An Electoral Lexicon

With election cycles feeling like they're getting ever longer, it is understandable if by now you’re inured to the talk of politics. But consider one final message: the ultimate success of the Election depends just as much on how we discuss it as who we vote for. To perform merely the latter while excluding the former is to fulfill only a perfunctory civic duty. As quick as we may have been to vilify those who espouse different political ideologies than we do, dealing with our interlocutors respectfully and tolerantly is the only way to bridge divides and win the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens.

What steps can we take to ensure that our discourse is both civil and fruitful? The first step is to identify corrosive attitudes and ensure that we remove them from our debate. If others favor bellicose policies of needless armed conflict abroad, we can confront their chauvinist agendas. The policies and solutions that we and our chosen candidate champion must also be realistic - it is just as unhelpful to only offer a polemic as it is to promise misleading panacea. Above all, we must strive to excise every fallacy from consideration, no matter how comforting we may find it. If we hold to a gratifying falsehood, we will only be disappointed, and a constructive alternative will only be that much more difficult to realize.

Additionally, never be afraid to do your research or question suspicious ideas, no matter how popular they may be! Some may scoff at the suggestion their impressions are incorrect. You may even find that some people conflate “education” with “elitism” and suggest that “going with your head” (instead of your gut) is morally questionable. These voices are entitled to their opinions, but try not to listen. Learning more about the issues will lead to better understanding and help you feel more secure about your decisions.

So, as immediately gratifying as it is to trade verbal blows when discussing politics with a debate partner, doing so only leaves both parties emotionally exhausted and no closer to an agreeable resolution. By setting aside our differences, though, and distinguishing the true reformers from the mere demagogues, we will come that much closer to the consensus that builds positive, lasting change. The next time someone engages you with poll numbers, sound bites, and slogans, try countering with facts, issues, and solutions. When you treat them like an ally (just one with differing opinions) rather than an adversary, you might be surprised what kind of compromises you can come up with.

Inured: To be inured is to be so accustomed to something that you are almost completely unaware of it anymore. It’s more than just being resistant to something, though - you only become inured to something after constant, aggravating exposure to it makes you tune it out. At its core, being inured is a defense mechanism that uses tactics like avoidance or refusal to pay attention, which are usually the least productive approaches in politics. Problems only get solved and supporters won over when facing them directly, regardless of how long-standing the issue is.

Vilify: When you make your negative thoughts about someone known in no uncertain terms, and express them specifically to harm that person's reputation, you vilify them. Whether it is true or entirely fabricated, if you make a person out to be unscrupulous, you vilify them all the same. As easy as it is to vilify our political opponents, it doesn’t do much to help matters, because in the end we all have to come together to find common ground.

Espouse: To espouse is to cling to and reinforce a belief or perspective. If you’ve taken up a perspective so ardently that it becomes part of your identity, you’ve gone from simply holding it to espousing it. This is one of the most critical components of the political process, because if you don’t have a stance you can’t lobby for it. Before engaging in discussion with others, though, it is helpful to consider that for every belief you espouse, the people you debate with probably have views that are just as important to them.

Bellicose: If someone or something is martial or aggressive, they are bellicose. When describing a thing, bellicose shows a relation to war, and when applied to people, it illustrates their predilection or eagerness for it. Some say wars do have to be fought sometimes, but it’s troubling when someone actively seeks them out, so most of the time bellicose things and individuals are best avoided.

Chauvinist: A chauvinist is a person who is acutely biased toward thinking that a collective identity or group to which they belong is innately superior to other groups. Particularly, chauvinist is most appropriate when referring to a person exhibiting zealous favoritism toward their own country or nationality and, accordingly, showing prejudice against other ones. It is normal in politics, and even expected, to be proud of one’s own country, but it becomes toxic when it leads someone to look down on other ethnicities, genders, or other identities because of where they are from or who they are. If we want to be a tolerant and peaceful country, it’s best to eschew chauvinist attitudes altogether.

Perfunctory: Someone who fulfills or satisfies only the minimum requirements for something performs a perfunctory job. In fact, not only do they do the least work possible to still meet their obligations, but in most cases, their heart isn’t in it, and they give little thought to the condition or quality of their work. There is certainly a myriad of issues that elected officials must attend to, making it all too easy for them to make only perfunctory efforts to address them. That’s why after making our voices heard with our ballots, it is crucial to continue to speak out with emails, phone calls, and other direct lines of communication with them.

Polemic: A person, statement, or idea that postures itself in steadfast opposition to another is a polemic. The critiques contained within or voiced by them may be incisive and keen, but what makes something or someone a polemic is their intense aggressiveness and negativity. It’s good to make polemic contentions in the face of truly disastrous policies, but political progress is made by creating new actions rather than simply criticizing old ones.

Panacea: A panacea is a supposed universal treatment, solution, or cure to one or more problems. With a single unilateral measure, a panacea takes care of everything. As life experiences confirm, though, there are very few, if any, real panaceas, and in politics this is no different. When a prospective public servant proposes one, it pays to be skeptical.

Fallacy: A misconception, misstatement, or misleading detail are all examples of a fallacy. Whether intended to deceive or not, a fallacy is a falsehood that is taken commonly for a truth. It might seem counterintuitive in an age where information is a click away, but fallacies are even more prevalent today, especially in discussions of policy. Before we can hope to address the problems at hand with any degree of success, we all have to do our best to dispel fallacies.

Interlocutor: An interlocutor is a person with whom you are engaged in a discussion. To be an actual interlocutor, someone has to actually be a participant, making substantive replies to your points rather than just listening and nodding along. Without an interlocutor, you can’t debate, and if you can’t debate, you can’t test the solutions you envision. As daunting as it can be to enter such a heated context, debating with an interlocutor is the only way to do the process justice.

Demagogue: Someone who drives a wide swath of the public into a frenzy and promises them a vent for their innermost frustrations is a demagogue. While this individual need not be a political figure, they often are, and they command influence by pandering to peoples’ baser instincts rather than promoting substantive policy solutions. If there is one force that most assuredly derails constructive political discourse, it is the demagogue.

By using WinEveryGame, we hope we have saved you some time to figure out words. We hope you will use some of this time to go to a polling station. Thanks!