At the very back of the now leaked Republican manual from Frank Luntz are 14 terms that Republicans are never supposed to use, and some of the words on the list may surprise you.
The leaked Republican manual is the entire framework which Republicans have been using for years to frame issues and win debates. Although it was written in 2006, much of the Luntz gospel is still not only in use, but is repeated verbatim daily by the GOP members of Congress and the candidates who are running for the 2012 nomination.
Here is the entire manual:
For our purposes in 2012, the most interesting part of the manual that is located in an appendix titled The 14 Words Republicans Should Never Use. Luntz introduced the list by writing, “Sometimes it is not what you say that matters but what you don’t say. Other times a single word or phrase can undermine or destroy the credibility of a paragraph or entire presentation. This memo was originally prepared exclusively for Congressional spouses because they are your eyes and ears, a one-person reality check and truth squad combined. However, by popular demand, I have included and expanded that document because effectively communicating the New American Lexicon requires you to STOP saying words and phrases that undermine your ability to educate the American people. So from today forward, YOU are the language police. From today forward, these are the words never to say again.”
Here’s the list:
Never say/ Instead say:
1. Government / Washington
2. Privatization/Private Accounts / Personalization/Personal Accounts
3. Tax Reform / Tax Simplification
4. Inheritance/Estate Tax / The Death Tax
5. A Global Economy/Globalization/Capitalism/ Free Market Economy
6. Outsourcing/ Taxation, Regulation, Litigation, Innovation, Education
7. Undocumented Workers/ Illegal Aliens
8. Foreign Trade/ International Trade
9. Drilling for oil/ Exploring for energy
10. Tort Reform/ Lawsuit Abuse Reform
11. Trial Lawyer/ Personal Injury Lawyer
12. Corporate Transparency/ Corporate Accountability
13. School Choice/ Parental Choice/Equal Opportunity in Education
14. Healthcare “Choice”/ “The Right to Choose”
All of these words and phrases were decided on based on focus groups and polling. Terms like undocumented worker are still not used by Republicans. Instead, the much more politically loaded term illegal alien is used. Luntz also makes extensive use of language that implies a positive or negative right. The term parental choice implies that Republicans are positively defending the right of parents to decide where their children go to school. In reality voucher programs take money away from public schools and don’t give parents enough funds to cover the tuition and expenses of a private institution, but this fact is covered up by invoking the positive language of choice.
When Republicans are told to use the right to choose when discussing healthcare, they are framing the discussion in terms of a negative rights. Republicans want people to people that healthcare reform is about protecting the people from government interference in their healthcare decisions. The 14 words are designed to frame any discussion about an issue in conservative terms. When you hear or read a Democrat or member of the left using any of the terms that Luntz advocated on the list, it a clear indication that the discussion has already been framed and is taking place on Republican terms.
Democrats and Americans in general need to listen carefully and understand what Republicans really mean when they use innovation as code word for outsourcing, or when they talk about exploring for energy and corporate accountability. These terms all invoke a meaning to most Americans, but their meaning is most likely not the same as the Republican policy behind the term.
Luntz’s list points out the biggest difference of all between Democrats and Republicans. The GOP has a playbook, and work together to deliver their message. If a manual such as Luntz’s was written for Democrats, they would never be able to work together enough to effectively spread their message.
This manual was written five years ago, and Republicans are still using it today, so when Democrats claim that Republicans have no new ideas, they aren’t kidding. The GOP may tinker around the edges of this playbook, but their propaganda strategy is still the same. Most of all, this manual is a reminder to Democrats that words matter.
Before Democrats can ever win the battle over policy, they must first understand and win the war of words.