Politics and language

Making Sense of “Common Sense”

Does it mean what we think it means?

Nancy Friedman
6 min readFeb 17, 2024


It’s an election year in the U.S., which means we’re being bombarded with buzzwords: change, action, solutions, leadership. There’s another buzzword — or two words, if you want to be picky — that slides into stump speeches and campaign ads: common sense. From every slice of the political spectrum — right, left, center, and off the charts — candidates are keen to tell us that a vote for them is a vote for common sense: for old-fashioned nothing-fancy savvy and instinct.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Surely we can all agree that common sense is all it takes to fix everything that’s wrong with society.

Or is it?

“Moore common sense”: A mailer from Chris Moore, candidate for Alameda County Supervisor in California. Photo: Nancy Friedman

Let’s look at some of the places we’re likely to find common sense these days:

  • In New Jersey, a political action committee (PAC) called Elect Common Sense raises money to elect pro-Trump Republican candidates.
  • In Michigan, the new Common Sense Party, led by a former Republican congressman, seeks to be a moderate alternative to Trumpism.
  • California has a new Common Sense Party, too. Chaired by a former Democratic congressman, it aims to reform campaign financing and bring “transparency” to legislation.



Nancy Friedman

Writer, name developer, brand consultant, idea-ist, ex-journalist. @fritinancy on Mastodon, Instagram, Bluesky, Threads, and elsewhere.