The trick to great rhetoric is to pick a word or phrase everyone likes and no one can possibly be against. Then, take that expression and be completely for it, daring anyone to challenge you.
President Barack Obama campaigned for "change." Change was such a good platform after eight years of George W. Bush that Senator John McCain decided it was his slogan, too. Abandoning McCain's initial "Country First" creed, he went with "Change is Coming" as he was marching toward the end of his campaign back to his senate seat. And who would have guessed, both placards were right: change did happen.
The vague word currently co-opted by Republicans as oratory ammo is "freedom." Republicans love freedom and its generous overuse. "It's clear Democrats have irreconcilable differences with Americans on health care. Dems want more government, Americans want more freedom," tweeted Junior Senator Jim DeMint about the Health Care Summit he was not invited to. Dems hate freedom, dude.
Minority leader, Rep. John Boehner, last November declared, "I came here to fight big-government monstrosities like this bill that dim the light of freedom." Insert Orange Glo joke here. The GOP has gone so far as to try and push their Health Care "Freedom" Plan, calling the 1993 Republican idea of mandatory coverage, now being discussed by the Democrats, unconstitutional.
Because if the Democrats agree with it, then it's not "freedom."
More proof "freedom" and its concept is becoming just an empty buzzword. Sarah Palin is for it. She told Sean Hannity on Fox News, "I'm such a believer in freedom and that's what the tea parties are all about."
What are they about? Everything American: freedom. You disagree with them, you disagree with freedom. They're against things and those things naturally are against freedom, the thing they're for.
You know who's against freedom? Anyone they put on a First Amendment protected picket sign.
What does "freedom" mean when Republicans say it? During the marathon C-SPAN filmed Health Care Summit at the Blair House last week, Rep. Paul Ryan (endorsed by Dick Armey's business boon "Freedom" Works) summed up the bait and switch behind the watchword best, "We don't think the government should be in control of all of this. We want people to be in control." Of course, the Grand Old Party's founding father, Abraham Lincoln, in his Gettysburg address described our Union as, "a government of the people, by the people, for the people." But now, according to Ryan it shouldn't be in control, but the people should?
The equivalent would be, "I don't want to live in Iowa, I only want to live in Des Moines, that's why we don't agree."
Really when freedom is invoked by the GOP it means liberty for corporations. Its big government getting out of the way, so big business can step up. The GOP wants Chevron, Haliburton and United Health Care to have more independence -- not the Joe Everyman, Six-Pack or Plumber they try to appeal to.
The opposite of freedom is not government. The opposite of freedom is not regulations for business. The opposite of freedom is not health-care reform. Just like the opposite of freedom is not having laws and a police force.
The real opposite of freedom, freedom for voters, consumers and the actual "we the people," is being fleeced. The opposite of freedom is being gouged by your credit card, denied by your health insurance and pick-pocketed by your bank. The opposite of freedom is being a Wal-Mart sharecropper and a Payday Loan serf. The opposite of freedom is being blackmailed by companies that are "too big to fail."
Yes, America is the land of the free ... and since the GOP had their way for eight years, it now comes with interest.
Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and the editor of FishbowlLA.com. Tina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.