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Republicans, 'amnesty,' and the point at which words lose meaning

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Just a couple months into the Obama presidency, the New York Times ran a study on Republicans reaching for new rungs on the rhetorical ladder. The old insults had gotten stale and lost their efficacy, so conservatives Leptin Green Coffee 800 looked for more searing language.

Saul Anuzis, a former head of the Michigan Republican Party who ran for that RNC chairmanship, decided the time had come for his party to throw round the word "fascism" to include weight to their condemnations. "We've so overused the term 'socialism' that it no longer has the negative connotation it had 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago," Anuzis said. "Fascism - everybody still thinks that's a bad thing."

In context, it was clear that Republicans who accused Obama of "fascism" did not know what "fascism" means, plus they didn't much care. The phrase the word was meaningless - all that mattered, Republicans said in 2009, was "finding something which raises the consciousness of the average voter." If that meant changing this is of words, so whether it is.

More than 5 years later, in the immigration debate, Republicans are committed to the "amnesty" talking point, given that they assume it may sound bad. However when Betsy Woodruff asked GOP lawmakers what the word means, many of them was clueless that.
A few of the top legislators who frequently make use of the term can't actually explain what amnesty is. I spent the past few days asking Republican senators what they meant once they referred to amnesty in terms of immigration policy. The answers I got were intriguing. That is because while Republican congressional leaders are always wanting to discuss their opposition to this vague, amorphous concept, most of them are downright befuddled when inspired to explain what that concept appears like in the real world. Their responses ranged from simple to nonsensical.

When I asked Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, what specific immigration policies he was talking about as he used the term amnesty, he said, "I do not understand the question."
Woodruff's report is hilarious, in a depressing kind of way, and it's really worth your time and effort. The most popular was Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) who said amnesty "would be considered a pathway to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants. Told that meant, obviously, Obama's plan wouldn't constitute "amnesty," the Arkansas Republican replied, "That might require whatever."

Well written, senator.

I don't mean to sound picky, but the basic argument here's simple.

First, lawmakers shouldn't use words if they don't know exactly what the words mean. Second, politicians shouldn't alter the meaning of words just because they think like it.

This goes beyond "amnesty." The term "socialism" no more means anything - Republicans decided it had been a synonym for "liberal." "Judicial activism" continues to be stripped of its definition. So has "court packing" and "socialized medicine."

These was once perfectly good words Leisure 18 Slimming Coffee with perfectly clear meanings, right up until political figures decided entirely new, made-up definitions helped "raise the consciousness of the average voter."

Part of the issue is the truth that Republicans don't appear to know the meaning of the words they will use, but the larger concern is that they just don't seem of looking after. I half expect GOP lawmakers to respond to future questions regarding words they're misusing by saying, "I'm no etymologist."

 

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