Word Power | Lesson 6: Political Idioms related to the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election

Hãy tìm hiểu các thuật ngữ liên quan đến bầu cử Tổng thống Mỹ như “battleground states,” “swing states,” “close race,” “dark horse,” “front-runner,” “stalking horse,” “surrogate,” … nhé!

The following entries are extracted from the AP Stylebook: 2020 Elections Topical Guide, and most examples are taken from AP news stories.

1. “alt-right”: A political grouping or tendency mixing racism, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and populism; a name currently embraced by some white supremacists and white nationalists to refer to themselves and their ideology, which emphasizes preserving and protecting the white race in the United States.

Avoid using the term generically and without definition, because it is not well-known globally and the term may exist primarily as a public relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience. In AP stories discussing what the movement says about itself, the term “alt-right” (quotation marks, hyphen and lowercase) may be used in quotes or modified as in the self-described “alt-right” or so-called alt-right.

Depending on the specifics of the situation, such beliefs might be termed “racist,” “white supremacist” or “neo-Nazi”; be sure to describe the specifics. Whenever “alt-right” is used in a story, include a definition: “an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism,” “white nationalism,” “anti-Semitism and populism,” or, more simply, “a white nationalist movement”.

When writing on extreme groups, be precise and provide evidence to support the characterization. Report their actions, associations, history and positions to reveal their actual beliefs and philosophy, as well as how others see them.

E.g. Southern Baptists on Wednesday formally condemned the political movement known as the “alt-right,” in a national meeting that was thrown into turmoil after leaders initially refused to take up the issue. (AP)

2. battleground states: States where candidates from both major political parties have a reasonable chance for victory in a statewide race or presidential vote.

E.g. Polling indicates that a majority of Trump’s supporters plan to cast their ballot on Election Day, while more than half of Joe Biden’s backers plan to vote by mail. Expect the Trump campaign’s legal team to challenge the validity of many mail-in ballots cast in critical battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. (AP)

3. close race: Avoid the term to describe a political contest unless backed up by election results or recent polls of voters.

E.g. While Iowa is not a must-win for Biden, most polls there show a close race, and a loss there for the Trump would complicate his path to reelection. (AP)

4. dark horse: Someone who emerges from the political shadows to seek a nomination.

E.g. Trump’s allies have been working for months to clear the primary field across the country for the president in the face of challenges from dark horse candidates. (AP)

E.g. Jimmy Carter was a dark horse Democratic presidential candidate with little national recognition when he beat Republican incumbent Gerald Ford in 1976. (The Conversation)

5. front-runner: Candidate who leads a political race; the term is hyphenated. Use with caution, as today’s front-runner can become tomorrow’s also-ran.

E.g. Democratic presidential front-runners Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg beat back a barrage of attacks during a debate as rivals raised persistent questions about their ideology and experience, hoping to sow doubts about their ability to defeat President Donald Trump. (AP)

6. head to the polls: Avoid. Such a phrase does not account for the large number of voters who will cast a ballot before Election Day.

E.g. Because of concerns about submission deadlines, Postal Service backlogs and the potential for drawn-out legal challenges, Democrats are pressing their backers who have yet to return ballots to head to the polls in person. (AP)

7. kingmaker: Politically powerful person who boosts candidates into office.

E.g. U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking black member of Congress and the kingmaker of South Carolina’s Democratic political orbit, on Wednesday endorsed Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. The backing could provide a much-needed boost for the former vice president heading into South Carolina’s primary. (AP)

8. populism: Political philosophy or ideas that promote the rights and power of ordinary people as opposed to political and intellectual elites. Avoid labeling politicians or political parties as “populist,” other than in a quote or paraphrase: “He calls himself a populist.” Using the term in a general context is acceptable: “The panelists discussed the rise of populism in Europe. She appealed to populist fervor.

E.g. Populism in politics means pushing policies that are popular with “the people,” not the elites and the experts. The United States’ Donald Trump, Britain’s Boris Johnson and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, as well as India’s Narendra Modi and Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador, have surged to power in democratic countries, challenging the old order by promising social benefits to the masses and rejecting the establishment. (AP)

9. rank and file (n.), rank-and-file (adj.): Ordinary members of a political party.

E.g. So far the turnout has been lopsided, with Democrats outvoting Republicans by a 2-1 ratio in the 42 states included in The Associated Press count. Republicans have been bracing themselves for this early Democratic advantage for months, as they’ve watched President Donald Trump rail against mail-in ballots and raise unfounded worries about fraud. Polling, and now early voting, suggest the rhetoric has turned his party’s rank and file away from a method of voting that, traditionally, they dominated in the weeks before Election Day. (AP)

E.g. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez added that the point of those changes was to expand rank-and-file voters’ influence in the party, including by increasing voter turnout during the nominating process. “I want everyone to participate, and having a state-run primary is the best way to accomplish that,” he said. (AP)

10. stalking horse: Someone who enters a political race to lure voters away from rivals, then drops out and endorses another candidate.

E.g. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence accused Democrat Joe Biden, the former vice president under Barack Obama and a centrist who defeated an array of more progressive candidates for the Democratic nomination, of being a stalking horse for the radical left. (Reuters)

11. surrogate: Avoid. A prominent person who campaigns on behalf of a candidate.

E.g. Obama was already beginning to emerge from political hibernation to endorse Joe Biden’s Democratic presidential bid when the coronavirus pandemic swept across the U.S., killing more than 100,000 people, and the economy began to crater. The crises scrambled the Biden campaign’s plans for how to begin deploying Obama as their chief surrogate ahead of the November election, but also gave the former president a clear opening to start publicly arguing what he has signaled to friends and associates privately for the past three years: that he does not believe Trump is up for the job. (AP)

12. swing states: States where voters have vacillated between Republican and Democratic candidates in the last three or four presidential elections.

E.g. The last-minute push by both presidential campaigns underscored the importance of Florida’s 29 electoral votes, the largest cache among the country’s prized swing states. By Saturday, more than 8.3 million Floridians had already cast ballots – approaching the 9.5 million total cast in the 2016 presidential election – and the campaigns were making their final appeals to drive the rest of the state’s 14 million registered voters to the polls Tuesday. (AP)


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