It blows my mind how some people are addicted to grievance.
A version of my post about the Barack Obama “articulate” meme is up on the Huffington Post. One peevish commenter says my citations of John Edwards (a white man) being described as “articulate” do not disprove the word’s condescending import. In fact, they confirm it!
“ ‘Articulate’ almost always is the label given to an individual who isn’t expected to be – and John Edwards was a great example of that,” wrote this Pouting Thomas. “This adjective is most often reserved for people of color, southerners, poor people and foreigners.”
Another HuffPost commenter echoed that analysis: “Sen. Edwards gets called ‘articulate’ because our reporters can't imagine that anybody with a ‘Tobacco Road’ accent can be intelligent.”
Ahh. So Obama is the target of anti-black condescension, and Edwards is the target of anti-Southern condescension. Got it.
“Whenever white people describe an individual who is not a mainstream WASP as articulate,” the Pouting Thomas insists, it’s meant to be patronizing.
Of course, it took me two minutes to think of a “mainstream WASP” who is often described as articulate. In fact, it’s yet another Democratic candidate for president.
I speak of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Check it out:
Liza Mundy, Washington Post Magazine: “It's the ideal that permits her supporters to accept her dual role as one of the world's most articulate advocates of women's rights, and, at the same time, a wife who has endured months – years, decades – of emotional mistreatment.” – March 21, 1999
Doris Kearns Goodwin, PBS’s “NewsHour”: “Some of her instincts are great. I think she's incredibly articulate, intelligent.” – July 7, 1999
William Douglas, Newsday: “Marcel Weber, chairman of the Orthodox Union’s board, said Clinton was ‘articulate and well-prepared. Overall it was a positive impression.’ ” – December 15, 1999
Rupert Cornwell, the Independent on Sunday: “[M]entally they [the Clintons] were – and remain – a perfect match. Each respected the other's intellect. She was the decisive one, articulate, business-like and determined. He was charming, disorganised and irresistibly persuasive.” – June 8, 2003
Leslie Heuer, Iowa State Daily: “Barbara Walters… plowed through the tough questions to a poised, articulate and elegantly dressed Clinton Sunday evening.” – June 12, 2003
Blogger Wayne Besen: “I would like to see Hillary Clinton as the first woman president. She is bright, articulate and I think would have a successful administration.” – December 12, 2005
Forbes.com: “She is direct, methodical, thoughtful and articulate.” – September 6, 2006
Kathy Sullivan, New Hampshire Democratic Party chairwoman: "Senator Clinton is a dynamic, articulate leader who will be welcomed to the Granite State stage with tremendous excitement." – December 23, 2006
And on the website votehillary.org, a Marlene Gargan of Lake Villa, Ill., writes: “I have been a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton since she was the First Lady. She is so intelligent, thoughtful & articulate.”
Now, I could be all wrong about this. Perhaps Hillary Clinton is the victim of sexist condescension whenever she’s described as “articulate.” Or maybe, just maybe, Clinton and Edwards and Obama are often called “articulate” because, simply, they’re much better speakers than the average politician.
Alas, it’s a mystery that may never be solved.
UPDATE (01/31/07): The Drudge Report this morning linked to a New York Observer article that quotes Sen. Joe Biden as making this genuinely condescending, offensive remark about Barack Obama: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man."
Well, hell... kinda blows my original premise out of the water, doesn't it?