Liberalism amok

I don’t do a lot of quoting Ross Douthat here, but damn does he nail it with his column on the term “Latinx” and, sadly, reminds me that while I do generally support Elizabeth Warren, this is also an example of where she can be really frustrating in giving into pretty much all left orthodoxy.  Anyway, Douthat:

But if Warren’s linguistic move seemed normal to journalists — in our world, the phrase “Latinx” is increasingly commonplace — it’s still a curious one for a politician doing outreach. There’s very little evidence that “Latinx” is a thing that many Hispanics or Latinos call themselves, at least in the kind of numbers that normally determine how political candidates talk. [emphases mine]

“Though Latinx is becoming common in social media and in academic writing,” a recent Merriam-Webster “words we’re watching” entry noted, “it is unclear whether it will catch on in mainstream use.” And last week a progressive pollster ran the numbers and found that it hasn’t caught on at all: “Despite its usage by academics and cultural influencers, 98 percent of Latinos prefer other terms to describe their ethnicity. Only 2 percent of our respondents said the label accurately describes them, making it the least popular ethnic label among Latinos.”

Beyond its novelty, there are obvious reasons for that stark unpopularity: When spoken, “Latinx” sounds like neither normal English nor conversational Spanish, and it looks like what it is, a word designed for ideological purposes rather than for felicity in speech. If you are deep inside progressive discourse, you will immediately understand those purposes — “dismantling the default masculine” of romance languages, centering gender neutrality or nonbinariness in place of a cisgender heteronormativity. If you are outside that discourse, politicians who use it will sound like they don’t know how to say “Latino,” or like they’re talking to an audience that doesn’t really include you.

Which, for a politician, seems like a bit of a problem. One of the common defenses of political correctness is that it’s just a synonym for politeness, for calling people what they themselves want to be called and showing sensitivity to minority experiences and burdens that men or white people don’t share…

But just as often the language of P.C. has more to do with imposing elite norms of discourse on a wider population that neither necessarily wants them nor fully understands their purpose. This is a particular issue as highly educated white liberals become more progressive on racial issues than many African-Americans and Hispanics; in that context the language that dominates progressivism often emerges out of a dialogue among minority activists and academics and well-meaning white liberals, without much engagement with the larger minority population, its assumptions and habits and beliefs.

That lack of engagement turns the politeness argument on its head. It is certainly polite, if you operate in a social world where most people of Latin-American descent describe themselves as Latinx, to use the word in conversation and correspondence. But in their public-facing rhetoric, Democratic politicians are speaking to people who mostly don’t use that word, don’t prefer it to other labels and may not even recognize it. So a politician who uses it, especially a white politician who uses it, may come across as condescending, jargon-dependent and, well, rude.

Yep, yep, yep.  Overly-woke liberalism at its worst.  Not actually accomplishing anything except expressing to other overly-woke liberals just how woke they are.

I don’t usually post a lot of comments here, but, unlike most sources, NYT articles usually have a lot of really useful comments.  Virtually every Latino who comments on this article is pretty similar to this one:

As a Hispanic, I find the term a condescending and mis-ingratiating form of linguistic vandalism. As a Warren supporter, I find her use of it dismaying. It suggests a calculated style of engagement cooked up by monolingual millennials at a liberal arts seminar. (I know of no Hispanic outside of academia who uses the term. And it is telling that the one Latino on the Democratic debate stage also failed to do so). And as an academic, I find it depressing to see in academia basic grammatical rules vitiated in the service of a misdirected political point. There are no gender declensions in the English language. If you’re going to borrow a Spanish word, either decline it properly (“a latina person” [la persona], “a latina community” [la comunidad], but “a latino town” [el pueblo]) or accept the fact that the borrowed word lost its gender upon contact with the English language, allowing you to properly speak of a “latino woman”, “o” notwithstanding. Or, third option, simplify your life and forsake this spanishism rendered grotesque in favor of the commonly used term “Hispanic” or “Latin”.

Anyway, with all the wrongness of Trump it sometimes seems wrong to even spend any time on this.  But, we’ve got to take time to call out our own side when it goes too far (especially if it is a potential negative in the overarching effort to defeat Trump).

