New tone

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New tone was a snarl word used by "edgy" conservative media outlets to use a tone argument against speech from liberal politicians and pundits that they regarded as less than cordial. The term (and its corresponding hashtag #newtone) was coined in 2011 to describe Barack Obama's rather jaded and harsh response to the United States House of Representatives' failure to bring forward a more comprehensive and longer-lasting deficit reduction package in August 2011 toward the goal of averting government shutdown in approaching the debt ceiling: that is, when he was finally exasperated at their uselessness, they tried to use this exasperation against him. Since then, conservative journalists have repeatedly used the phrase to describe the words of liberals that they consider are spoken without sufficient congeniality.

Considering the speech coming from their own side,[1] it may have been a form of psychological projection.


President Obama first called for the use of a "new tone" in January 2011. While the government's deficit was on the horizon and many would characterize the negotiations as one of the most important parts of Obama's administration, he was actually talking about the shooting at a "town hall" meeting in Tucson, Arizona that left six people dead and Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords in a coma. Thanks, GOP.

Averting shutdown[edit]

Previous to the deficit reduction deadline, House and Senate Democrats had been open to compromises in a deficit reduction package to include both spending reductions and revenue increases. House Republicans, however, subscribing to Grover Norquist's "No Tax Increase" pledge, refused to entertain any revenue increases. As the deadline loomed, House Republicans eventually buckled in allowing spending cuts to the military and House Democrats accepted the package with no revenue increases, with the promise that a super-committee would be formed to revisit and propose a new package within three months (which, incidentally, it failed to do). Like a kid working on a 3000-word essay the night before and submitting it to their teacher at the last moment possible, the bill was approved by both houses and signed by President Obama just before the "government shutdown" date.

Over the following month, Obama roundly thrashed the entire House but to Republicans in general for what he perceived as a failure, calling out the obstructive moves of House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The Freepers described the thrashing as Obama's "new tone," mocking Obama's earlier appeal to a more civil form of discourse.

New compared to what?[edit]

Given the history of liberal orators critical of the actions of politicians (Michael Moore, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Al Franken all come to mind) the term seems inconsistent with the record of liberalism's civil discourse. Up until the deficit negotiations, however, Obama's demeanor had been pleasant, similar to that of Bill Clinton (whose most forceful and angry words ever publicly spoken were "I did not have sex with that woman") and Al Gore. Compare that to the fire and vitriol of some Republicans (such as Representative Joe Wilson). Perhaps conservatives are just used to Alan Colmes as being the loudest voice among liberals.

See also[edit]