Connotational Inversion

In the past, activists have recaptured pejorative words and forced them into badges of honor. Now California Lieutenant Governor candidate Janice Hahn seems to be trying to repeat that feat with “politician” and “bureaucrat”. Is she courageous or just erroneous?

Deciding how to vote today in the California primary election, I perused the Web sites of some candidates, and it was a delight to see a paragraph beginning with the following sentence on the site of Janice Hahn, candidate in the Democratic Party election for Lieutenant Governor:

Sacramento politicians and state bureaucrats need to be given greater authority to improve the quality of education in our schools, colleges and universities.

How refreshing! Hahn seems to be doing to “politician” and “bureaucrat” (and, for that matter, “Sacramento”) what activists at other times have done to “poor”, “black”, and “queer”: recapturing a sneer word to invert its pejorative connotation.

The trouble is that this inversion seems to be an isolated incident in this candidate’s statement, which otherwise flaunts its fair share of trite slogans like “cut wasteful spending”. So, is Hahn subtlely nudging her readers to be less hostile toward a couple of undeservedly demeaned concepts, or is she possibly just exhibiting editorial incompetence?

The answer to this question may be inferred from the way that the previous paragraph ends:

Janice Hahn will empower local classroom teachers and schools principals, because educators, not

There are a couple of “p” tags between these paragraphs. Somebody did this. Who? Why? Did opponent Gavin Newsom’s campaign hack into Hahn’s Web site with this minory surgery, hoping nobody would notice?

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