When talk radio hosts say that Republicans need to nominate a conservative, it may seem as though they are trying to offer substantive analysis, but I am not sure that’s the case. At this point, the word is as much a dodge as it is a declaration. Invoking it creates the illusion of agreement as most everyone in the audience nods their heads. Mega-dittoes, Rush, of course we should nominate a conservative. But these listeners will soon be deeply at odds about contested primaries. Absent this word, conservative, Limbaugh and commentators like him would be forced to describe what they want in a nominee with some precision, rather than leaning on a verbal crutch that enables them to avoid specific claims.
The headline of this piece suggests that the right should make “conservative” a taboo word. By that, I don’t mean that they should abandon or stigmatize conservatism.
I mean that they should take a lesson from the board game Taboo by Hasbro. In that game, a player draws a card. On it is a word like carrot. The challenge is to get one’s teammates to guess the word without saying vegetable or orange or rabbit or root. It forces one to come up with formulations like, “a foodstuff that grows in the ground, is tapered in shape, tastes crisp, and can be made into juice.”
My notion is that if Republicans would declare the word “conservative” to be taboo, at least for discussions of the 2016 GOP primary, they’d get more clarity…