The Death of Euphemisms in American Politics


Judah Stockdale, Staff Writer

During the era of segregation, after slavery was abolished, American politicians started using more euphemisms. Political euphemisms are intended to have a double meaning to appeal to both moderate and reactionary members of a political party. Even if you oppose segregation, you might not oppose “states’ rights”; in other words, a candidate can elicit votes from both the moderates and the extremes of their party. This had been a common pattern (mostly used by right leaning individuals) throughout American politics.

Euphemisms are only used if the idea hiding behind the euphemism is not socially acceptable. Up until recently, these were some common euphemisms: “protecting jobs from illegal immigrants,” “the war on terror,” and “the war on drugs.” The real meanings of these euphemisms are, respectively, keeping Mexicans out of the US, islamophobia, and incarcerating black people. Up until the 2016 election, these euphemisms were a way for political right leaders to communicate with both their moderate and reactionary followers.

In 2016, Donald Trump decided that he would no longer need to hide certain ideas behind euphemisms because his followers would vote for him anyway. Instead of “protecting our jobs from illegal immigrants,” Trump said that Mexicans are sending us their rapists and thieves. Instead of “the war on terror,” he used muslim registry. All of this means that either people are ignorant and apathetic, or that people on the right are closer to the reactionary extreme than people on the moderate left. Either way, should this continue the right will continue to grow in extremist ideologies.