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This blog will serve as a commentary that explores issues related to the intersection of American politics, race, and gender. Its focus is on the leadership of diverse women who served or currently serve in a role that contributes to shaping the outcome of political campaigns or civic engagement/voting efforts.... Read more

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Do You Know Your Political Jargon?

Every political operative acquires a brand new vocabulary while serving on the campaign trail.  If you live and work in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, its even more difficult to avoid the political jargon while at work, on the Metro, and even in restaurants. For those who have taken the political training, found the perfect candidate to work for, and are already geared up for the 2018 elections in Maryland, make sure to brush up on your political jargon before jumping in.

When I first became a political operative a decade ago, I picked up all kinds of unfamiliar words just by interacting with campaign staff, volunteers, and other political organizers. Also, a number of words entered my everyday political vocabulary as I read election news and political commentaries.

Here are a few essential political words to know, with definitions referenced from BBC News:

  1. Political Action Committee (PAC): An organisation formed to promote its members’ views on selected issues, usually by raising money that is used to fund candidates who support the group’s position.
  2. Caucus: A meeting of party members and activists at which they choose which candidate to back for the party nomination.
  3. Gaffe: A verbal error or slip-up made by a politician or other political figure. Or in a famous formulation by American journalist Michael Kinsley, a gaffe is when a politician accidentally says something he or she really means but that was better left unsaid.
  4. Wonk: A political figure or pundit seen as having a studied and detailed command of public policy.

Want to look up other words you’ve encountered? View the entire glossary for U.S. elections from BBC News.

Keep this list in your back pocket.  It may come in handy while on the campaign trail.

What’s a word that you encounter often in your political activities? Let us know on Twitter: @PoliticsWithin

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Tonia Bui

About Tonia Bui

Tonia Bui is currently a strategic communications consultant. Most recently, she served as treasurer for the Hoan Dang for County Council campaign in Montgomery County. Tonia previously served as the Communications Director for the Nguyen for Delegate Campaign (VA-67) in 2013 and led the Asian American voter outreach efforts for the Darcy Burner for Congress Campaign (WA-08) in 2008. Her efforts to build stakeholder engagement stems from her experiences serving as the Member Outreach Assistant to Vice Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Xavier Becerra (CA-34). She also previously worked for U.S. Senator Barack Obama (IL-13) and California Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (CA-12). Her work has been published by the Harvard Asian American Policy Review and cited by scholars of the political science textbook, Campaigns on the Cutting Edge. Tonia holds a Master in Public Policy from American University and a B.A. in Mass Communications and Gender & Women’s Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Read more of Tonia's blog Politics Within Politics.


One Response to “Do You Know Your Political Jargon?”

  1. Avatar
    On June 29, 2017 at 12:15 pm responded with... #

    Hi Tonia, I’m a college student volunteering for a young Asian American woman running for office for the first time, and I have followed your blog for some time! Is there a way for young people who are supporting others running for office to get in contact with you and get advice? Thanks again for the work you do!

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