Political Phrases Used by Democrats

A year ago, we posted the list of Political Phrases Used by Republicans. These are words and phrases the Republicans use and repeat in order to tilt the political playing field in their favor. We expressed the desire to create a similar list of Democratic and progressive phrases, but feared there were too few even to make a list.

Now, a year later, we dare to begin creating the list of phrases that Democrats use, or should use, to help level the playing field against the Republicans. Thus far, however, the list is modest, which is precisely why we wrote A Messaging Manifesto For Democrats. Therefore, we ask for your suggestions in the comments (or via Twitter) as to additional phrases that the Democrats either (a) are using, or (b) should use, and we’ll add the appropriate ones to the list. Hopefully, this list will at some point begin to approach the Republican list in length and effectiveness.

Also, when you compare the Democratic and Republican lists, notice the differences. Democrats tend to focus on things like hope, family, and health, while Republicans focus a lot on life vs. death and good vs. evil. This precisely reflects the competing Democrats’ “nurturing parent” and Republican “strict father” models identified by linguistics professor and political language guru George Lakoff.

Here’s the list:

“abortion should be safe, legal, and rare” (from President Bill Clinton)

“A bridge to the future” (again, from President Bill Clinton, running against Bob Dole‘s “bridge to the past” in 1996.)

Affirmative Action

Affordable Care Act (full name: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act)

“American Jobs Act” (President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats, 2011)

“A noun, a verb, and ‘9/11′” (Democratic presidential candidate and then-Senator Joe Biden in 2007, describing the speeches and remarks by then-presidential Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani)


“Big Oil”

“Cat Food Commission” (progressive term for President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform created in 2010. Note, however, that the Commission was created by, and included, Democrats).

“Change we can believe in” (candidate Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign slogan)

“Employee Free Choice Act”

“end Medicare as we know it” (referring to Representative Paul Ryan‘s Republican budget plan)

“Factory Farm”

“GOP Tax Scam”

“The Great Society” (President Lyndon Johnson)

“Keep hope alive” (Rev. Jesse Jackson)

“Marriage equality”

“Mend it, don’t end it” (President Clinton’s defense of Affirmative Action c.1995)

“Middle Class Tax Cut” (President Obama’s term for the payroll tax cut)

“Millionaires over Medicare” (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee term for Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare-killing budget)

“Net Neutrality”

“The New Deal” (President Franklin D. Roosevelt)

“The 99%”


“public option”

“put teachers, cops, and firefighters back to work” (President Obama and Congressional Democrats, selling the American Jobs Act)

“rebuild our infrastructure”

“religious extremists” (describing an increasingly influential faction of the Republican Party. Note that Republicans use this same term to demonize many people of Arab ethnicity and/or Muslim faith).

“Republican Medicare-killing budget”

“sabotage the economy” (describing the Republicans’ strategy to try to win the 2010 and 2012 elections)

“Social Security” (one of the oldest and most effective Democratic phrases and program names)

“undocumented worker” (progressive phrase, not widely used by Democratic Party establishment, describing an illegal immigrant)

“Up with hope, down with dope” (anti-drug message from Rev. Jesse Jackson c.1980s)

“War on Women”

“we can’t drill our way to energy independence”

“Yes we can” (“Si se puede” in Spanish) (candidate Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign message, also used by United Farm Workers and its founder Cesar Chavez)

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