How to Translate American Political Jargon

Every subculture has its lingo, but few add secret code faster than the American political class.
Photo illustration by Bloomberg News

The grass roots are at war with astroturf. Yellow Dog Democrats become boll weevils and then Blue Dogs. Beltway bandits troll Pennsylvania Avenue in search of earmarks and extenders. Say what?

Every subculture has its lingo, but few add secret code faster than the American political class. It coins words and phrases that slice citizens into microcategories, massages language to exploit or temper passions and slings slang to play inside baseball in the corridors of power. 

Political jargon is mystifying for a reason. For instance, politicians shrink from frank appeals to white voters, but they're happy to seek support from Joe Sixpack, soccer moms and small-town Americans. When you hear political code words from talking heads it usually means they’re discussing the horse race rather than the issues.

Read more of this QuickTake and find guides to the jargon here.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
LEARN MORE