The Importance of Names

Josh Marshal at Talking Points Memo:

In twenty years of doing this, one thing that strikes me again and again is the critical importance of naming things in politics. If the question is advocacy and persuasion few steps are more important than effectively and consistently naming the key developments, agenda items, threats and prizes and raising them in the public consciousness. There are few things – things that can be controlled by people involved in politics and campaigns, as opposed to the tides of historical change we are awash in – more important for Democrats to do a good job at in the next two years.

Marshal cites “death tax,” but there are so many other examples. “Partial-birth abortion” was a successful rebranding of what doctors call intact dilation and extraction (and became a political focus despite making up just 0.17 percent of abortions). I suspect it’s behind the move from “gun control” to “gun safety”.

We’ve fallen prey to it while trying to mitigate COVID-19 by calling even minimal mitigation or restrictions “lockdown,” “shutdown” and “quarantine” when we still have freedom of movement, many businesses are open just offering services safely and very few people are truly isolating.