That word usually gets a bad rap in public life; it's never a compliment to call somebody a naysayer. So Democrats obviously meant to put Republicans on the defensive when they began to call them "the party of no" for opposing the stimulus bill in early 2009. As The New York Times' Ben Zimmer pointed out, that phrase has often been used by the party in power to label the opposition as obstructionist. Ronald Reagan branded Democrats as the "party of no" in 1988, Bill Clinton did the same thing to Republicans in 1994, and Tom Delay turned the phrase back on Democrats in 2005.Here's the part Rush played:
What was different this time is that after some early defensiveness, a lot of Republicans embraced the label and even ratcheted it up a notch. "We're not just the party of no," Rush Limbaugh said, "We're the party of hell, no!" — and Republican leaders quickly adopted the line. That extra word shifted the meaning of the phrase — it no longer suggested just opposition to particular bills and programs but unapologetic and resolute defiance.Rush stopped his playing of the clip there, but it continued like this:
That stance clearly resonated with a lot of voters.
"No" has a great power to bring people together, precisely because it doesn't have to be pinned down. A child has a much harder time mastering "yes," which is always the response to a specific prospect — "Do you need to go potty?" Whereas the child's first "no" comes earlier, as a pure eruption of willful refusal. And the word retains that capacity, even as we learn to intone it to convey despair, anger, defiance, fear, astonishment, disappointment or resignation.And that's how NPR sees you voters: You're children. You're resisting potty training. Your Tea
That's what makes these choruses of negativity so hard to read, whether they're coming from unhappy voters or tired preschoolers in full shutdown. Everybody is sounding the same plaintive note, but it isn't as if there's any single juice flavor that will make them all happy again.Hard to read?! Is conservatism a foreign language to Nunberg and the NPR slow-listeners stuck in traffic? Juice flavor? It would be a punch line for me to call that a punch line — juice ≈ punch — but why is that a punch line? Maybe Nunberg plied his intellectually inert brats with juice — I'll get grape, because grape is a little more favorite — but what does that mean about what he (and NPR) think government is supposed to do? It's supposed to give us yummy things to make us feel good (and compliant). No wonder he can't read these choruses of negativity.