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Words of Elections and Voting

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November 01, 2004, 23:00
wordcrafter
Words of Elections and Voting
My spouse and I are on opposites sides of the US presidential election and, as they say, politics makes (es)strange(d) bedfellows. I shall be glad when tomorrow's voting ends, and the election is in the hands of the lawyers.

This week, could our theme be anything other than "Elections and Voting"? We will reflect on psephology.

psephology – the study of political elections.
[the root is Greek psephos, pebble, or ballot; the ancient Greeks used pebbles for voting]
November 02, 2004, 11:26
sigg
I was thinking about the pse prefix. The word pseudo came to mind.

pseudology - the study of fake studies

From there, it was a short leap to:

Suephology - the study of political elections once the votes have been cast.

Wink
November 02, 2004, 14:19
jheem
I was thinking about the pse prefix

Err, it's not really a prefix in Greek. Pseudein 'to lie' and psephos 'pebble' are not related to one another. No more than English crowd and crop.
November 03, 2004, 14:32
Kalleh
I just read about a political term today that I hadn't heard before: Nixonian - that is, ordering IRS audits of people on a party's "enemy list."
November 03, 2004, 22:27
wordcrafter
October surprise – an unexpected newsworthy act, or revelation, that is deliberately timed to hit the news just before an election so as to maximize its impact on the electionYou can find incorrect definitions. The key point is deliberate manipulation of the timing of the unexpected news. (If a candidate suffers a heart attack just before the vote, it is a unexpected and newsworthy but not an October surprise.) The timed surprise need not be by a candidate or his party: it can be by the press or by outsiders (e.g., Osama bin Ladin). OED says an October surprise must be a "popular" act to attract voters, but usage shows that the term can also refer to a negative slam on the opposition.

The term came into widespread use in the Carter/Reagan election (1980), concerning a possible October surprise release of the long-term hostages held by Iran. But William Safire reports that the term was used among the Nixon team in the 1968 Nixon/Humphrey election. Safire credits Bill Casey with coining the term in 1968, and with bringing it to broader attention in 1980.

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November 04, 2004, 20:57
wordcrafter
soft money – political donations made in such a way as to avoid federal regulations or limits, as by donating to a party organization rather than to a particular candidate or campaign.

As the limits change, so do the techniques to circumvent them. When you could no longer freely contribute to a candidate, you simply instead contribute to the political party (first quote). So they limited the latter – and now contributions are made special groups, supposedly independent of the parties but with a point to make (second quote). Not a productive game, I'm afraid.
Question to our British readers. As I understand it, a pocket borough is one effectively controlled by a single political party (what we in the US would call a safe seat), and a rotten borough is one which, though it has shrunk to a tiny population, is allowed to elect a borough's full number of members of parliament.

Is that correct? The terms originated before election reforms of the early 1800s, but since they are still used in the UK (and the latter is used heavily in India) I gather that the old-style boroughs still exist, or the terms now have new meanings.
November 04, 2004, 23:02
Richard English
I have never heard of "pocket borough" although we do use "safe seat".

A "rotten borough" was one which, in spite of its unimportance (or even non-existence as anything more than a few trees) returned an MP. There are none now.


Richard English
November 05, 2004, 04:34
Robert Arvanitis
A deep throat alleges a plot to gerrymander the entire Congress, but that's just so much spin...


RJA
November 05, 2004, 11:14
arnie
The two terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference.

With a pocket borough all the land was owned by one person. He was therefore able to put pressure on his tenants to vote the way he wanted them to, on pain of being evicted. Population changes at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution meant that some villages had practically disappeared, and the remaining few voters would sell their votes to the highest bidder. These were the rotten boroughs. Old Sarum, near Salisbury in Wiltshire, had 11 voters and returned two Members of Parliament. On the other hand, entire cities, such as Manchester, had no representation at all.

At one point, out of 405 elected MPs, 293 were chosen by less than 500 voters. The Reform Act of 1832 and later legislation abolished most rotten and pocket boroughs and spread parliamentary seats based on population. The introduction of the secret ballot helped prevent landowners controlling seats; electors as a result having the freedom to cast votes as they, not their landlord, wished.

Nowadays the phrase, "rotten borough" is sometimes used to describe a constituency where one particular party has such massive support that the election is effectively a formality. It is also used to describe local government with similar levels of support; councils and councillors who feel that they can do as they wish without answering to the electorate, safe in the knowledge that they will be returned to power.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
November 06, 2004, 17:02
wordcrafter
if-by-whiskey speechsouthern US regionalism: a speech coming down emphatically on both sides on an issue

From the days when any good southern politician had a speech of this sort at the ready, concerning his views on spiritus ferminti. Several such passages are of record, of which this is the best. Supposedly from a Mississippi legislator in 1958.
November 07, 2004, 01:08
neveu
quote:
With a pocket borough all the land was owned by one person. He was therefore able to put pressure on his tenants to vote the way he wanted them to, on pain of being evicted.

A history professor I had claimed that the argument made for allowing only property owners to vote in early America was the assumption that they would be able to influence the way their tenants voted, giving property owners votes in proportion to their wealth. Giving only property owners the vote, they argued, would reduce the political power of the very wealthy relative to the political power of the merely wealthy.
November 07, 2004, 06:41
jheem
concerning his views on spiritus ferminti.

Izzat one of them mint juleps one hears about out west? Ob. etym. :- julep < Arabic julab < Persian gulab 'rosewater' (< gul 'rose' + ab 'water', cf. Latin aqua). Many Indian restaurants in the States offer a dessert called gulab jamin (sort of doughnut holes in heavy syrup).
November 07, 2004, 09:46
Robert Arvanitis
Off the political track (or maybe not, considering the message)...

