In last November’s elections, Democrats swept into state and national offices on a wave of public discontent with Republicans. Yet nearly a year later, the approval rating of the Democrat-controlled Congress is hovering somewhere between “George W. Bush” and “murder.” Even Russ Feingold, Wisconsin’s liberal golden boy, is saddled with an 18% approval rating.

This would signal that Democrats have some work to do to in the 2008 elections to attract new voters. In order to help them do so, I have put together a simple guide they can use to teach prospective voters how to talk like a Wisconsin liberal. Kind of a dictionary of Democrat vernacular. Democrats can either thank me via e-mail or just send me a check for aiding their recruitment effort.

Here goes:

“Choice:” The concept of “choice” is a cornerstone of Wisconsin liberal thought. In fact, it helps to constantly discuss how important “choice” is to the fundamental freedoms we enjoy. Choice is crucial to democracy – except, of course, in the following relatively insignificant areas: Where you send your kids to school, how high your taxes are, what type of health care you want, what kind of gas you put in your car, what size house you can build, what kind of contraception your kids get, how much food what you can eat, what kind of car you can drive, and where you can smoke, to name a few.

“Special Interest:” The extent to which an entity in Wisconsin is a “special interest” is directly proportional to the amount that group advocates for lower taxes and private sector job stimulation. “Special interests” in Wisconsin include Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the National Rifle Association, oil companies, restaurants, farms, and insurance companies. Not included on the list of special interests are teachers unions, labor unions, universal health care advocates, trial lawyers, environmental groups, or Indian tribes.

“Karl Rove:” Like human Tabasco sauce, Karl Rove’s name can be sprinkled on any normal conversation to spice it up to your liking. Generally, the state of your life is the result of Rove’s political machinations – and it’s your duty to alert everyone else in the restaurant of this fact. Just the mention of Rove’s name makes whatever you’re talking about controversial. Other options: Dick Cheney, Halliburton, WMC, incest.

“Cut:” If you think “cutting” funding for something means “spending less than you did before,” then you’re a slave to that “old math” they probably taught when students had to go out and kill their own lunches. In fact, any time you increase funding for something, but not as much as someone wants, you can call it a cut. Similarly, if your internet blind date says she looks like Eva Longoria but turns up looking like Natalie Portman, you are obligated to complain bitterly. It sounds strange, but you’ll thank me for it. It is better to be consistent than sensical.

“La Follette:” Regardless of what topic you’re covering, you can drop the name of famous progressive “Fighting Bob” La Follette into your discussion, and it suddenly makes perfect sense to Wisconsin liberals. You can say things like “this banana smoothie is definitely within the La Follette tradition,” and liberals will nod as if they know exactly what you mean. Usually used as an excuse for a complete government takeover of something. The fact that La Follette used to be a Republican is more fodder for people who refuse to concede differences between vernacular between centuries (La Follette was also probably fairly gay, but in the 1909 sense.)

In fact, the name “La Follette” is still so powerful in Wisconsin, it can still get you elected statewide if you’re a nut job who advocates for things like limiting the number of children families can have.

“Lifelong Republican:” “Lifelong Republican” is a status given to old men who may have at one point voted for Ronald Reagan, but now advocate for liberal causes like gay marriage or universal health care. Spending your entire life contributing money to Democrats does not prevent you from being identified as a “lifelong Republican.” Being this kind of “lifelong Republican” gets you free and unfettered access to the media, as reporters are really only interested in Republicans who criticize other Republicans. Popular quotes tend to be “what happened to the Republican party I once knew?” followed by “where am I, and who ate my oatmeal?”

“Domestic Partner Benefits:” Lack of domestic partner benefits is now the only reason people leave the State of Wisconsin for other employment, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. When Prince Fielder is playing for the Yankees in three years, it will most likely because of the Brewers’ domestic partner policy. Even if your new job is paying you twice as much, you just issue a press release saying you’re leaving because of the lack of domestic partner benefits in Wisconsin (even though any employer can offer them), and you can sit back and watch the newspapers hyperventilate. In fact, you should use this tactic as much as possible – if you want to take a three-hour lunch today, just stand up and tell your boss that you are protesting the lack of domestic partner benefits at your company. He will likely just nod and say “oh…. Okay.” There’s absolutely no downside to this strategy, other than the fact that you may start to get Valentine’s Day cards from the quiet guy in the copy room.

“Medicinal Marijuana:” Marijuana.

“Global Economy:” This is a term generally used by people who have no idea how the “global economy” actually works, but want to sound like they do. Often used as an excuse to fund the University of Wisconsin System at higher levels, so the students who manage not to drink themselves out of school can compete in the “global economy.” (To most, this means being able to bong both German and Mexican beers at equal speed.) People who use this term don’t realize that for students to truly compete in the “global economy,” they would have to be willing to sew underwear together for 15 cents an hour and eat dirt sandwiches during their 30-second breaks.

“Religion:” Despite the fact that religious people often oppose the Iraq War, spend hours helping the poor and unfortunate, and often advocate for expanded health care, you shouldn’t let these positive stereotypes get in the way of your disdain for these Jesus-Smoochers. Acknowledging these facts almost makes religious people seem like complex individuals. After all, thousands of them get together every Sunday to teach their blind followers lessons like: only have kids when you’re married, don’t steal, lie, or cheat, and treat others with respect and dignity. Clearly they must be stopped – otherwise, it’s just a matter of time before you lose your constitutional right to watch at work.

“Campaign Finance Reform:” Being an advocate of Campaign Finance Reform in Wisconsin means never having a thought go unpublished in the state’s newspapers. It also means believing that candidates calling each other “crapweasels” will somehow cease doing so when their campaigns are financed with taxpayer money. Furthermore, you must believe that it is good for “democracy” for campaign spending to be cut to the point where none of the voters have actually heard of any of the candidates.

“Property Tax Relief:” At first blush, “property tax relief” may sound similar to “holding down property taxes.” But that’s just silly, and you should be ashamed of yourself for being so naive. In actuality, the only way we can reduce the property tax burden is to raise income taxes and send them back to local governments, which is supposed to “buy down” property tax increases – even though the total level of taxation goes up. This is what happened in the mid ‘90s, when the state spent $1 billion to buy down school property taxes. Fortunately, property taxes have remained low and nobody ever complains about them any more.

“Prison:” Beware of prison, as it may come and get you, without you having done anything wrong. Prison is full of peaceful, nonviolent individuals who find themselves behind bars due to Karl Rove’s master plan (see above). It is important to complain about how prison spending has “exploded” in the last few years, without recognizing that the corrections budget is only about 6% of state general purpose spending. Make sure you use as many obnoxious analogies as possible to make it seem like prison spending is out of control, such as how the state spends more per prisoner than per UW student. (Of course, if we spend less on prisons, your chances of being stabbed in the head go up dramatically.) It is important to decry the racial disparity of prisoners in Wisconsin without acknowledging that often times when an African-American criminal goes to prison, a predominantly black neighborhood gets safer.

Oh, and one last thing – despite increased government being the oldest idea in the history of mankind, liberals now like to be called “progressives.” This linguistic sleight-of-hand will last just long enough until they have to change their name again in 10 years.

-August 16, 2007