Chris Roemer: Progressives look to Orwell to sell unpopular policies | COMMENTARY

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Progressives are driving the Democratic train these days, although my guess is their grip on the Democratic Party will loosen in the coming months as the midterms approach. Still, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and their aged compadres climbed aboard the progressive super liner looking for some sort of legacy as they meander toward retirement.

Some legacy. A never-ending and worsening pandemic, surging inflation, the humiliating debacle in Afghanistan, a ridiculously porous southern border, which grows more porous everyday, the utter failure of anti-police, pro-criminal policies, which have led to historically high rates of violent crime, a growing backlash to progressive excess on a range of social issues, and a bumbling, befuddled president who gives every impression he’s simply not up to the job. It seems for Republicans to succeed this year, they just need to get out of the way.


Heck, if progressives keep calling Joe Manchin an anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-poor racist, they may actually hand the Senate back to Mitch McConnell before the November midterms even get here.

Progressives are now demanding President Biden act unilaterally and impose large parts of Build Back Better by executive action. It’s an interesting position for a caucus that says it’s concerned about the “death of democracy.” Perhaps its members missed the day in social studies when it was explained the United States is not a monarchy. If Congress is unable to pass legislation, that legislation cannot simply be decreed into existence by the president.


Still, Democrats seem certain they’re on the right path, if only they can find the magic words that will convince the voting public to come along for the ride.

The left has a long history of successfully using Orwellian tactics to shape language in order to achieve its political aims. They’re still at it.

“Packing the Supreme Court” is now referred to as “depoliticizing the court.” Slate reporter Dahlia Lithwick suggested “systemic structural court reform,” arguing the term “court packing” created too much of a “branding problem.” Of course, what depoliticizing the court really means is placing judges on the bench who will ensure progressives are able to enact their policy agenda, which happens to be the very definition of politicizing the court.

It’s not just anyone who can come up with this nonsense. It takes years to cultivate a young mind so that it will readily accept this gibberish as reasonable, but only the truly gifted develop the aptitude to contrive new examples. It’s an art form. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a graduate degree offered somewhere in Orwellian Sophistry.

People have been crossing the southern border illegally for years. We used to call them “illegal aliens.” I was taken to task once for using that term because it implied the people crossing the border were from outer space.

Anyway, referring to them as “illegals immigrants” was soon banned, too, because it was argued there’s no such thing as “illegal people.” They then became “undocumented workers.” Today, they’re called, “migrants.” Each time the language changed, those who continued to use the old language were labeled, “anti-immigrant.”

Because they believe it’s not their policies that are unpopular, it’s just a messaging problem, progressives continue their desperate search for the right Orwellian phrase that will convince Americans what they want for the country is good and pure.

Whether it is or isn’t, I suppose, is a matter of opinion, but it has nothing to do with what those policies are called. Orwell knew artfully manipulating language has the power to shape public opinion on just about any topic. In his novel, “1984,” Orwell wrote, “There is no swifter route to the corruption of thought than through the corruption of language.”


He also wrote, “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces, and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”

Actually, that has the makings of a great college mission statement, doesn’t it?

Orwell also knew rewriting history is important if a political movement is going to succeed in controlling public thought. He said, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” It’s why progressives are so intent on promoting “The 1619 Project,” which attempts to place slavery at the very core of America’s founding. It’s why Christopher Columbus is now said to have been a genocidal psychopath, and it’s why every statue of anyone associated with the Civil War must come down. (A Confederate Orwellian might have preferred, “The War for Southern Independence.”)

Progressives understand the power of language better than the rest of us. Their policies may be clueless, but they’re not stupid.

I believe it was Robert Louis Stevenson who said, “We are all becoming Socialists without knowing it.” Only the artful manipulation of language can accomplish that.

By the way, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal is one of the progressives demanding Biden simply decree BBB into existence. She calls that a “whole-of-government approach.” Orwell would be proud.


Chris Roemer is a retired banker and educator who resides in Finksburg. He can be contacted at