Top 10 Words At Each National Convention Show Priorities

The language we use says a lot about us; the same is true of the political parties. The New York Times published an analysis of which words were used the most by each party at its national convention. A list of the top ten for each is a useful guide to help voters see whether Democrats or Republicans more closely reflect their own values.

The list for each is composed of the words were used the most AND were also used more often than by the other party. Of course, the top word for each was the name of their candidate, so these were not included:

Democrats: Republicans:
Jobs Business
Women Government
Families Leadership
Economy Better
Middle Class Success
Health God
Fight Ryan
Education Small Business
Forward Freedom
Medicare/Vote (tie) Debt

Back in 2003, when Democrats seemed to be a dying breed, linguistics professor George Lakoff talked to the UC Berkley News about how conservatives used language to dominate the political discussion. One reason this was true was because they invested millions and millions of dollars in things like TV stations to broadcast their message. But another reason is the difference in worldviews between conservatives and progressives.

According to Lakoff, “the progressive worldview is modeled on a nurturant parent family. Briefly, it assumes that the world is basically good and can be made better and that one must work toward that.” On the other hand, “the conservative worldview, the strict father model, assumes that the world is dangerous and difficult and that children are born bad and must be made good. The strict father is the moral authority who supports and defends the family, tells his wife what to do, and teaches his kids right from wrong. The only way to do that is through painful discipline.”

The words of the parties reflect these opposing worldviews. By paying attention to them, we can decide which is most likely to address our concerns, which is closest to our values. In 2003, 9/11 was still fresh in our minds and the world seemed like an exceptionally dangerous place. But that event and the fears it created don’t define us for all time. What do we need now? A punitive parent, or a helping hand? The question is basic to how we vote, and to how far we’ve come in the past decade.

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