The buzzwords of Al Sharpton.

Politics and policy.
July 7 2003 4:38 PM

The Buzzwords of Al Sharpton

How he spins the issues.

Al Sharpton

Slate is running several series of short features explaining who the 2004 presidential candidates are, what they're saying, and where they propose to take the country. The first series summarized their personal and professional backgrounds. This series analyzes their pet phrases, candidate by candidate. Today's subject is Al Sharpton.

Tax shift
Example: "I don't think that George Bush cut taxes. I think he shifted taxes. [His tax cut] has caused record state deficits to go untouched … which causes property taxes to be raised by states [and] causes sales tax to be raised. … What you need is a fair tax system that does not … end up shifting the burden to those that can afford it the least" ( Face the Nation, July 6, 2003).
What it means: Bush's tax cuts for the rich have led to tax hikes for the poor.
What it hides: Why are state deficits Bush's fault? P.S.: The rich pay higher property taxes.
Subtext: If this is class warfare, the other side started it.

Advertisement

Thermostat leaders
Example: "Dr. King said there are two types of leaders: There are thermostat leaders and thermometer leaders. Thermometers judge the temperature. Thermostats change the temperature. I intend to turn up the heat in America for the children, for working class people, for those that are ignored" (Children's Defense Fund forum, April 9, 2003).
What it means: Leaders who move public opinion.
What it hides: Heat doesn't come from a thermostat. It comes from a furnace—and I don't have one.
Subtext: Electability is a disqualification.

Constitutional right
Example: "If Charlton Heston can have a constitutional right to carry a rifle, why can't grandma have a constitutional right to health care—and therefore the pharmaceutical industry, and for that matter the medical services industry, have to be governed by a constitutional commitment to give Americans those rights?" (NPR's Morning Edition, June 13, 2003).
What it means: To guarantee entitlements, we must write them into the Constitution.
What it hides: The government doesn't pay for Heston's rifle.
Subtext: If the furnace is busted, we lefties might as well go crazy with the thermostat.

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

Hip-hop generation
Example: "The only way we can win this election is if we bring in the majority of Americans that are not even voting at all. I know those Americans. I've worked with them all my life: the disaffected, the seniors, the young people, the hip-hop generation" (South Carolina debate, May 3, 2003).
What it means: Young people.
What it hides: Most young people are either too young to vote or too young to care.
Subtext: I'm the only candidate who's fun to listen to.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 21 2014 9:18 AM Oh, Boy Prudie counsels a letter writer whose sister dresses her 4-year-old son in pink tutus.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:25 AM The Brilliant Fake Novels of Listen Up Philip
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 21 2014 9:39 AM The International-Student Revolving Door Foreign students shouldn’t have to prove they’ll go home after graduating to get a visa.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.