How “like a dog” explains Trump

Loved this column from Frank Bruni on Trump’s well-known derogatory “like a dog” dog-hating:

Frank noted that Trump is “phobic about germs” and no doubt sees dogs as four-legged germ factories. He probably also thinks “dogs are stupid because they obey,” Frank said. Disobedience is Trump’s preferred posture, at least for himself, although he broke with that to become, in Frank’s words, “Putin’s lap dog.” Disobedience, that is, and distemper.

Frank raised another issue that the president might well have with dogs: When they’re around, they often steal attention, becoming the objects of people’s oohing and cooing. Trump likes the oohing all to himself.

My own sense? For Trump, all relationships are transactional and God’s creatures possess value only in accordance with their ability to elevate and enrich him. His affection for Kellyanne Conway hinges on her superhuman power not to break into laughter or spontaneously combust when she puts the most ludicrously adulatory spin on his most transparently execrable deeds. If border collies performed that trick, he would keep a kennel of them at Mar-a-Loco.

His regard for Rudy Giuliani depends on the hunched henchman’s openness to unscrupulous errands. If Doberman pinschers could pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden, Trump would repurpose Camp David as a dog run and turn Ivanka’s pumps into chew toys.

But they can’t, just as Siberian huskies can’t hack Democrats’ emails — for that, a husky Siberian is handier — and golden retrievers can’t retrieve gold. Dogs are useless to Trump, at least by the criteria he cares about.

There’s no money in most of them, no votes in any of them, and they can’t play golf with him and tell him along the way what a manly drive and graceful putt he has. That’s lucky for Lindsey Graham, who would otherwise be swapped out for a Labradoodle lickety-split.

Election take-aways

I’m behind on getting ready for class, but feel like I need to say something, so I’m going to farm out my thoughts to Johnathan Bernstein, who strikes me as entirely on-point in his analysis:

Six quick takeaways:

It ain’t about 2020. Don’t try to extrapolate any insights about next year’s presidential election from these results. [emphases mine] It’s not unusual for out-parties to win big in midterms and other off-year elections, only to see the president’s party recover and retain the White House. To the extent that the Democrats did well, they may have been helped by Republican weakness. But that doesn’t tell us anything new about how the party will perform next fall.

It was partisan polarization. Mostly. Outside of Bevin’s likely loss, Republicans won every statewide contest in Kentucky and Mississippi. Meanwhile, the Democratic gains in Virginia were essentially a case of the legislature catching up with what has become a strongly Democratic state. We’ll see whether the incumbent Democratic governor in Republican Louisiana can hold on later this month. But for now, what we’re mostly seeing is parties winning where they’re strong. 

Don’t be a bad governor! By all accounts, Bevin has governed as an ideologue, and not a very likable one. He feuded with teachers and tried to aggressively scale back the state’s very popular Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Kentucky may be Republican, but a bad politician is a bad politician — and Bevin was apparently bad enough to lose where President Donald Trump won by 30 percentage points in 2016. As strong as partisan polarization has become, governor contests may be something of an exception: See the Republicans governing in very Democratic Maryland and Massachusetts, or the Democrat in the Kansas statehouse…

Oh yes, the suburbs. Bevin was hurt in suburban Cincinnati (although see a dissenting thread). Democrats also picked up a state legislative seat in suburban St. Louis; won their first three city council seats in Carmel, an Indianapolis suburb; and did better than usual in some Memphis suburbs. That continues a trend from 2018 that should scare Republicans. That said, it’s impossible to know if it will continue or if it’s a Trump-era reaction that will dissipate or reverse once he’s gone.

National effects? The Washington Post’s Robert Costa reports that Senate Republicans were watching Kentucky closely: “not just watching the returns, but President Trump’s political capital as they make decisions about how to handle impeachment and their own future.” How politicians interpret elections is only sometimes scientific, but it always matters, often far more than the objective facts about those elections. Whether they think Trump is an electoral asset or poison at the ballot box will be at least as important to the outcome of impeachment and a Senate trial as actual evidence of malfeasance. I can say one thing: These political professionals are unlikely to be convinced by Trump’s habitual false claims that his intervention in a race moved the polls by massive amounts. 

Yes, in general, a good day for Democrats.  Especially in Virginia.  Be happy about that.  But don’t make the mistake of drawing strong conclusions from an odd-year election no matter how much you want Donald Trump (and Mitch McConnell) to lose.

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