The reality of it is I think the GOP - Republicans and certainly conservatives - will partner with the Tea Party movement around this country. - Michael Steele

(this post has updates below)

Some phrases are worth repeating. “I love you.” “You’re my best friend.” Or, “I’ll pick up the check.” All kind and positive.

There are, however, political phrases that should be killed off—taken out back and shot out of a clown cannon.

I watch and read a lot of news and documentaries, mainly because I’m interested in journalism and the way stuff is presented each day on certain news outlets and in specific publications. I’m also interested in politics, as I have been since way back when I was kid.

Some political phrases should be taken out back
and shot out of a clown cannon.

Since late last year when I launched CrankyYank (where I research, investigate, report on and complain about all types of culture, environment issues and politics), I had this post bouncing around my head. And it’s time to set it free.

We’re knee-deep in an election year, featuring many, many wankers saying stupid shit. So now is the perfect time to remind them that hollow phrases are not anyone’s friend.

I submit to you my Shittiest Political Phrases—“Dumb Graded” on a 1 (mildly idiotic) to 10 (off-the-chain certifiable) scale. And I want YOU to add to this list. Post to social media using the hashtag #DumbPoliticalPhrases and tag me, or drop it right in the comment well below.

In no order:

⬆️ “Pay-fors” This ugly speech baby might have been birthed during healthcare reform, but like a Jordache jeans in the 1980s, it’s now spread to mainstream political conversation. In the above clip, both the reporter and Pelosi use the word as a noun; you’ll hear GOP members require “pay-fors” for many budget items, like Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn did for just about anything. Dear asshole politicians: you’re just slapping an “s” on two words that should not ever be a noun. (DumbGrade™: 6)

⬆️ “Blowback.” Aside from sounding like a sex game, “blowback” in normal parlance is a noun that describes the release of gasses from firing a weapon. While this charts as a dumb phrase that’s been wholly appropriated for politics (the use of which really took off in the 1980s) I actually don’t hate it. Politically speaking, there’s a LOT of gas being emitted these days, so it kind of fits. (DumbGrade™: 1)

⬆️ “The reality of it is.” Folks who suffer, sadly, from Tourette’s Syndrome have the burden of uncontrollable, involuntary movement or sounds. Michael Steele—former chairman of the GOP—has a political strain of that affliction. There are so many examples of him saying “the reality of it is”—an empty, hapless phrase that has a veneer of authority—that it’s hard to keep track. Perhaps tame by comparison to other phrases, but he repeats it so much that I want to start cutting myself. (Grade for offensiveness: 4; Grade for frequency: 10; DumbGrade™: 8)

⬆️ “Narrative.” Often used to describe a line of political conventional wisdom, “narrative” should be left to Aaron Sorkin. Less offensive than dumb, using this word in political terms steals the spirit and function of an innocent word that is supposed to connote storytelling. Don’t. Using the modifier “political” prior to narrative makes it better, but really: What did narrative prose ever do to you, dingus politician? Remember, conventional wisdom is blindly accepted and rarely wise; pulling “narrative” down to a political level is foolhardy at best. (DumbGrade™: 2)

⬆️ “With all due respect.” A throwaway platitude that a politician uses to compliment someone they’d actually like to throw off a bridge. When you hear this one, run. Also, just assume the person is lying their ass off about respecting the person they’re talking about.  It’s basically shitty preamble that MSNBC and Bloomberg inexplicably slapped on one of its even shittier programs, too. Perhaps a terrible show deserves that punishment? (Grade for offensiveness: 5; Grade for frequency: 10; Overall DumbGrade™: 8)

⬆️ Comparing [Person a] to Hitler. Not so much a phrase as ill-advised action. In certain cases, when referring to policy and actions of the Third Reich, a comparison could be factually correct. But in most cases, it’s third-rail communication and so inflammatory it ends up impugning the accuser—not making any meaningful point. Just like with David Cameron above, news of his comparison of Putin to Hitler fully distracted everyone from any salient issue he was trying to raise. (In researching this bullet—which was as fun as you’d imagine—the most-compared leaders are President Obama, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.) (DumbGrade™: 9)

