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Opinion | What does it mean to “wake up”? Use this political dictionary.

(Washington Post staff illustration/iStock image)
(Washington Post staff illustration/iStock image)

It’s election season, so you’ve probably read a lot of stories about politician X appealing to voting block Y with Z-ish rhetoric. Journalists, political strategists, and even politicians themselves distribute much of this information in some kind of code: terms and phrases that appear only in political reporting. Here’s a guide to election speeches and then a plea to move on.

culture war. cultural issues. identity politics. social problem.

abortion. Rights of bisexual, gay, lesbian, queer and transgender people. racial issues. women’s issues.

“Culture wars” is usually invoked in relation to gender, LGBTQ, and racial issues, and those who support them. Thus, black politicians who condemn police brutality are described as practicing identity politics, while white politicians who strongly defend police are not.

Prejudice in the use of these terms is not the only problem. they are ambiguous. Their meanings are not universally shared. It often obscures more than it describes (perhaps intentionally). Speaking of vagueness on purpose…

Left/far left on gender, LGBTQ, and race issues.

This term may have been in an earlier section, but is newer and needs its own explanation. “Woke” was once used primarily by blacks and evoked the idea that racism in America should be heeded. The term is now used by center-left, center-right, and center-right politicians as a form of insult to those deemed too left-wing on race, gender, and LGBTQ issues. increase.

Like “identity politics” and other similar phrases, “woke” and “wokeness” are ambiguous. They have no widely agreed meaning. It is clear that using the term “Latino” is seen as awake, or too awake, by those in the political center and on the right. But I don’t know if reparations support is happening, too much, or not happening.

How ‘woke’ became the most sleepless word in American English

I suspect the lack of clarity is the reason some people prefer to use these terms. Blaming the Awakening allows people to disagree with left-wing views on very difficult issues without stating specific objections.

Leader of the Democratic and Republican Party. elected official. Political commentator and commentator. Wealthy. political operative.

America has individuals who have far more power than the average person — and those individuals are usually elected officials, the wealthy, and those employed by them. Rather than implying that there is an anonymous powerful elite who

Evangelical, White Evangelical.

conservative Christians. White and Latino Christians with conservative views on issues such as abortion, LGBTQ rights, and race.

What actually constitutes evangelical Christianity, or what makes someone an evangelical, is somewhat disputed. It implies a particular set of religious views and practices, such as belief. Those who hold these beliefs often describe themselves as born-again or simply Christians rather than evangelicals. Use terms such as “Bible” in

And because the word “evangelical” has become synonymous with the Republican Party, many Christians who vote for Democratic candidates, especially blacks, hold evangelical views, but they do not consider themselves evangelical. I wouldn’t say sect. On the other hand, some Republicans call themselves evangelicals, even though they don’t really hold such views and don’t attend church regularly.

Therefore, the term “evangelical” is more commonly used by reporters than by churchgoers. And reporters almost always invoke evangelicals, referring to white and Latinx Christians who oppose abortion and transgender rights and vote Republican.

More conservative, very conservative. Right wing. With former President Donald Trump. Be more liberal, very liberal. progressive. left wing. Associated with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DY).

Marking a political belief “distant” has a negative connotation and means bad views because it is peripheral. There are not many words to describe a politician who is more ideologically distant than others.

Centrist. center left, center right.

This is the flip side of the above. “Moderate” and “mainstream” are words with positive connotations. More accurate and less burdensome is that some politicians (including President Biden) are closer to the center than others (Sanders). “Central” and “centrist” also have positive connotations, but they are not particularly complementary as “mainstream”.

Trumpy, Trumpy, Trumpy. Saunders. Left wing, left wing in economic matters.

“Nationalist” and “populist” are often invoked in relation to Trump and his political style. But these terms have many meanings in different contexts, both in the United States and abroad.In recent years, both Trump and Sanders have been described as populists. A term applied to such a variety of politicians is of limited analytical use.

In 2015, it was difficult to define Trump’s political approach. But now, describing a Republican politician as aligning with or similar to Trump is much more useful than calling her a populist or nationalist.

Suburban women, white suburban women.

White women, swing voter white women, ideologically middle-of-the-road white women, middle- and high-income white women.

About 55% of Americans live in suburban counties, not in cities or rural counties, according to the Pew Research Center. So to say a politician should appeal to suburban women is less descriptive than to say he or she should appeal to women.

Nor is the suburb not filled with highly partisan voters. Black women who live in suburbs are more likely to be staunch Democrats, as are white women who live in suburbs near left-leaning metropolitan areas such as Montgomery County in the D.C. area. are usually Republicans.

Have a word to add to this guide? Submit it to Perry Bacon Jr.’s Q&A on Thursday at noon.

In a political context, the phrase “suburban women” usually refers to middle- or high-income women who swing between political parties, who may support abortion rights but may be more conservative on economic issues. It is a code that refers to white women in

Heartland voters, Midwest voters. Southern voters. coastal voters.

Swing voters in the Midwest. Southern Republican voters. Democratic voters who live on the coast.

“Heartland” is usually the code for Republican or swing voters, while heavily Democratic Chicago is in the Midwest. In California, 34% voted for Trump, and in Missouri, 41% voted for Joe Biden. There is no need to cast states and regions as one-party monoliths.

Working class voters, workers, white working class.

low-income voters; Voters without a bachelor’s degree. White voters without a four-year degree. Ideologically moderate and conservative white voters.

There are no formal classes in America. There is no agreed definition of what constitutes a working-class, middle-class, or upper-class person. For example, you could argue that a restaurant dishwasher is clearly working-class. But there isn’t much data that delves into the voting preferences of people in specific jobs to distinguish between dishwashers and factory workers.

The term “working class” is associated with low-income people. We also have data on voters whose households earn less than her $50,000. According to Pew, about 53% supported Biden in 2020, while Trump had him at 44%.

You might be surprised to learn that Biden, not Trump, won the votes of lower-income Americans, because news reports often describe the Democrats as out of step with the working class. .

Over the past decade, Republicans gained support and Democrats lost support, especially among white Americans without a four-year college degree, a group often abbreviated by the news media as the white working class. is expressed as But “working class” and “uncollege educated” are not interchangeable terms. Many people with a college degree can’t make a lot of money, and some don’t.

“Whites without a college degree” is also not a very useful description. Most Americans are white and most Americans don’t have a bachelor’s degree. In 2020, Trump won about 80% of whites without a degree in Georgia, but only about half that block in Maine.

American voters are best understood by looking at ideology, geography and race rather than education, income and class. The Republican Party’s support base is not white working class, but conservative-minded white Americans, especially those living in the South.

Voters who have won the last three elections are moderate, centrist and liberal on some issues, but conservative or not at all ideological on others. This explains why they support politicians as different as Trump and Barack his Obama. To say that political parties are vying for “ideologically unbound” voters is less persuasive than talking about class and education, but it’s far more accurate.

I don’t think any politician, political operative, or pundit with a clear ideological bent will start using this more honest term. In politics, defining terms is part of the battle. So if you’re a Republican, we want to suggest that Democrats are out of step with “working class voters.” If you’re a Biden-backed Democrat, it’s very helpful to describe yourself as part of the “mainstream” wing of the party and the squad as “extreme left.”

But if you’re a reporter or regular voter, you don’t have to speak in code. Say what you really mean.

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