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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Words of War, Words of Politics

In the past few days, some columnists have suggested Republicans are inciting violence because some of their political vocabulary derives from military language. But as I explained in The Art of Political Warfare:


Military concepts are inescapable because many political terms began their career in uniform. "Strategy" comes from the Greek strategeia, meaning "generalship." "Campaign," from the Latin campus ("field") started as a military term for an organized struggle taking place over a distinct period and aiming for a definite result. "Slogan" derives from the Scottish Gaelic sluagh ("army") and ghairm ("cry").


Gary Hart, who led Senator George McGovern's presidential campaign and later became a senator and presidential candidate himself, wrote in his book Right from the Start that the McGovern campaign “relied heavily on the classic insurgency technique of rousing the countryside -- the volunteers -- to beat the entrenched powers. Like most political techniques, this one is based on military principles; it is New England citizens with pitchforks and muskets against George III's troops.”


The Clinton campaign famously had a “War Room.” (Hillary Clinton thought up the name). Clinton strategists James Carville and Paul Begala wrote: “With so much riding on the first take, being aggressive is key. Or as we liked to say in campaigns, “It’s hard for your opponent to say much when your fist is in his face.”