Doubling down: The campaign clichés that tortured — and continue torturing

Guest Commentary
Dwight Harriman
Yellowstone Newspapers

It’s been a long, exhausting campaign season, leaving voters worn out and depleted of all political reserves.
Oh, not because of the battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Rather, because of the endless, tiring clichés on the television political talk shows we’ve had to endure.
Even though the election is over, we still have to keep listening to many of these clichés drilling down — more on that in a moment — into our brains.
Here is just a partial list, starting with those used endlessly leading up to the election:
• “Path to victory”: If I had to hear one more time in the weeks before the election how “Trump’s path to victory” was narrowing or, in the hours before the final count, how “Hillary still has a path to victory” I would’ve ground up the remote and eaten the shards.
• “Binary choice”: This phrase was used frequently by talk show hosts and their guests to sound sophisticated when talking about deciding between Clinton and Trump. All it means is a choice between two things, of course, but instead of simply saying, “Voters face a big decision between Trump and Clinton” they intoned loftily about how we faced a “binary choice.” Give me a break.
• “Surrogate”: This word was, and still is, used to describe an ardent supporter or spokesperson for Trump or Hillary. For example, a show host would say, “We have a surrogate for Trump here with us today, Jane Doe …” Use of this cliché is a head-scratcher because up until this election, “surrogate” always meant something akin to “lapdog.” But somehow this election season it was transformed into an acceptable synonym for supporter, as evidenced by the talk show guests’ puzzling acceptance of the distasteful moniker. Go figure.
And then there are the everyday clichés on the talk shows, used with nauseating frequency during the election season and now on any given Sunday thereafter, all of them employed to make hosts and guests sound cool:
• “To your point”: Normally an OK phrase to use when agreeing with or countering a fellow talk show guest (“And to your point, David, that wall is going to cost lots of money …”) but when recited with numbing frequency as a transition device from one point to another, it hurts the head.
• “At the end of the day”: If there was ever a cliché used to sound urbane, this is it. “At the end of the day, Trump will be Trump,” “At the end of the day, Clinton has to realize the role her email scandal played in this election, blah, blah, blah.” Makes you want the end of the day to hurry and get here so you don’t have to hear it anymore. 
• “Moving forward”: Typical usage is something like, “We don’t know what a Trump cabinet will look like moving forward,” but the phrase is getting used to the eye-rolling threshold. 
• “Optics”: The talk show circuit loves this word to describe an event that gives a bad impression. “When Trump was peddling his steaks and bottled water at the press conference, it was just really bad optics.” Why can’t they just say, “That didn’t look good?” Because they gotta sound cool.
• “Walk back”: As in, “Donald Trump is walking back his promise to prosecute Hillary Clinton.” It’s getting heavy use in Trump’s presidential preparations these days as a lazy journalistic shortcut for “reversing course” or “changing his mind.” Give it a rest.
• “Double down” and its annoying cousin, “drill down”: Used to express obstinate adherence to or repetition of a previous statement or position. Typical use: “Instead of apologizing for his remarks about Miss America, Trump doubled down on what he said,” or, “As the Democrats face post-election challenges, they are drilling down on their opposition to Trump.” Yeah, yeah. Just say they aren’t changing their position, and let us breathe sweet cliché-free air of freedom.
The election is over, but the pundits continue to torture us.
In fact, to your point, moving forward it looks like the optics of political talk show hosts and their guest surrogates won’t walk back doubling down on their clichés and will, at the end of the day, leave us with a binary choice: to quit watching them or not.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dwight Harriman is the news editor at The Livingston Enterprise. His email address is


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