"Gul" recalls the Turkish saying: "Gul dikensez, cefa sefasiz, olmaz."

Meaning "Rose without thorn, pleasure without pain, impossible."


RJA
November 07, 2004, 21:55
wordcrafter
The color yellow can have negative associations. In medieval times yellow stood for treachery or treason. Thus paintings showing Judas showed him clothed in yellow; victims of the Spanish Inquisition victim were clothed for their heresy; and many governments required that Jews wear a yellow item, to brand them as betrayers of Jesus. Later, to be 'yellow' meant to be a coward. [1856, unkn. org.]

yellow dog – a contemptible person or, as an adjective, simply 'mean and contemptible.
. . . .[MW has only the adjective, while CompOED has only the noun.]
Mencken says that Abraham Lincoln "invented or introduced" this usage. In O'Henry's Memoirs of a Yellow Dog, the canine who speaks to you is no purebred, for he fondly recalls how his owner named him: "But what pleased me most was when my old man pulled both of my ears until I howled, and said: 'You common, monkey-headed, rat-tailed, sulphur-coloured son of a door mat, do you know what I'm going to call you?'"
[yellow-dog contract – an employment contract barring the employee from joining a union]

With that background, on to our political terms:
yellow dog democrat – an unswerving loyalist of the US Democratic party
blue dog democrat – an open-minded Democrat willing to support some conservative policies

Many decades In the US Civil War (1861-65), in which a Republican-party government defeated the eleven southern states which had seceded, those eleven states were a solid block for the Democratic party. (Ironically, today they are a solidly Republican.) Thus, in the eleven presidential elections from 1880 through 1948, those states voted 18 times 11 equals 198 times – and in only six instances did a state went Republican.

Five of those six instances were in 1928, when southern voters faced a dilemma: the Democratic nominee was a northerner; his views differed were "northern", and he was Catholic. (Until then, every major-party presidential nominee had been protestant.) Some Southerners defected, but many remained loyal to their party, their catch-phrase being, "I'd vote for a yellow dog if he ran on the Democratic ticket."

I am not clear whether the term originated in the 1928 election, or was simply popularized then. Most say that it was a compliment to loyalty, not a insult to mulishness. Nowadays the official blog of the Texas Democratic Party is Yellow Dog Blog.

In 1994 a group of Democratic congressmen, more fiscally conservative than their fellow Democrats, formed what they called the Blue-Dog Coalition. Credit for coining their name goes to former Democrat Rep. Pete Geren, of Texas, who said that the members have been "choked blue" by those extreme Democrats, from the left. Republicans had recently won control of congress, and the blue dogs tended to side with them on fiscal matters more than did more traditional Democrats. The coalition is a respected group today.


I've found no explanation why yellow dog means something worthless and contemptible. Could it come from the term "yaller dogs", long the name for the yellowish feral dogs of the southeast?

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November 09, 2004, 04:58
Caterwauller
Is this related to yellow journalism?


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
November 09, 2004, 05:06
Robert Arvanitis
Only if you take a jaundiced view....


RJA
October 30, 2012, 20:44
Kalleh
Back in 2004 we talked about an October Surprise. Wordcrafter says:
quote:
You can find incorrect definitions. The key point is deliberate manipulation of the timing of the unexpected news. (If a candidate suffers a heart attack just before the vote, it is a unexpected and newsworthy but not an October surprise.) The timed surprise need not be by a candidate or his party: it can be by the press or by outsiders (e.g., Osama bin Ladin). OED says an October surprise must be a "popular" act to attract voters, but usage shows that the term can also refer to a negative slam on the opposition.
Yet, I've heard comments that this super-storm could be the October Surprise. I suppose it could be considered one if something goes wrong, and the press or candidate take advantage on it. What do you think?
November 01, 2012, 20:00
bethree5
Glad to take this on from ground zero-NJ. As a family we were very fortunate; our 'suffering' (disruptions of routines; no gas to return to work on; no power & maybe still not for another week-- cold, cold, cold) is nothing compared to the heartbreaking losses of many. What I have found is that others' losses take on immediacy when they are happening in places you have lived in & visited & loved. The way this has affected me politically is, for example: I suddenly adore Chris Christie & even a bit Mayor Bloomberg as they lead us through the crisis. I find it suitable, presidential & heart-warming that Obama tours our areas & refrains from jumping back into the polarized pre-election fray.

It's harder to imagine how this unfoldment affects the greater electorate. I would like to think some benefit accrues to the president simply for being presidential. Yet when I listen to the rabble on AM radio (my only steady connection to society at the moment), I can't help feeling-- much as I hope this is not true-- that there is a great middle America out there who doesn't give a damn what happens on the East Coast & may even be experiencing, well, Kalleh, you know... shall we call it schadenfreude?
November 01, 2012, 21:23
Kalleh
Well, instead, let's call it epicaricacy, okay? Wink

Seriously, I can assure you that we are all talking about it outside of the east coast and feeling very, very sad for all of you. On elevators people are watching the screens of the devastation and saying how awful it must be. Wall Street Journals and NY Times are being bought instead of the Chicago Tribune, and people are reading about how you're getting through it all. Honestly, there is no epicaricacy here. Nor was there in Seattle when my daughters and I were there last weekend. They, too, were waiting to see how bad it was and hopeful that things would calm down quickly.

BTW, as a rabid liberal, I, too, have been impressed with Governor Christie. Good for him for putting the people first and politics second.
November 02, 2012, 20:59
bethree5
Thanks, Kalleh! AMradio is such a cesspool. Glad to know there are those who focus on what's happening on the ground.
November 20, 2012, 17:02
Proofreader
In my house, an October Surprise is the fact that we're still having turkey leftovers from 2011.


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.