About two years ago – seems like two lifetimes ago, doesn’t it? – in a public forum, we asked a (non-Fairfax) elected official to help us understand what the word “equity” was intended to mean.
Why? Because, even by 2019, the word had come to be bandied around so much that it seemed to be losing any real linguistic connotation. Not unlike “mindfulness,” that impossible-to-pin-down bromide that was the rage in certain circles until its usage, mercifully, petered out.
If the linguistic intent was as a synonym for “fairness” – who could be against fairness – why not use that? Going with “equity,” we opined, seemed to be an effort to weaponize a word for use in the political and culture wars.
In response, the elected official gave it his best try at defining “equity” – a word he liked to work into conversations frequently – but failed at providing clarity.
(Which reminds us of the tongue-in-cheek bon mot a relative once imparted, on how bureaucrats are prepped for testimony before Congress. “When in doubt, mumble,” the relative said, “and when trapped, lie.” But we digress.)
Two years have come and gone, the world has gone to hell and “equity” is tossed around with more abandon than ever. We chuckle when receiving press releases where the word is jammed into sentences in a fashion as ungainly as a chunky fella attempting a cannonball into the pool.
Elected officials and government agencies that use the phrase – and you know who you are – had better hope it disappears more quickly than the pandemic. Because if it doesn’t, they’re in trouble.
Why? Because as we’ve seen over the past two years, as progressive as a Virginia politician thinks he or she is, there’s always somebody further to his or her left, lurking.
Just look at the large number of Democratic members of the House of Delegates being challenged in primaries; those challenges in many cases are from those way out on the left flank.
In private, the more realpolitik Democrats will admit that having those far-leftingtons on the ballot, if any make it to the general election, would imperil recent Democratic successes in Virginia and nationally.
As Attorney General Mark Herring has found in recent months, and as some of those delegates being challenged are finding right now, shoving the word “equity” (and its ilk) into press releases and speeches is no panacea from charges from those further left of being out of step, out of touch . . . and, come primary day, perhaps out of time.
And if so, it’ll be a case of “live by nebulous buzzwords, die by nebulous buzzwords.”