What happened to the right's skill with language?

Once upon a time, Republicans were really good at messaging; now they're left with "porkulus" and "ObamaCare"

Published June 24, 2009 4:45PM (EDT)

Famed pollster Frank Luntz had some pretty good advice for his fellow Republicans about the language they should use in opposing Democratic healthcare reform proposals, but the right at large doesn't seem to be listening. Instead, the most common rhetorical trick, at least on the blogs and in print opinion pieces, is just to tag the current framework for reform as "ObamaCare."

Seeing this recently led me to wonder: Whatever happened to the right's skill at fighting political battles by using language as a primary weapon? Death tax, socialized medicine, partial-birth abortion -- those were the good old days of the Republican message wars. The new messaging reads, sometimes, like it was written by a bunch of kids too busy sticking their tongues out at each other to really give the wording much thought. They turned "stimulus" into "porkulus," dubbed General Motors "Government Motors" and unsuccessfully pushed a resolution in the Republican National Committee that called upon the Democratic Party to start referring to itself as the Democrat Socialist Party. None of these turned out so well.

Then there's "ObamaCare." See, it's like HillaryCare, the name given to Democratic healthcare reform ideas during the Clinton administration. That worked. But during her time as first lady, Hillary Clinton was not especially popular. Right now, President Obama is -- in fact, he personally polls better than most of his policies do. They might as well be trying to name it EveryoneGetsIceCreamCare.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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