liberal need to be further questioned to really know where they stand, as the term has become, intentionally or not, a completely muddled term.
Libertarianism – the idea that the government should be as small as possible and thus have as little influence and power over the individual as possible. The idea is usually tied closely to classical liberalism, but one could theoretically be a libertarian socialist…. But again, I’ve never met that person.
Marxist/Marxism – Marx detailed the economic socialism as defined here, and called for the “working class” people to violently rise up, to create a government that forced equality, for a time, before fading gradually away to the “pure” form of socialism. Understand: a Marxist is necessarily a radical. Marxism literally calls for violent overthrow of democratic government. Marxism, like pure socialism, is a theory that has never happened. Every Marxist revolution has lead to true communism, and never lead to pure socialism. Why? Because once a government has absolute power, it doesn’t surrender it without being compelled to do so.
Nationalist/Nationalism – the belief that one’s country is inherently superior. A nationalist, usually part of the alt-right, believes that peoples’ origin define their ability to integrate into a society. Nationalism is not patriotism. It is the blind belief that anything your country does is good because it is your country. The Nazi’s were literally the Nationalist Socialist party. Nationalists usually support racial division of classes/races/ethnicities because, as I’ve already said, they believe that a person’s origin defines their ability to integrate into a society. They believe that culture and race are usually integral. They believe that some cultures (and thus some races) are inherently superior to others.
Patriot/Patriotism – pride in the success and righteousness of a person’s country. The patriot is proud when their country does right, but opposes wrong action on the part of their country because it shames the country and its citizens. Nationalists often deliberately identify as patriots in order to identify all patriots as nationalists in order to increase the supposed support of their radical agenda. Globalists deliberately conflate the two terms in order to classify patriots with the extreme Nationalists.
Journalist Sydney Harris differentiated the terms like this:
The Difference Between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does , and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility while the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to a war .
Populism – the idea that the majority (50% plus 1 person) of the people should hold absolute authority. A populist believes that if the will of the majority of the people is behind a decision, that decision must be inherently right.
Progressive – the American progressive movement of the 20th century were those who, while accepting fully the ideology of Marx, desired to avoids the radical revolution of the communists of the day. Instead, they desired to implement the communistic form of government a little at a time, or progressively. The term fell out of favor with the rise of Hitler, who had been in active contact with America’s progressives (like Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, who desired to rid the nation of “blacks and other undesirables,” through eugenics, i.e. birth control and abortion. Today, Planned Parenthood’s practices, would make her proud) – at that time, the term “liberal” was deliberately hijacked by the progressives, who began calling liberals of the time (classic liberals) the derogatory “conservative” in an effort to show how “regressive” their ideas were. (That meaning, as I’ve said, is coming back around and being accepted: conservative = regressive, even though it is applied to the classical liberal… And liberal means progressive who are really regressive and anti-liberal…. Confused yet? It’s intentional.) The term was restored to popularity with Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid. Closet progressives who have been calling themselves liberals for half a century are now calling themselves progressives again, but the meaning has not changed.
Socialist – one who adopts the economic view of complete economic equality, forbidding individually owned property, insisting that all property belongs to the community. While this has been tried many times throughout history, it has never worked. Why? True Socialism requires every individual to buy in. If even one person isn’t fully converted (a religious term, because the level of buy in required is bordering on fanatical or religious), the whole system either fails or reverts to forced socialism. Forced socialism (communism), however, is no longer an economic system, but a governmental system. Every attempt at pure socialism in history has resulted in government involvement or the failure of the system, without exception.
But it’s important to understand what socialism is. Most people who call for socialism are speaking solely of the economic system. They really don’t think that government is needed (unless they are Marxists, democratic socialists, or communists). This system is a theory of economy only. It cannot and has never existed. Remember that.
Statist a person who pushes for social change by force of the state. The solution of the Statist is always increased legislation. In the United States, a Statist usually desires an increase in authority of the federal government, rather than state governments. It is theoretically possible for a person to be both a federalist and a Statist: desiring increased power of state government, but decreased power of the federal government.
Why do these terms matter? Because language matters! And the language shifts so quickly. Many of these terms have had their meanings shifted, at least once, over the last 100 years. And each will be used to either describe opposition, or to self describe individuals. You have to understand the language to be able to effectively use it. Thus, political language bleeds over to English.