Election 2012

The DNC's Catchphrase Politics

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CHARLOTTE—"Let's move America forward." In the last few days at Democratic National Convention I've already heard some variation on this line so many times it's beginning to resemble one of those insufferable Mike Myers catchphrases from the 1990s. Yeah baby! As campaign slogans go, it's the emptiest since "Believe in America," or maybe "hope and change."

The relentless recitation of "forward," as if the Democratic party has been suddenly overtaken by Keynesian drum majors, is only the most prominent of the slogans playing on repeat here at the DNC. The lineup also includes a chant about "growing the economy from the middle out, not the top down." That's frequently paired with the White House approved refrained that a second term Obama would create "an economy built to last." Other speakers have declared that "we're all in this together."

Democrats don't merely employ catchphrases to describe their own qualities. They also employ them to describe Republicans, who we're told want to leave people "on their own" and give tax cuts to "millionaires and billionaires."

Often these slogans are strung together, as in Elizabeth Warren's speech, which, in the space of three paragraphs declared that "we know that the economy doesn't grow from the top down, but from the middle class out and the bottom up," that Mitt Romney "wants to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires," and that the Republican vision can be summed up as, "I've got mine, the rest of you are on your own." Others prefer to play mix and match, like North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, who told convention goers that President Obama has a "plan to keep building an economy that grows from the middle not, not the top down. That's what we need. That's how we'll keep moving forward together." The fill in the blanks nature of so many speeches can resemble a particularly boring game of Mad Libs at times. And many of the speeches are roughly as meaningful.