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0757 Getting Political Support

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 757: Getting Political Support.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 757. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California. Welcome back!

Have you been to our website at eslpod.com? Have you become a Learning Guide member? If you have, thank you. If not, today would be a great day to do that. If you’re on Facebook you can also like us at facebook.com/eslpod.

This episode is a dialogue using vocabulary related to politics and getting support – getting money from people to support your political campaign. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Helen: Okay, your schedule today is very busy. First, you’re meeting with a group of constituents concerned about the environment. Then, you’re speaking to a group of factory workers. At noon, you’ll be having lunch with a group of high-power donors.

Mikhail: When I signed on as a candidate, I had no idea I’d have to pander to every group out there to gain their support.

Helen: Don’t think of it as pandering. Think of it as rallying the troops. People in this state need a leader and you’re their great white hope.

Mikhail: I decided to run because I wanted to be a voice of reason in the partisan bickering. I didn’t sign on to be a poster boy for my political party.

Helen: You can make a difference when you get elected, but first things first: you need to get elected. Ready to go?

Mikhail: What happened to the good old days when all you had to do was a little gerrymandering to get elected?

Helen: I’m glad you brought that up. Your meeting with the committee on redistricting is this afternoon at 2:00.

Mikhail: I’m sorry I asked!

[end of dialogue]

Helen begins by saying to Mikhail, “Okay, your schedule today is very busy. First, you’re meeting with a group of constituents concerned about the environment.” Your “constituents” (constituents) are people that you represent as an elected government official. A “constituent” is someone who votes for you and is a person you represent in, say, the Senate or the House of Representatives or the City Council or any official government body. If you are a representative, then the people you represent are your constituents. Mikhail has a meeting with his constituents, or at least some of them, who are concerned about the environment. Helen says, “Then, you’re speaking to a group of factory workers,” people who work in a company – in a place where they physically make something. They may make tables or chairs or those little dresses that people put on their cats, anything like that. “At noon,” Helen says, “you’ll be having lunch with a group of high-power donors.” “High-power” means very important, very influential, very powerful. A “donor” (donor) is a person who gives money to an organization. It could be to a political candidate, it could be to a school, it could be to a church, a university; any of those groups or people could have people who give them money, and those people we would call “donors.” We have donors here at ESL Podcast, people who give us money in order to help us continue, and we very much appreciate it. The verb would be, of course, “to donate” (donate). Donors donate money, or donations. You could say, “Donors donate donations.” “Donations” refers to the money that donors donate. Okay, this has nothing to do with doughnuts, which you can have with coffee.

Mikhail says, “When I signed on as a candidate, I had no idea I’d have to pander to every group out there to gain their support.” “To sign on” is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to agree to do something, to register or put your name down as someone who will do a certain thing. Mikhail says when he signed on, when he agreed to be a “candidate,” a person who wants to win an elected office – an elected position, he had no idea that he would have to pander (pander). Here, “to pander” means to be very nice to someone, to do something that someone wants because you want to get their money or you want to get their support. Politicians do this all the time; they pander to people, they try to be nice to them so that those people will support them or will give them money. Interestingly enough, the verb “to pander” is also used to describe the crime of someone who arranges for you to meet a prostitute, someone we would call a “pimp” or a “madam,” so there’s some connection there I think. Mikhail says that he had no idea that he had to pander to every group out there in order to gain their support – to get their support and their money.

Helen says, “Don’t think of it as pandering.” Pandering definitely has a negative connotation to it. “Think of it as rallying the troops.” “To rally” a group of people is to get them excited about something (rally). The “troops” normally refers to a group of soldiers, someone in the army. But here, it just refers to the people who are your supporters, who want you to do well, who want to get you elected. So, “to rally the troops” means to motivate, to encourage, to get people excited to do something. “People in this state,” Helen says, “need a leader and you’re their great white hope.” The expression “great white hope” means in general someone who will be a leader, who will achieve great things even though it’s difficult, a symbol of something or someone who will be great in the future.

Mikhail says, “I decided to run (to participate in these elections) because I wanted to be a voice of reason in the partisan bickering.” Mikhail decided to try to become a representative, or elected to whatever this office is that he’s trying to gain, because he wanted to be a voice of reason. “Reason” is using your intelligence – your intellect. “To be a voice of reason” is to be a person who presents rational, logical ideas, someone who doesn’t act just emotionally, someone who thinks about what they are doing. That’s a “voice of reason.” Mikhail wants to be the voice reason in the partisan bickering. “Partisan” (partisan) is when you have very strong opinions of one political party. Someone who doesn’t want to change their opinions, who supports their political party, and they won’t change their mind; that would be someone who is “partisan.” “To bicker” (bicker) means to fight, to disagree, especially in a way that isn’t very pleasant – that isn’t very nice. So “bickering,” as a noun, would be fighting. Mikhail says, “I didn’t sign on (I didn’t agree) to be a poster boy for my political party.” A “poster boy” or a “poster girl,” we might even say a “poster child,” is a person who represents an organization, who symbolizes the organization. It’s sometimes used to refer to someone who is a good example of a certain idea or a certain belief. Sometimes organizations that are trying to get money for people who need help, who are sick, for example, from a specific disease, may have pictures of a person who that has that disease on a piece of paper, a large piece of paper that has their name on it, the name of the organization, asking for help. Well, a large piece of paper like that is called a “poster,” and that’s where we get the expression “poster boy” or “poster child.” Mikhail doesn’t want to be a poster boy for his “political party,” for his organization of members who support a certain political belief.

