For decades now, there’s been a gap between the left’s and the right’s ability to talk populist. Liberals tend to trip over their own subtlety, uncertainty and/or ambivalence (an example of which youmaybe just read), while the right produces categorical words that stick: media elite, death tax, and of course Democrat as an adjective, emphasis on rat.
And 2010 was no different. Not all of this year’s top political buzzwords were born in 2010, but this is the year they’ve been popularized. And when it comes to rhetoric that evokes strong imagery, rouses emotion, and can roll over inconvenient facts and memories, the Red State words (many elevated into a kind of American sign language by Sarah Palin) tend to outshout the Blue ones.
BIG RED WORDS
Mamma grizzly: Grrrr! Mamma grizzlies will kill to protect their cubs or their tax cuts. Sarah Palin, or one of her writers, sensed that the newly empowered women of the Tea Party could use a brand of their own, and she found one that—with a bit-o’-Alaska in every sound bite—loops right back to the Palin brand itself.
Man-up: It one-ups the earlier pop injunction to “step up,” and it’s really what the right has been saying all along: liberal males are homos, eunuchs, and girlie men, they’re weak on national security and handmaidens to the Nanny State. Thus, Sharron Angle tried to castrate Harry Reid, Palin challenged non-Tea Party Republicans, and Christine O’Donnell, with her “get your man pants on” variation, gay-baited Mike Castle.