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As I idly eyeballed the bookshelves, my glance fell upon Safire’s Political Dictionary. What an apt subject for this week, as the US presidential election campaign goes into its final month.

sachem – a political leader [Safire]; a party “boss”
[taken from a Native American language in sense of “a chief of a Native American tribe or confederation, especially an Algonquian chief”]
    But it was different when he [Dukakis] came back, in ’82. For one thing, he went around the whole state and apologized. He hadn’t listened. … [But] when got back in, he scheduled meetings just to listen. … When he set out to do something, he consulted: called in the legislative sachems and asked-what did they think?
    – Richard Ben Cramer, What It Takes: The Way to the White House
 
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Acording to Safire, the word comes from our local Indian tribe, the Narragansets, and was used by Tammany Hall in the 1870s to refer to that group's leaders, including its Grand Sachem, during their pow-wows, or meetings..


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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    She’ll get the post-debate bounce, and put her right back up there on the hustings as an effective campaigner.
    – Salon Magazine, Oct. 2, 2008 (referring to Palin)
hustings (in phrase the hustings) – the campaign trail
[from Old Norse hustling, literally “house meeting”: hús house + thing ‘assembly, parliament'.]

Safire says, “In Scandinavian countries the word thing is currently the name of legislative assemblies and courts of law.” Also, “before written ballots became the law in England in 1872, the husting was the place from which candidates for Parliament addressed the electorate.”

I’d planned for this word to be part of this “US Politics” theme. But to my surprise, it is much more common in the Commonwealth countries than in the US.

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pork barrel – a congressional appropriation to send benefits to a specific locale, made win votes for its congressman
[pork barrel: orig. “a barrel for storing pork”; later “a supply of money”]
    After promising unprecedented openness regarding Congress' pork barrel practices, House Democrats are moving in the opposite direction as they draw up spending bills for the upcoming budget year.
    – FOXNews, June 3, 2007
 
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Believe "pork barrel" means wasteful spending in general. Perhaps a quarter of federal spending is pork.

"Earmarks" are specific, targeted "pork." Democrat Sen. Robert Byrd is the king of earmarks.

To quote from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/20...AR2006091901441.html :

"To wit, the Robert C. Byrd Federal Building and Courthouse in Charleston (not to be confused with the Robert C. Byrd Federal Building and Courthouse in Beckley); the Robert C. Byrd Expressway (not to be confused with the Robert C. Byrd Freeway or the Robert C. Byrd Bridge); the Robert C. Byrd National Technology Transfer Center at Wheeling Jesuit University (not to be confused with the Robert C. Byrd Science and Technology Center at Shepherd University or the Robert C. Byrd Technology Center at Alderson-Broaddus College)"


RJA
 
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Not restricted to Politics, but here are some New Words for Roget
 
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Believe "pork barrel" means wasteful spending in general. Perhaps a quarter of federal spending is pork.

It may have taken on the connotation of wasteful, but I think wordcrafter's definition is correct. One person's waste is another's public works.
 
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One person's waste is another's public works.



As a member of the Water & Sewer maintenance crew once said, "You folks call it sewage, but it's our bread n butter."
 
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A key part of pork barrel politics is logrolling, classically defined as “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

logrolling – legislators’ trading of votes (or influence), to pass each others’ projects
(also, like trading of praise among artists, critics, authors, academics etc.: “You write a glowing blurb for my book, and I’ll write one for yours.”)
    But in the logrolling culture of Washington, the solution to wasteful, unjustified government spending is more wasteful, unjustified spending.
    – Washington Times, May 18, 2008

    Literary critics, reviewers, and the incestuous art of logrolling
    – Times, Oct. 17, 2007 (headline)
P.S.: according to Safire:
1) The above "classic definition" is attributed to Simon Cameron, who served as Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War.
2) Scholars have traced this term back as far as 1809. (That would antedate OED's date of 1823.)

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wedge issue – a sharply divisive political issue, that one side can use to disaffect and “split off” some supporters of the opponent, to “drive a wedge” into his coalition
[a disapproving term . Hence, a “wedge issue” is always something raised by the other guy, not by your guy.]
    Affirmative action is indeed a wedge issue. But this wedge has not just divided Democrats. It has also has badly split the GOP
    – USA Today, Sept. 22, 2008

    [a strategist’s comment:] "Truthfully, there are very few single-issue voters. If you lost your job and are in danger of losing your house, are you going to vote on who is going to fix the economy or on a single wedge issue?"
    – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Sept. 28, 2008
 
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The office of the U.S. Vice Presidency is almost entirely ceremonial, with very little power. Its occupants have called it “a fifth wheel to the coach" (Theodore Roosevelt), "as useful as a cow's fifth teat" (Harry Truman), and “not worth a "pitcher of warm spit" (John Nance Garner). (It’s reputed that “spit”, as reported, was not the word Garner actually used!)

So we rarely think of the Vice President, outside election season or crisis. Today’s term comes from a fictional Vice President who was so politically invisible and unimportant that he had to join a guided tour to get into the White House.

Throttlebottom – an invisible non-entity of a Vice President¹
[from Vice President Alexander Throttlebottom, in the 1931 musical Of Thee I Sing, by George S. Kaufman and George and Ira Gershwin]
    Do We Really Need a Vice President? The Atlantic, July 8, 2004:
    [1940s] constitutional historian Lucius Wilmerding argued that the central problem of the vice presidency was, in the words of John Adams, that the Vice President "is nothing, but may be everything."² The Vice President's nominal post … "is not an office to inspire or satisfy the expectations of an ambitious mind." … Yet … the Vice President [may] rise to the presidency. … How to fill an office which no one but a Throttlebottom can want, with a man of the highest respectability, well known, and of established reputation throughout the United States?

    As Gore and now Cheney have demonstrated, the vice presidency is no longer the butt of jokes as a Throttlebottom job.
    – USA Today, Apr. 6, 2004

¹The few dictionaries giving this term say “a harmless incompetent in public office”. I’d say it’s specifically a Vice President. Also, he may be quite competent (he often is), but the point is he is stuck in a ceremonial role with no real function or power.
² This misquotes Adams. He actually said, “Gentlemen, I feel a great difficulty how to act. I am Vice President. In this I am nothing, but I may be everything.”
 
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The office of the U.S. Vice Presidency is almost entirely ceremonial, with very little power.

Not according to Dick Cheney.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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