Helen says, “You can make a difference (that is, you can do something important) when you get elected (when people vote for you so that you win your position), but first things first.” The expression “first things first” means you have to do the most important things first; you have to put things in priority and start with the most important thing first – “first things first.” Helen says, “you need to get elected. Ready to go?”

Mikhail says, “What happened to the good old days when all you had to do was a little gerrymandering to get elected?” “Good old days” is an expression referring to the way things used to be, things that you remember favorably, you remember them being better than they are right now. So I may say something like, “Oh, the good old days when you could go to the beach and no one would be talking on their cell phone, or go to a baseball game and everyone would watch the game instead of texting their friends or waving to the camera.” “The good old days,” the days when things were better. Mikhail says, “What happened to the good old days when all you had to do (when the only thing you needed to do) was a little gerrymandering?” “To gerrymander” (gerrymander) is to make the lines on a map for a specific area of a government representative in such a way that you make sure that only certain kinds of people will win in that area. It’s somewhat complicated. In American politics every 10 years or so, as the population moves, increases, or decreases, each state has to draw the boundaries of the elected officials. So for example, here in Los Angeles we may have seven or eight people that go to Congress representing us. Each one represents a specific area of Los Angeles. But where you draw the lines dividing those areas will make a big difference in who gets elected. “Gerrymandering” is drawing those lines in such a way that you guarantee that only a certain kind of person will get elected, someone from either a conservative political party or a liberal political party, for example.

Helen says, “I’m glad you brought that up (I’m glad you mentioned that). Your meeting with the committee on redistricting is this afternoon at 2:00.” “Redistricting” is that process I just talked about, every 10 years or so where the government – the state governments have to go through and decide where the lines are going to be. So, that’s exactly what is happening here, “redistricting.” Mikhail says, “I’m sorry I asked!”

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Helen: Okay, your schedule today is very busy. First, you’re meeting with a group of constituents concerned about the environment. Then, you’re speaking to a group of factory workers. At noon, you’ll be having lunch with a group of high-power donors.

Mikhail: When I signed on as a candidate, I had no idea I’d have to pander to every group out there to gain their support.

Helen: Don’t think of it as pandering. Think of it as rallying the troops. People in this state need a leader and you’re their great white hope.

Mikhail: I decided to run because I wanted to be a voice of reason in the partisan bickering. I didn’t sign on to be a poster boy for my political party.

Helen: You can make a difference when you get elected, but first things first: you need to get elected. Ready to go?

Mikhail: What happened to the good old days when all you had to do was a little gerrymandering to get elected?

Helen: I’m glad you brought that up. Your meeting with the committee on redistricting is this afternoon at 2:00.

Mikhail: I’m sorry I asked!

[end of dialogue]

We hope that ESL Podcast makes a difference in your English. If it does, you can thank our wonderful scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan, copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
constituent – a person who is represented by an elected government official; a person who has the right to vote for a particular candidate or government position

* The Senator’s constituents are upset that she’s spending too much time in Washington, D.C., and not enough time in her home state.

high-power – very powerful, influential, and important

* If you want to get that job, you need to dress like the high-power investors who work on Wall Street.

donor – a person who gives money to an organization, cause, or candidate

* Public radio stations depend on the financial support of donors.

to sign on – to register to have or do something; to agree to participate in something

* How did Meghan persuade you to sign on as the group’s president?

to pander – to be very nice to someone or to do whatever someone wants one to do, usually because one wants or needs money or support from that person

* Yes, we want to have good publicity, but that doesn’t mean we should pander to every reporter who calls.

to rally the troops – to motivate and encourage people to do something; to make people become excited about something

* Before every football game, Coach Hendricks gives a motivational speech to rally the troops.

great white hope – a symbol of the good things that could happen in the future, especially when achieving those things seems difficult or challenging

* In these difficult economic times, people need a great white hope to show them that there will be more jobs soon.

to run – to participate in elections; to be a candidate in an election; to try to be voted into a particular government job or position

* Jim ran for mayor in 2008, but didn’t win.

voice of reason – a person presenting rational, logical ideas when everyone else is acting emotionally or irrationally

* When the company lost its biggest client, almost everyone began to panic that we’d go out of business, but Hassan was the voice of reason, reminding everyone that we still had other clients.

