Thursday, May 3, 2012

Slinging Mud: Two Centuries of Dirty Politics

Slinging Mud and Politics

Slinging Mud: Two Centuries of Dirty Politics
Friday, May 4
 12 p.m. (PT)/2 p.m. (Central)/ 3 p.m. (ET)
A Live & Online Broadcast
For Beyond 50's "History" talks, listen to an interview with Rosemarie Ostler.  She'll talk about mudslinging that's an American tradition as old as the republic.  Not everyone admired the Father of Our Country.  President Washington's enemies called him a chapskate, a hyena, a horse beater, a spoiled child, and a tyrannical monster, among other epithets.  Every era has its share of politically motivated insults.  You'll learn about memorable words and expressions from two centuries worth of going negative. 

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  History of Slinging Mud
Slinging Mud and Politics

As we head towards the upcoming presidential elections, Beyond 50 encourages you to tune in to the interview with Rosemarie Ostler, author of "Slinging Mud" that is a historical account of rude nicknames, scurrilous slogans, and insulting slang from two centuries of American politics. 

Acccording to Ostler, the mudslinging tradition is still going strong.  That's not surprising - electoral history show that it works!

Test your knowledge of the meanings of famous phrases from past presidential campaigns:

High muckamuck -  Although not necessarily political, high muckamuck was - and is - often applied sarcastically to politicians who need to be taken down a peg.  (1852 - 1868 During the Antebellum Period and the Civil War)
Loose Cannon - The phrase loose cannon faded in popularity after Roosevelt's day, but came back into vogue in the late 1970s as a metaphor for an unpredictable or out-of-control politician.  These days, the term is often used to refer to someone who can't be relied on to vote the party line.  (1904 Election of Theodore Roosevelt (Rep.) vs. Alton Parker (Dem.)
Lunatic Fringe - When Roosevelt coined lunatic fringe, lunatic was still a medical term for a mentally ill person.  Since the mid-twentieth century, the word is used only symbolically.  The lunatic fringe these days can be located on either the left or right edge of the political spectrum, depending on your point of view.  (1912 Election of Woodrow Wilson (Dem.) vs. William Taft (Rep.) vs. Theodore Roosevelt (Bull Moose) vs. Eugene Debs (Socialist))

Nervous Nellie - Nervous Nellie is often used to label those reluctant to go to war.  President George W. Bush also used the term in 2002, saying "There's a lot of nervous nellies at the Pentagon."  (1924 Election of Calvin Coolidge (Rep.) vs. John Davis (Dem.))
Boondoggle - In recent decades, the meaning of boondoggle has shifted slightly.  Now it often applies to congressional junkets, hometown pork projects, and similar expenditures of taxpayer money.  (1932 Election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Dem.) vs. Herbert Hoover (Rep.))
Card Carrying - Red terms have died out since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.  Card-carrying is still used, often humorously, to designate someone strongly identified with a particular group or set of ideas.  (1952 Election of Dwight D. Eisenhower (Rep.) vs. Adlai Stevenson (Dem.))

Drink the Kool-Aid - In recent years, drink the Kool-Aid often appears with an adjective, as in this phrase the October 6, 2002, New York Times Magazine: "People in this city were initially reluctant to drink the New Economy Kool-Aid."  (1976 Election of Jimmy Carter (Dem.) vs. Gerald Ford (Rep.))
Voodoo Economics - Although voodoo economics started out as a specific refernece to supply-side economics, it can now signify any economic policy that the speaker considers misguided.  (1980 Election of Ronald Reagan (Rep.) vs. Jimmy Carter (Dem.) vs. John Anderson (Ind.)
Chicken Hawk - In the 1960s, supporters of the Vietnam War were commonly referred to as hawks.  In the 1980s, a new breed of bird appeared - the chicken hawk.  Unlike hawk, chicken hawk is always an insult.  It implies that in spite of hawkish attitudes, a person is too chicken to fight.  (1980 Election of Ronald Reagan (Rep.) vs. Jimmy Carter (Dem.) vs. John Anderson (Ind.)

Soccer Moms, Waitress Moms, NASCAR Dad and Security Mom -
The voting blocs discussed during the 1990s were soccer moms - suburban women who spent their time driving their children to soccer games and other after-school activities - and waitress moms - blue-collar working women.  The 2004 election saw the NASCAR dad - a relative of the bubbas who enjoyed sotck car racing - and the security mom - a woman whose main concert was protecting her children from terroritsts.  (1992 Election of Bill Clinton (Dem.) vs. George Bush (Rep.) vs. Ross Perot (Ind.)
Lipstick on a Pig - (2008 Election of Barack Obama (Dem.) vs. John McCain (Rep.) The expression lipstick on a pig, meaning "to dress up an idea so it appears fresher or more appealing," first arose in the 1980s.  However, earlier versions of the same maxim have been around since the eighteenth century.

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