Most examples of regional political lingo refer, in one way or another, to class or ethnicity. No surprise there: Those are the divides that animate politics, especially in big cities. In Philadelphia, the term “Rizzocrat” conjures a very specific image of blue-collar whites. In New York, the “Zabar’s Vote” means a certain stratum of affluent Jewish liberals. Even before it had local elections, Washington, too, had its colorful local nomenclature: After all, this is the city where fusty old Cave Dwellers looked down on the arrivistes who rolled in with each new Congress or administration.
Oddly, though, the past decade’s massive demographic changes did little to enrich our local political vocabulary. Even as gentrification provided the emotional score for last year’s election, our descriptions of the new voting blocs were downright clunky: As Vince Gray announced plans to challenge Adrian Fenty, The Washington Post cited worries about “an election that could divide the electorate between longtime District residents and newcomers,” helpfully pointing out that “entrenched District residents tend to be black and older than 50, and new residents are younger and white.” Thanks for that.
Luckily, Post columnist Courtland Milloy gets a bit more leeway on demographic terminology. Milloy was passionately on the side of those entrenched residents in their showdown with the aforementioned newcomers, devoting a post-election column to dancing on Fenty’s political grave. Here’s Milloy’s take on the defeated incumbent’s supporters: “Watch them at the chic new eateries, Fenty’s hip newly arrived ‘creative class’ firing up their ‘social media’ networks whenever he’s under attack. Why should the mayor have to stop his work just to meet with some old biddies, they tweet. Who cares if the mayor is arrogant as long as he gets the job done? Myopic little twits.”
Not everyone immediately embraced this political shorthand. The blogosphere exploded. Twitter scolded. Online smart-alecks mocked the scribe as an old man who needed to put quotes around the words “social media.” But as divisive as the slam may have been, you don’t have to be a Fenty hater to know it did the job linguistically. Pretty much everyone in the city knows what one of Milloy’s myopic little twits looks like. The term rightly became an instant classic, its three caustic words worth more than any amount of stats-based demographic description.
Of course, Milloy’s celebratory tone may have been premature. A glance at the District’s Census data suggests that the years to come will likely feature more chic new eateries and more creative class arrivistes. (Just this month, the District’s penchant for tweeting helped get Washington named America’s most socially networked city, albeit in one of those national magazine rankings that don’t mean much.) Which is all just to say that, in the next election cycle, some sharp pol is going to woo those voters. Let’s hope a bright columnist notes that the candidates were sucking up to the myopic little twit demographic.