August 22, 2002
A Historical Document

How Newt Gingrich Uses These Techniques

Ever wonder why the tone of American politics in the 1990s was so nasty? Here is part of the answer:


Newt Gingrich (1990), "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control" (GOPAC)

   As you know, one of the key points in the GOPAC tapes is that "language matters." In the video "We are a Majority," Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: "I wish I could speak like Newt."

   That takes years of practice. But, we believe that you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate if we help a little. That is why we have created this list of words and phrases.

   This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media. The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used.

   While the list could be the size of the latest "College Edition" dictionary, we have attempted to keep it small enough to be readily useful yet large enough to be broadly functional. The list is divided into two sections: Optimistic Positive Governing words and phrases to help describe your vision for the future of your community (your message) and Contrasting words to help you clearly define the policies and record of your opponent and the Democratic party.

   Please let us know if you have any other suggestions or additions. We would also like to know how you use the list. Call us at GOPAC or write with your suggestions and comments. We may include them in the next tape mailing so that others can benefit from your knowledge and experience.


Optimistic Positive Governing Words

   Use the list below to help define your campaign and your vision of public service. These words can help give extra power to your message. In addition, these words help develop the positive side of the contrast you should create with your opponent, giving your community something to vote for!


  • active(ly)
  • activist
  • building
  • candid(ly)
  • care(ing)
  • challenge
  • change
  • children
  • choice/choose
  • citizen
  • commitment
  • common sense
  • compete
  • confident
  • conflict
  • control
  • courage
  • crusade
  • debate
  • dream
  • duty
  • eliminate good-time in prison
  • empower(ment)
  • fair
  • family
  • freedom
  • hard work
  • help
  • humane
  • incentive
  • initiative
  • lead
  • learn
  • legacy
  • liberty
  • light
  • listen
  • mobilize
  • moral
  • movement
  • opportunity
  • passionate
  • peace
  • pioneer
  • precious
  • premise
  • preserve
  • principle(d)
  • pristine
  • pro- (issue): flag, children, environment, reform
  • prosperity
  • protect
  • proud/pride
  • provide
  • reform
  • rights
  • share
  • strength
  • success
  • tough
  • truth
  • unique
  • vision
  • we/us/our

Contrasting Words

   Often we search hard for words to define our opponents. Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. Remember that creating a difference helps you. These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast. Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.


  • abuse of power
  • anti- (issue): flag, family, child, jobs
  • betray
  • bizarre
  • bosses
  • bureaucracy
  • cheat
  • coercion
  • "compassion" is not enough
  • collapse(ing)
  • consequences
  • corrupt
  • corruption
  • criminal rights
  • crisis
  • cynicism
  • decay
  • deeper
  • destroy
  • destructive
  • devour
  • disgrace
  • endanger
  • excuses
  • failure (fail)
  • greed
  • hypocrisy
  • ideological
  • impose
  • incompetent
  • insecure
  • insensitive
  • intolerant
  • liberal
  • lie
  • limit(s)
  • machine
  • mandate(s)
  • obsolete
  • pathetic
  • patronage
  • permissive attitude
  • pessimistic
  • punish (poor ...)
  • radical
  • red tape
  • self-serving
  • selfish
  • sensationalists
  • shallow
  • shame
  • sick
  • spend(ing)
  • stagnation
  • status quo
  • steal
  • taxes
  • they/them
  • threaten
  • traitors
  • unionized
  • urgent (cy)
  • waste
  • welfare

Posted by DeLong at August 22, 2002 07:39 AM | Trackback

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Comments

The media made a star of Gingrich in the late 80's because he was a "bomb thrower" and good for a zinger on the Sunday talk-fests. Then came the 90's and more of the same. The right wants to condemn the politics of personal destruction, but they never acknowledge that they created it and when it is used against them, they are offended. It is time someone threw their complicity back in their face.

