Does your “torch” require batteries to produce light? Do you take your prescriptions to a “chemist” ? Do you have a hangover after “getting pissed” ? If so, you are probably one of our British friends.
As George Bernard Shaw observed in the November 1942 edition of Reader’s Digest: “England and America are two countries separated by the same language.”
Politically, I think it can now be asserted that “America and America are two countries separated by the same language.”
I believe that “political bilingualism” in America is at the core of the reasons Mitt Romney and many conservative Senate candidates lost the 2012 election. These conservative candidates were saying one thing, but a large and growing portion of the electorate was hearing quite another thing.
“[p 254] Whatever one’s vision, other visions are easily misunderstood – not only because of the caricatures produced by [political debates] but also because the very words used (“equality,” “freedom,” “justice,” “power”) mean entirely different things in the context of different presuppositions. It is not merely misunderstanding but the inherent logic of each vision which leads to these semantic differences, as well as to substantively different conclusions across a wide spectrum of issues….
[p 255] One consequence of this is that those with different visions often argue past each other, even when they accept the same rules of logic and utilize the same data, for the same terms of discourse signify very different things.”
Paraphrased from various chapters of Dr. Sowell’s book, here are some examples of the opposite definitions of common words in politics and sociology, as interpreted by the voting citizens of our two different Americas:
To conservatives and libertarians, equality means equivalent availability of opportunities and avenues to achieve success, with results dependent upon the effort and creativity expended.
To liberals and progressives, equality means equivalent results regardless of the process followed, even if authority-based force must be used to equalize outcomes. Without equal results, freedom is believed to have been withheld.
To conservatives and libertarians, freedom means to be free from coercion, and free from the arbitrary power of other men – but NOT free from the inherent restrictions of circumstances that arise in the experiences of daily life.
To liberals and progressives, freedom means the absence of limitations that arise from real-life circumstances that would reduce a person’s range of choices.
To conservatives and libertarians, justice means the logical application of “due process.” It is not to be tailored to individual situations or population groups, but is to be applied consistently, objectively, and unemotionally. The predictability of traditional “rule of law” and impartial rewarding of productive behavior, rather than the perceived current “fairness” of the outcomes, provides stability to society.
To liberals and progressives, justice means the achievement of equitable social results and solutions. The appropriate outcome is to be subjectively judged and authoritatively dispensed for each case uniquely. This compulsory enforcement of social justice is viewed as a matter of humane decency. The conservative view that social assistance is better achieved through charitable acts of voluntary kindness is seen by progressives as forcing humiliation upon the recipients – “adding insult to injury.”
Holding the above examples firmly in mind, now please listen to a typical conservative politician explaining free market economic principles in the traditional ways that were effective before the 2012 election. I’m asking you to listen to these words as if you are honestly sympathetic to the liberal/progressive perspective:
[Quote of Mitt Romney from the 2nd debate on Oct 1st.]
“And why do I want to bring rates down, and at the same time lower exemptions and deductions, particularly for people at the high end? Because if you bring rates down, it makes it easier for small business to keep more of their capital and hire people.
And for me, this is about jobs. I want to get America’s economy going again. Fifty-four percent of America’s workers work in businesses that are taxed as individuals. So when you bring those rates down, those small businesses are able to keep more money and hire more people.”
Do you trust what you hear? Why should you believe that small businesses would use the money they’re allowed to “keep” for hiring people? Since private sector job creation is not mandated by the government, how do you know business owners wouldn’t just “keep” that money for themselves? If more money is left in the hands of private-sector companies, how could the results be guaranteed to be equitable for all? How is a policy of letting small business owners decide how to use the extra money in a way that’s best for themselves guaranteed to be better for the unemployed or underemployed? How would this be assured to be socially fair?
The entrenched progressives and the swing voters who are newly-leaning liberal sympathizers are probably in excess of 50% of the voting population now. Conservatives MUST address their concerns satisfactorily and honestly. Conservatives MUST learn the nuances of the new American political bilingualism.
In the 2012 campaign season, they failed to do so.