AP Government & Politics – Political Jargon

inside the beltway
a phrase used to describe matters that are important to U.S. government officials
policy wonk
a person who is an expert in politics, overly concerned with policy details
flip-flop
a sudden, unexpected change in a policy, value, or belief
John Q. Public
a common name used by the U.S. to describe a hypothetical member of the public or ¨common man¨
kooks
a person regarded as strange, eccentric, or crazy
fourth estate
the media news or press
pundit
an expert who is frequently called on to give their opinion to the public
hack
a negative term to describe someone who is part of a political party, but is more interested in personal victory than the interest of the public
daisy spot
one of the most controversial political advertisement aired on television during Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 presidential election. It was only aired once but it is considered an important factor in Johnson’s landslide victory and an important turning point in political/advertising history.
out of the loop
being unaware of information known to only a privileged few, not being informed or included in a process or discussion
face time
a brief appearance on television, or a face-to-face meeting with a politician in order to convince them to vote a certain way
movers and shakers
powerful people who initiate events and influence people
rank and file
a term for the ordinary members of an organization as opposed to its leaders
card carrying
strongly identifying as belonging to a group or party (think the Tea Party within the Republican Party)
dixiecrat
a short-lived segregationist political party in the U.S. in 1948 that consisted of Southern Democrats who wanted Jim Crow laws and white supremacy
dyed-in-the-wool
a phrase used to describe a person’s unchanging political beliefs or opinions
closing ranks
when members of a political party make an effort to stay united, especially in order to defend themselves from severe criticism or face a challenging situation
bleeding hearts
a person considered too liberal in their political beliefs (want government assistance such as HealthCare, food stamps, etc.)
maverick
an unorthodox or independent-minded person
big tent
a political approach in which a party claims to be open to a wide spectrum of constituents and groups
backbencher
a member of Parliament who does not have cabinet rank, and who therefore sits in one of the back rows of the legislature (does not have much influence)
power base
the area or group of people that provides the main support for a particular political candidate

ex. During Obama’s 2008 election, a record amount of African Americans joined together to elect the first African American President of the United States.

split ticket
voting for candidates of different parties for different offices at the same election
tweedledee & tweedledum
literary characters used to attack the similarity of two parties by those who claim to see not a “dime’s worth of difference”. (two individuals or groups that are hard to tell apart)
amen corner
a group that gives unwavering support
bubba factor
when people vote for a political party over another because the opposing party is worse
ballot stuffing
electoral fraud where someone who should only have one vote, submits multiple ballots
balanced ticket
when a political candidate picks a running mate, usually of the same political party, in hopes of appealing to a wider range of constituents
dream ticket
a perfect combination, especially a combination of two politicians working for one another in a party, and are likely to win because they have the support of many different groups
waffle
to talk foolishly or without purpose and being unable to make any clear decision without changing their mind
mudslinging
making malicious charges and trying to win an advantage over an opponent by referring to their negative aspects rather than emphasizing one’s own positive attributes or preferred policies (usually in the form of a political campaign)
weasel words
words or statements that are intentionally ambiguous or misleading (avoiding to fess up to inconvenient truths or not answering a proposed question)
pressing the flesh
a phrase used to describe meeting people in person, particularly at an event where you can network with other people
dark horse
a little-known person or thing that emerges to prominence, especially in a competition of some sort OR a contestant that seems unlikely to succeed but ends up winning
stalking horse
a political candidate who runs only in order to provoke the election and thus allow a stronger candidate to come forward
hat in the ring
a phrase used to describe doing something that makes it clear you want to compete with other people, especially to compete for a political position
brokered convention
a situation in U.S. politics in which there are not enough delegates won during the presidential primary and caucus elections for a single candidate to have a pre-existing majority, during the first official vote for a political party’s presidential candidate at its nominating convention
spin
a form of propaganda, achieved through providing a biased interpretation of an event or campaigning to persuade public opinion in favor or against some organization or public figure
shoo-in
a person or thing that is certain to succeed, especially someone who is certain to win a competition
slate
a list of candidates for nomination
advance man
a man who travels ahead to arrange the details of scheduling, publicity, security, and other matters connected with a trip or public appearance, especially one to be made by a politician or dignitary
stump
a place or occasion for public speaking (as for a cause or candidate)
eastern establishment
the people and institutions in the north-eastern U.S. that have traditionally had great economic and political power in the country
fat cat
a political term originally describing a rich political donor, also called an angel or big money man
bork
to attack (a candidate or public figure) systematically, especially in the media
coattails
refers to the tendency for a popular political party leader to attract votes for other candidates of the same party in an election. (the party of a victorious presidential candidate will often win many seats in Congress as well)
bean counter
a bureaucrat that acts as an accountant for the government
blooper
a clumsy mistake
boon doggle
work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value, any project on which government funds are wasted through inefficiency or political favoritism (uses government funds to stimulate the economy)
cattle show
a public gathering of presidential candidates during a primary
egghead
intellectual; a highbrow. When used derogatively, an effete, bookish person with intellectual pretension; when used affirmatively, a person with brains
red tape
a series of actions or complicated tasks that seem unnecessary but that a government or organization requires you to do in order to get or do something
trial balloon
information sent out to the media in order to observe the reaction of an audience
the hill
local language for Capitol Hill, an area of D.C. where you can find the United States Capitol, office buildings for the Senate and the House, and the Supreme Court building
guns or butter
a phrase used to show how economists describe the trade-off between a nation’s mix of producing military and civilian goods (as an economy produces military spending, it must reduce its production of food, and vice versa)
cloakroom
locations where politicians, members of Congress meet outside of formal meeting rooms where they can socialize, eat and sleep without leaving the building
curmudgeon
an older politician like a Senator who has seniority and is older than most others
demagogue
a politician who supports popular fears and ignorance of the public in order to gain support from them
entitlement
those benefits guaranteed by law to individuals by the federal government, such as social security
devolution
political theory of returning power to the state
dead cat bounce
gaining less support than one should for announcing a new political initiative