US diaries

What are the top words of Election 2016?

Trump-Hillary-debate (File) Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

Even as analysts are pondering over the political and social legacy of the 2016 US presidential elections, we look at some of the words that have become commonplace or assumed whole new meanings this season.


This is the top election term. You cannot have a conversation in the US these days without hearing this word. Even the first time voters shake their heads gravely and say, “Tch, it's so polarised!” Polarised in this context means that both candidates have extreme stances on every subject, and there appears to be no meeting point.

It's not just the candidates. It's the general state of the US, too, lament Americans. Republican voter Ross Hector remembers a time when people had different opinions but were willing to talk and understand the other views. “It's not like that anymore,'' he says.

So what are these polarising issues? Donald Trump is credited with raking up most of them, though it's said he uttered what people felt but were unwilling to articulate. Immigration and Islamic terror are the top polarising subjects. But everything else is polarised, too, whether it is taxes, abortion or foreign policy.


This is a term Indian voters know only too well. It is part of the country's electoral process. However, a study in the US, which analysed over a billion votes cast between 2000 and 2012, revealed only 31 cases of traditional rigging.

Trump used it first, and also changed its interpretation several times. He first used it in a loose sense, against the Democrat campaign, but when faced with having to provide proof and confronted with studies showing the impossibility of rigging, he said letting 'Crooked Hillary' run for the race itself was rigging.

He's now called the accusations of sexual misconduct that nine women have made against him as another instance of rigging.

Trump apart, several others also allude to the term rigging to describe the unfairness of the election process. It's being used to describe how the election is run by the moneyed and how the working class have no say. It's an easy word to describe the unfairness of the electoral process.

Washington elite

It was used to critique Hillary. It basically means that little clique of people who've been in Washington (government) for years and who've become insular from the needs and understanding of the country. It means people who know the intrigues of Capitol Hill.

Both Trump and Bernie Sanders portrayed themselves as fresh faces, and that was part of their appeal. It is what has carried Trump along so far, his lack of experience being seen as freshness of approach.

A similar term is used in India—Dilliwallah. PM Narendra Modi used it when he came to Delhi from Ahmedabad; so has Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who insists he will not be tainted by the Dilliwallah tag.


For a country which was formed by immigration, this election cycle is interesting because it's made immigration a dirty word. Trump used it to rouse the blue collared white male, whose job has been taken away by migrants, specially from across the border. This led to further distinction, and just as the world talks about good terrorists and bad terrorists, Trump has created the distinction between quality migrant (like Indians) and the low end ones (basically Hispanics).

Clinton Foundation

No talk by Hillary is complete without her bringing up this word once. So much so that she had to be checked by the moderator that the presidential debate was not the forum for her to talk about it. Depending on who uses the word, it assumes different connotations. For Hillary, it is that magical creation which is helping underprivileged and doing great work in America. For the rival camp, it's the conduit for taking foreign funding and is a den of corruption. Everyone has heard of the Clinton Foundation, but ask the person on the street what it does, and chances are you won't be enlightened.

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