Never heard this term before, but Senator Warren does try to define herself: “the range of ideas deemed to merit serious consideration.” I believe she uses the expression because it is particularly relevant to this upcoming presidential election.<2019 “. . . ‘This is a fantasy.’ She [Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren] was talking about the enormous platform she has, now that she’s running for President, to propagate political proposals that she has been thinking about for decades. ‘It’s a moment of being able to talk about these ideas, and everybody says “Oh, wait, I better pay attention to this.”’ She went on: ‘It’s not about me; it’s about those ideas. We’ve moved the Overton window – the range of ideas deemed to merit serious consideration – ‘on how we think about taxes. And I think, I think we’re about to move in on child care/’”—The New York Times Magazine, 23 June, page 26>
Wikipedia has a good discussion on Overton window and this is what they said in their first paragraph:
The following are some examples of its use that I found in various sources:The Overton window is a term for the range of ideas tolerated in public discourse, also known as the window of discourse. The term is named after Joseph P. Overton, who stated that an idea's political viability depends mainly on whether it falls within this range, rather than on politicians' individual preferences. According to Overton, the window contains the range of policies that a politician can recommend without appearing too extreme to gain or keep public office in the current climate of public opinion.
____________________________<2010 “There is a powerful technique called the Overton Window that can shape our lives, our laws, and our future. It works by manipulating public perception so that ideas previously thought of as radical begin to seem acceptable over time. Move the ‘Window’ and you change the debate. Change the debate and you change the country.”—from back cover of the novel Overton Window by Glen Beck.
<2013 “Governments, particularly those with support from superpowers, can’t be ousted unless the opposition has two things working in its favor: support from the state military (or at least a large fraction of it) and an expanded Overton window defined as the small range of ideas and outcomes acceptable by the public.”—Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut), 6 December, page A15>
<2015 “Ever heard of the Overton Window? It’s a political theory that there are a range of ideas that the public will accept at any given time. An idea’s political sustainability depends mainly on whether it falls within that window rather than on politicians’ individual preferences. In other words, what the politicians think isn’t nearly as important as what individual voters believe. And when voters start changing their minds, politicians follow . . . a good example is same-sex marriage.
When I first started covering politics 30 years ago, gay marriage was unthinkable for a mainstream politician to support. About 15 years ago, when he was running for the Democratic nomination for governor, Paul Vallas told me that he supported gay marriage. Shortly after telling me that, one of his aides called me that Vallas was backing off the statement. The idea was too radical back then. Later, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, and the idea became acceptable for the public to discuss. It’s now legal in 37 states, including Illinois. And last year, Vallas, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, along with his running mate, then-Gov. Pat Quinn, ran on a platform of touting gay marriage legislation as a major accomplishment of the Quinn administration.
It’s an example of how, in the Overton Window model, an idea can move from unthinkable to radical to acceptable policy.”—Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois), 2 April, page 1-10>
<2018 “The concept of the “Overton window,” the range of ideas outside which lie political exile or pariahdom, was first batted around in a series of conversations by the late free-market advocate Joseph Overton in the 1990s. . . . And then Trump came along. By transforming the far right’s racial subtext on immigration into … let’s call it ‘super-text,’ Trump revealed that the Overton window was far wider than establishment politicians and the media had previously assumed. The dynamic played out on the left, as well, with Bernie Sanders’ unexpectedly strong showing in the 2016 Democratic primaries revealing that for a large chunk of America’s liberals, ‘socialist’ was no longer a dirty word. Whatever the reason, the electorate was amenable to ideas that just four years earlier would have been anathema.”—Politico Magazine, 25 February>
Ken Greenwald — July 14, 2019