By April Girouard, ,
Published December 23, 2015
Ready to be done with all the midterm election mudslinging, name-calling, and verbal rock throwing? If so, then it's time to "man up," and bridge that "enthusiasm gap," because this election cycle may be winding to a close, but some of these politically loaded catchphrases could be here to stay:
1. "Man up": Nothing says "manliness" more than understanding entitlement programs - at least according to Nevada Senate challenger Sharron Angle. "Man up, Harry Reid...you need to understand we have a problem with Social Security," she scolded in an Oct. 14 debate. In 2009, Chris Christie famously told then-Gov. Jon Corzine to "man up and say I'm fat" - but in this cycle, the phrase has taken on a political life of its own as it hit races across the country, from Missouri to New York to Florida. As for Reid's response? "From the street to the ring to the Senate chambers, I've never had to prove my manhood to anyone," he said.
2. "Enthusiasm gap": Billed as the reason behind a high Republican showing in the polls, the "enthusiasm gap" became White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' favorite "shovel-ready project." From the briefing room to the Sunday shows, Gibbs repeatedly said that the gap was "lessening" or "shrinking." "We want to see what has been named the ‘enthusiasm gap' closed," he said in an Oct. 7 press briefing.
3. "Shovel-ready projects": "Shovel-ready projects," often infrastructure improvements, were touted by Democrats earlier this year as an immediate, job-creating use of stimulus funds. But the term became a byword when President Obama told The New York Times that he's discovered "there's no such thing as shovel-ready projects."
4. "You can't have the keys back": President Obama has used the refrain at campaign events in an analogy describing why Republicans shouldn't get control of the House or Senate. "I've been explaining to people around the country, it's as if they drove America's car into the ditch. They drove it into the ditch, and it was a big ditch," the president said at a rally in Columbus, OH, Oct. 17th. "The president likes to say that when you want to drive forward you put your car in D, and when you want to go in reverse you put it in R," Sen. John Thune shot back in Saturday's Republican Weekly Address. "It's a clever line, but when you're speeding toward a cliff, you don't want to keep the car in drive."
5. "Professional Left": White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs caused a stir after an August interview with The Hill when he characterized the "professional left" as having unrealistic expectations. Gibbs "just answered honestly," Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton explained. "I don't think that it should be read as anything more than that."
6. "Hippie-punching": Bloggers within the "professional left" fired back at the White House with accusations of "hippie-punching." "Have you ever heard of hippie-punching?" "Crooks and Liars" blogger Susie Madrak asked David Axelrod in a conference call, prompting a long silence from the senior White House adviser. "You want us to help you, the first thing I would suggest is enough of the hippie-punching." Axelrod assured the bloggers, "You play a great role in informing people about the stakes of the elections." He added, "One of the reasons I was eager to expend time was to enlist you."
7. "Recovery summer": Vice President Biden's six-week-long push to highlight the jobs associated with stimulus-funded public works and infrastructure projects was hailed by the White House as a season of success. "This summer will be the most active Recovery Act season yet," senior White House adviser David Axelrod declared. "Summer of FAILURE," the National Republican Senatorial Committee mocked in an ad interspersing headlines about job losses with video of Obama smiling on vacation. "So how was YOUR summer? The Recovery starts November 2nd. Help the GOP."
8. "Backyard economic event": This year, backyard economic events went beyond just scoring a sale on fertilizer or getting the best bang for your buck on begonias. Patches of green from Albuquerque, NM, to Falls Church, VA and Columbus, OH were chosen locales for President Obama's discussions on the economy. "We just happen to be the folks that had a backyard that fit the requirements of the president, Iowa backyard economic event host and middle school teacher Jeff Clubbs told The Des Moines Register.
9. "Mama grizzly": First used by Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential election, the term gained traction this year as Palin wrote about mama bears on her Facebook page and cut robo-calls for candidates fitting the "mama grizzly" ethos. Her political action committee to run an Internet ad featuring conservative, sign-waving women (missing a word here?). The catch phrase, associated with Tea Party associated candidates such as Sharron Angle in Nevada, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, and Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, has stuck so well that Newsweek ran a cover story exploring it.
10. "Cheddarbomb": Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) in September called in the reinforcements for an aggressive "cheddarbombing" campaign. "This is our first-ever ‘moneybomb,' or as we call it in Wisconsin - a ‘Cheddarbomb,'" he wrote in a fundraising email. Eleven Democratic senators sent out emails promoting the deliciously named fundraising campaign the same day. "Believe me, the last thing a Vikings fan like me would ever think to support is something called a ‘Cheddarbomb,'" Sen. Al Franken's (D-Minn.) email read. "But while the Packets may be our rival, I'd do just about anything to help out my friend Russ Feingold."
As for which terms have the most staying power, Robin Lakoff, Professor of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, says the most long-lasting catch phrases evoke strong feelings. "You hear ‘mama grizzly,' it immediately calls up a strong impression: the grizzly bear, aggressive and frightening, but mama, protective and comforting," she says. "You're dealing with strong, high-level emotions. That's a good reason why people will remember it and use it."
But will Wisconsin be cheddarbombed for generations? "'Cheddarbomb' is cute, it's funny. You remember it for a bit, but it doesn't have much staying power. It doesn't have the emotional gravity," says LaKoff. "So really, there are two kinds of things, one thing like cheddar bombs, you know people can use it for awhile, but it's unlikely, I think, to last, because there isn't an emotional connection to it. Others could very well be with us for awhile."