Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show
Geoffrey Nunberg, Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show, PublicAffairs (July 2006)
Geoffrey Nunberg breaks new ground with this fierce and funny narrative of how the political right has ushered in a new world order, aided unwittingly by the liberal media. Democrats are well known for their "lousy bumper stickers," as Joe Klein puts it. As liberals wade through the semantics of "social security lockbox," "single payer," and other wonky locutions, the right has become harder, meaner and better at getting out the message: the estate tax became the more menacing "death tax" and a contentious education initiative was wrapped in the comforting (and memorable) blanket of "No Child Left Behind." But Nunberg shows that the real story is more subtle than just a bumper sticker war. Conservatives' main goal wasn't to win voters over to their positions on healthcare, education, or the environment. They had a much more dramatic ambition. By changing the meaning of words like "values," "government," "liberal"; "faith," and "freedom," conservatives have shifted the political center of gravity of the language itself to the right. "Whatever our politics," Nunberg observes, "when we talk about politics nowadays, we can't help using language that embodies a conservative world-view."