The Rhetoric of the Right
Dr. David George
How has the rhetoric of the political right in the USA affected public discourse? Dr. George’s approach to answering this question was to look at the change in how words were used in a traditional left-leaning publication, The New York Times, between 1900 and 2010. If the rhetoric of the right had no impact, the use of words should be relatively consistent over time. Dr. George tracks key words or phrases like capitalism, government, regulation, and taxes to see whether the words attached to them have changed. As just one example, early in the period of study, the word government most typically had the word “our” attached to it. “Our government” implied that that the government represented the public and that the public, or at least the voters, were connected to the government. The impact of the rhetoric of the right is seen, particularly since 1980, as government is no longer “ours.” Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” The influence of Reagan and the right meant that even The New York Times portrayed the government far less favorably than is implied by the word “our.” The extensive data on word usage presented in table form allow the reader to examine how usages changed with their own interpretations of US culture and politics.