Posted by: on August 22, 2002 09:04 AM

And don't forget Frank Luntz's little "guide", Right Words: “principles should be at the heart of any discussion about the budget” or “‘Cutting wasteful spending' has always had greater emotional appeal than ‘balancing the budget’” or “Any discussion about crime (not gun control) should be led for calls for tough enforcement of existing laws.” It’s full of such tidbits, including checklists for effective mail, town hall meetings and personal talks. Any left-wing equivalents to such guides?

Posted by: tim dunlop on August 22, 2002 10:25 AM

Actually, I never understood why the GOPAC memo was so horrible. (It was reprinted in Al Franken's Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.) GOPAC is a political organization. The purpose of a political organization is to win power. In America, you do this (normally) by winning votes. If the voters can be swayed by saying X instead of Y when X and Y are both substantively equivalent to Z -- well, then, who can blame politicians for saying "X"?

As for the Luntz thing: I also don't see why this is bad. Politicians are not born knowing how to campaign, and so somebody has to teach them; is it so bad that people are willing to sell their expertise? (Personal anecdote: Frank Luntz once made me stand up in the House caucus room in front of an audience and pointed out that I was dressed like a stereotypical Republican. And what's so stereotypical about a black wool suit ... in July ... in Washington?)

Posted by: Paul Musgrave on August 22, 2002 12:12 PM

The GOPAC memo is horrible because it conjures up the memory of fascist and communist political tactics. You know, using words like this to rhetorically back your opponents into a corner where they're not human anymore.

This is kind of related.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on August 22, 2002 02:18 PM

Oh yes, Gingrich failed to emulate the fair and gentle tactics the Democrats employed in their opposition to Bork and Thomas. Please give a large break. Any major party will employ any scurrilous rhetorical device available to gain advantage. Do we need to review LBJ's daisy picking commercial? Go peruse the rhetoric of the 19th century if you want to see red meat. There is absolutely nothing new about any of this.

Posted by: Will Allen on August 22, 2002 04:39 PM

Interesting that "unionized" shows up in the same bin as "hypocrisy" and "intolerant"...

Posted by: Nick on August 22, 2002 07:11 PM

Language will always be a weapon in politicians' hands, Jason. Calling Newt Gingrich a Stalinist by association is hardly responsible.

Posted by: Paul on August 22, 2002 08:14 PM

He's not a stalinist or a fascist, but dehumanizing your opponents is a tactic they more or less invented.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on August 22, 2002 10:56 PM

Ehh, I can think of some examples from the American Revolution and Civil War, as well as the French Revolution. Granted, it probably wasn't as well-done as Soviet/Nazi/Fascist prop -- but it is a successful strategy.

Posted by: Paul on August 23, 2002 06:41 AM

brad, you left an unclosed

tag in this post that makes all subsequent text centered. that oughter be easy to fix and so.

cheers.

Posted by: mark mceahern on August 23, 2002 06:50 AM

i meant <center>.

Posted by: mark mceahern on August 23, 2002 06:51 AM

For Will Allen,

It's the same old stuff, but made right for our age. Both examples are of mass distributed, highly organized instructions for winning with carefully patterned speech. There is nothing new about carefully patterned speech (Demosthenes gave it a whirl) but the highly organized instruction outside the academy, mass distributed, is sort of new. "How to Win Friends and Influence People" may be the most successful prototype.

KH

Posted by: K Harris on August 23, 2002 12:54 PM

For Will Allen,

It's the same old stuff, but made right for our age. Both examples are of mass distributed, highly organized instructions for winning with carefully patterned speech. There is nothing new about carefully patterned speech (Demosthenes gave it a whirl) but the highly organized instruction outside the academy, mass distributed, is sort of new. "How to Win Friends and Influence People" may be the most successful prototype.

KH

Posted by: K Harris on August 23, 2002 12:54 PM

Ms. Harris,

I bow to the wisdom of your real-world namesake. Good point about the Dale Carnegie book, but it does tend to support my comments earlier that this isn't anything really wrong, especially if (since) both sides are doing this.

Posted by: Paul on August 23, 2002 10:11 PM

Might I suggest there's a difference between "carefully patterned speech" in general, and speech carefully patterned to call your opponents traitors?

Posted by: Jason McCullough on August 26, 2002 04:16 PM
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