Freedom may not mean what you think it means – at least not to someone else. I know you know what most of these words mean, I have this glossary because some regular words mean different things when you are talking about concepts, framing positions, and current political discourse. Just want to be understood on my definitions.
Authoritarian – A belief system characterized by submission to one authority and is opposed to individualism and democracy.
Campaign Capitalism – The industry of campaigning. Broadcast time, print media, organizing, tours, consultants, scmoozing, corporate pandering – election year spending is astronomical. Campaign capitalism is one reason for resistance to campaign finance reform.
Civil – 1 : of or relating to citizens 2 : of or relating to the state or its citizenry 3 : adequate in courtesy and politeness (Merriam – Webster)
Communism – A government system/ social theory which prescribes a classless society in which property, land, and all means of production or distribution are collectively held and controlled. This form of government has never actually existed in practice.
Conservative – Meanings vary yet are sometimes used interchangeably. 1 : a political philosophy relating to the idea of less government, creating economies to favor business, and socially conservative viewpoints. Affiliated loosely with the Republican party. 2 : an actual style of living or governing that preserves a resource, intention, or tradition. 3 : Modest and reserved.
The Constitution – The founding document of the United States. It includes all of the powers of the federal government. To read the text, click here. The Bill of Rights is a list of accompanying amendments that states the rights of U. S. citizens.
The Constitutional Bill of Rights – the first ten amendments to the Constitution that outline citizen’s rights. To read them in full click here.
Contested Concepts – Words or phrases that can have very different meanings and implications depending on who is using the word.
Example 1a: As his best friend, I knew that I needed to lie to the cop to validate his story.
Example 1b: As his best friend, I knew he needed to deal with this consequence so I told them the truth.
In this case, the contested concept is “best friend”. Even if a person doesn’t literally use the term best friend they might refer to the values that are held in the highest regard in your friendship. Those values that make a best friend vary greatly among people. A common political term is “family values”. The definition of the term is different for all. We sometimes use the term “family values” but infer a specific set of meaning that only applies to some of the audience.
Example 2a: Businesses should have the freedom to do business without burdensome environmental regulations.
Example 2b: People should have the freedom of enjoying their public spaces without health and safety concerns from corporate pollution.
In this example the frame of the argument dramatically affects the intention of the word “freedom” – a contested concept.
democracy – A government by the people for the people in which the supreme political power rests with them. Most often exercised indirectly through electing representatives to act on their behalf. (When trying to discern if an author is indicating the type of governing – democratic – or a political party – Democratic – note that the party is usually capitalized and the type of government is not.)
Democratic – One of the two major political parties that values opportunity for all Americans, encourages diversity, and believes in the concept of social responsibility. Democrats believe that the government has an essential role to play in continuing to secure comprehensive liberty and justice for all Americans. The party is loosely considered liberal or progressive. Popular opinion is that corporate interests have compromised the party’s credibility, authenticity, effectiveness, and value message.
Dog Whistle – A subtle or indirect way of signaling to a portion of an audience an implied message – usually a controversial one. For example, if a candidate referred to “real” Americans, it may be implied that one segment of the population (a particular race, class, party, etc) is less valued as Americans even if they are indeed American. It could be a signal to the racists in the crowd that the candidate aligns with their position but cannot do so overtly because of the blatant political incorrectness.
Election Reform – A movement involving a desire to change the way we carry out elections. Typical issues might involve changing how we fund elections, count votes, register to vote, and draw boundary lines but, also may include a wide range of additional aspects of our voting system.
Fascism – A militant authoritarian regime characterized by extreme nationalism and a merging of corporations with government and religion. Human rights and labor movements are suppressed as are any dissenting opinions. Corruption and cronyism are rampant.
Frames – Due to a lifetime of experiences, we all have built in “frames” or stories that go with our language. For instance when you read the word “zoo” perhaps images of animals or enclosures pop into your head, you can’t really help it, it’s just a literal or visual cue of how to understand our world through language.
Framing – The act of being able to recognize and correct a frame when involved in discussions. When persuasive language you disagree with is used, you can call it out and offer alternatives. You can always offer to go first in a discussion to set the stage for how the topic will first be presented. You can recall points that activate an empathetic viewpoint.
Issues – Topics of discussion. “Issues” are the midlevel concepts of political discourse; they’re easier to find agreement in than “Programs” but more difficult than “Values”. Examples of issues would be health care, lending practices, water pollution, or unemployment.
Lakoff, George – Professor of Cognitive Linguistics at UC Berkeley. Known as a progressive ally and framing expert. He wrote about the concept of talking about Values before Issues or Policies to improve understanding of the progressive point of view. His website.
Liberal – An open minded philosophy that desires continuing evaluation and change to improve society. Free from prejudice and willing to eschew established convention.
Luntz, Frank – Political analyst, pollster, and leader in his field. Known as a key operative in Republican promotions, famous for holding focus groups to find the exact right words to please an audience even if the policies being described are not necessarily pleasing to the audience. His website.
Media Reform – A movement that desires to change American media to be more democratic. This may involve diversifying media ownership, allowing greater access to the public for creating representative content, or any number of initiatives that promotes the ability of media to include a broader range of opinion to inform and influence the public.
Nurturant Parent – A social prototype model used to illustrate the world view of a progressive. This world view is based on empathy. It represents a non-gender specific support system that solves problems through pooling resources and communicating. There is no one “correct” morality; tolerance and appreciation of variation allows for more inclusion of different views. Used by George Lakoff.
Plutocracy – A form of government in which the wealthy class rules.
Programs – The most specific way to talk about political ideas. May include legislation, policies (private or govt.), or proposals. “Programs” are the most difficult level of political discourse in which to find agreement.
Progressive – A term that has all but replaced the word “liberal” since the turn of the century. It indicates an open mind and willingness to change established policy to adapt to the modern world and its issues. Generally they value empathy, nurturance, social responsibility, equality of opportunity, and social justice.
Republic – A state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them. The leader of the state is not a monarch.
Republican – One of two major political parties in the U.S. characterized by their desire for a small government – excepting the military and protection/subsidization of business. Known as social conservatives, they are characterized by resistance to change from the traditional white hetero male dominated society. Presently they are characterized by three factions – religious/social conservatives, big business advocates, and shrinking non-military government agencies to the point of non-existence.
Socialism – A system of elected government in which a country’s resources are jointly owned by all of the people and the people have a say over how those resources are used. Production, distribution, and exchange of these resources are not profit driven, but use driven.
Strict Father – A social prototype model used as an illustration of the conservative world view. This world view is based in authority and tradition. It represents an authoritarian based, male dominated society, and believes in using discipline to teach moral values to stand up in the highly competitive, cruel, and often evil world we live in. Used by George Lakoff.
Values – Set of internal guidelines that drive your everyday decisions and larger life trajectory – the intrinsic priorities of your life.