⬆️ “Let me just say.” Just as with “due respect,” this is junk-food speech at its worst. More importantly, it buys a politician time to think of what they’re going to say next. Dudes and dudettes, don’t waste our time with that crap. To call it “filler” is an insult to processed foods. I’ll pull that phrase out ironically, just like “y’all” and the word “whimsical” or “utilize.” All of them make me wanna hurl, but politicians in particular use “just say” all. the. time. (DumbGrade™: 4)

⬆️ “Liberal media.” This is stinking, fly-covered horsecrap, but not for the reason you might think. The charge: the media is in the tank for and run by liberal elites, the Hollywood types, the gays, the Jewish Mafia. The truth: today’s media is about profit, not about liberalism. Fox News (News Corp.), NBC and MSNBC (Comcast), ABC & ESPN, et. al. (Disney), and CBS (CBS Corporation, formerly Viacom), among others—they all have shareholders to placate. They have advertisers who want ratings blowjobs. They have ideologues running respected news operations. Until multinational public corporations are forbidden from owning newspapers, TV stations and entire broadcast networks, the problem will get worse before it gets better. Liberal media my ass. (DumbGrade™: 10)


Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 5.38.26 PM
from “The Politics of Being Progressive” by twitter buddy Matt Osborne

⬆️ “Emo Progs.” This one is lesser-known, but no less annoying. I don’t like ascribing pejorative labels to anyone, but our brainless, evidence-free politicians sometimes deserve it. “Emo Progressive” is an epithet thrown upon someone who is staunchly unmovable; stubborn far past a fault; a purist who calls liberals who accept compromise “Obamabots” or brainless sheep. Interestingly, this phrase is used way more in print (see Matt Osborne’s wonderful post above) and on Twitter than it is in consensus media. Treat “Emo Progs” with a huge amount of skepticism, since the person slinging it usually has issues himself/herself. Appropriating the word “emotional” and using it as a slur is offensive to this fan of emotional intelligence. A dumb phrase used by small minds. (DumbGrade™: 8)

UPDATE (14 July 2021): Latest fight over Senate filibuster leads me to add another entry to our list. See below:

⬆️ “Carve-Out.” Breathlessly spoken and written in media recently, “Carve-Out” is a misnomer when it comes to voting rights and functioning democracy. Filibuster is not enshrined in our Constitution and yet people describe the anti-democratic practice like it’s enshrined tradition. “Carve Out” presents a false paradigm that we must “excise a piece of history” in order to pass For The People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act. And yet Qpubs twist themselves in logic pretzels to complain about Democrats’ filibuster reform while simultaneously enjoying effects of gerrymandering and, more importantly, confirming their Federalist-approved SCOTUS operatives. (DumbGrade™: 7)

Other additions:

▶️ “As a taxpayer” from Mary Kay Crowley-McCune on Facebook: “Anytime someone begins speaking by saying, ‘As a taxpayer…’ you just know something douchey is coming next.”

▶️ “Dialogue” as a verb from Marc Haddle on Facebook. Used in a sentence: “Marc, the salt used in your wife’s Salted Caramel cookies is not labeled as non-GMO. I believe it is important that we dialogue about your insensitivity to this global problem as well as any other patriarchal and phallocentric biases you undoubtedly harbor.” from Marc: “It’s empty, unnecessary wordsmithing usually encountered with dim minds trying to sound learned.”

Hope you enjoyed your list of dumb political phrases. Looking forward to reading more of yours! Keep them coming: post below, or ping me on Twitter and Facebook and we’ll keep the ball rolling.

That’s it from me Cranker Darlings… I’ll be back with another regular CY edition next Thursday at 2 p.m.



Will Pollock is a crabby New York City escapee living in Atlanta. He’s a freelance multimedia journalist and author of two books (Pizza for Good & Leaving Triscuit), with more on the way. Sign up for the mailing list, follow on TwitterFacebook and Instagram—and check out the book links below.

Don’t forget to comment below. Cranky loves company.


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