partisan – having the strong opinions of one political party and being unwilling to consider the other parties’ opinions

* It was a partisan vote: all the Democrats voted ‘yes’ and all the Republicans voted ‘no.’

bickering – fighting; disagreements; discussions that lasts for a long time when people cannot reach an agreement, especially when their arguments and behavior are childish

* Kay and her husband bicker over who should wash the dishes almost every night.

poster boy/girl/child – a person who represents or symbolizes an organization, idea, or cause

* Paul’s story of recovery is impressive and that’s why he’s the poster boy for this hospital.

political party – an organization with members who share beliefs about how government should operate and what parts of society it should influence or control, where the members work together to elect people who share those ideas for government jobs and try to pass laws that support those ideas

* Trent always votes with his political party, but his brother prefers to analyze the qualifications of each candidate.

to make a difference – to contribute to something in a way that is meaningful and worthwhile

* Edgar volunteers to try to make a difference in the lives of low-income children.

to get elected – for a candidate to receive enough votes in an election to get the desired job or position

* To get elected, Omar promised to reduce taxes and improve education.

first things first – a phrase used to explain that one must prioritize and focus on the most important things, doing things in order, one at a time

* We know you’re eager to open your restaurant, but first things first: you need to write up a business plan and apply for a loan.

good old days – a phrase used to refer to the way things used to be done in the past when one remembers them very favorably, probably remembering things as having been nicer or more pleasant than they actually were

* In the good old days, people actually had conversations with each other when they went out to eat, instead of texting on their cell phones the entire time.

gerrymandering – the process of drawing lines on a map to define which areas are included for a particular election, so that one party is more likely to win

* When they moved the district to the wealthiest parts of town, it was a clear attempt at gerrymandering.

redistricting – the process of drawing lines on a map to define which areas are included as voters for a particular election

* Every few years, the state engages in redistricting to make the voting process fairer as people move from the rural areas into the urban areas.

Comprehension Questions
1. Who will Mikhail have lunch with?
a) Powerful energy executives.
b) People who support organ donation.
c) Wealthy people who are supporting his campaign.

2. Why doesn’t Mikhail want to be a poster boy for his political party?
a) Because he wants to present his own ideas, even if the party doesn’t agree.
b) Because he thinks campaign materials are a waste of money.
c) Because he doesn’t like the photo they chose for the poster.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to sign on

The phrase “to sign on,” in this podcast, means to register to have or do something, or to agree to participate in something: “Congratulations for signing on as the newest player on the football team!” The phrase “to sign in/out” means to write down one’s name on a piece of paper to show that one has arrived/left: “Please sign in at the front desk and then come up to the 13th floor. Then sign out when the meeting ends.” The phrase “to sign off on (something)” means to approve something: “Who signed off on this purchase order?” The phrase “to sign up” means to add one’s name to a list of participants, or to indicate that one wants to join an organization or participate in something: “Did you sign up for the play auditions?”

first things first

In this podcast, the phrase “first things first” is used to explain that one must prioritize and focus on the most important things, doing things in order, one at a time: “If you want to do well in the interview, you need to look your best. First things first: let’s get your hair cut.” The phrase “first thing” means right away, as soon as possible, or before anything else: “Please call me first thing to let me know you’ve arrived safely.” The phrases “first off” and “first of all,” are used to present the first thing in a list: “First off, we need to get rid of everything we don’t use. Then we can decide what to repair, sell, donate, or throw away.” Or, “We have a lot of things to do today, but first of all, eat a good breakfast so you’ll have energy for everything else.”

Culture Note
Common Events Before an Election

Most political candidates organize many events in the weeks and months “prior to” (before) elections. These events help them “garner” (gather; earn; get) support and “build” (increase) “name recognition” (the ability of people to recognize a candidate’s name and be more likely to vote for that candidate).

“Rallies” are designed to gather large groups of “like-minded” (sharing the same beliefs and opinions) individuals and get them excited about the “upcoming” (happening soon) elections. A rally often has a lot of music and “big-name” (popular and well known) speakers to “attract” (bring together) a large audience. The candidate goes onto the stage and tries to present an exciting speech that motivates the attendees to “register to vote” (fill out the paperwork to be allowed to vote), vote for him or her, and possibly “volunteer” (work without receiving money) for the “campaign” (the organized effort to get votes for a candidate).

A “fundraiser” is an event designed to encourage people to give the candidate money. Many fundraisers are formal events and especially dinners where “wealthy” (rich) individuals pay a lot of money to eat a nice meal, hear a presentation by the candidate, and “interact with” (speak with) him or her personally.

Candidates also participate in “debates,” which are formal opportunities for all the candidates to discuss important issues. A “moderator” leads the debate by asking each candidate a question and giving those candidates a certain amount of time to answer and respond to the other candidates’ answers. Important debates are often “televised” (shown on TV) to reach a larger audience.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - a