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Scanning my Twitter feed, I saw that Politico wrote about a shake-up at the Heritage Foundation. Here’s the lead:
The controversial president of The Heritage Foundation, former Sen. Jim DeMint, may soon be out of a job, following a dispute with board members about the direction of conservative think tank, according to three people with knowledge of the situation.
I stopped on the second word because overusing “controversial” is one of my journalistic pet peeves. Whenever a conservative personality, bill, or issue is mentioned by the mainstream press, controversial is the go-to adjective. Meanwhile, a Democratic pol or proposal is described as “historic,” “bold,” or “sweeping.” It’s a subtle difference, but the adjective used is a handy way to position a subject as negative or positive.
Curious, I popped over to Google News and learned that the word “controversial” results in “about 23,700,000 results.” A few examples from the first page:
Technically, if one person disagrees with the new Grandville, MI pet store, you could call it controversial. But at this point, I assume the AP Stylebook defines “controversial” as “something the author doesn’t like.”
Democratic Rep. Jesus Rubalcava, angered over passage of the controversial school-voucher style legislation last week, wrote on social media he wanted to throat-punch its sponsor, Republican Sen. Debbie Lesko.
Vouchers are controversial, but the threat of physical violence is fine.
Congress is considering options to soften a controversial centerpiece of the House Republicans’ tax plan — a step that might mean smaller tax cuts for corporations — as President Donald Trump begins the process of crafting a tax overhaul plan.
Tax cuts for corporations are controversial, but their current high rate isn’t.
With the stroke of a pen, President Donald Trump reinstated a controversial rule that blocks foreign aid for family planning services.
Known as the “Mexico City policy” or the “Global Gag Rule,” the policy bars foreign aid or federal funding for international programs that provide abortions — or even information about the procedure.
The Mexico City policy is controversial, even though 83 percent of Americans support it.
Now let’s look at the other side’s actual controversial positions:
The Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) is a sweeping healthcare reform legislation enacted in 2010.
Former President Barack Obama signs the Affordable Health Care for America Act on March 23, 2010. The historic bill was passed by the House of Representatives after a 14-month political battle that left the legislation without a single Republican vote.
[Zelizer] cites the notorious tea party outburst against the Affordable Care Act — “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!” — as evidence that conservatives today accept the fruits of the Great Society, even if they don’t realize it. His more fundamental point is that it’s always a struggle to enact bold legislation, which becomes possible in historical moments created by much broader forces than the political genius of a few individuals.
So the next time you see a news story reporting on a “controversial school choice bill,” translate it to the “sweeping, historic, and bold school choice bill” to reduce your blood pressure.