Word Under Suspicion: “Strategist”

I’ve had a bit more time to glance at some of the cable-TV hybrid shows that sprinkle interviews and holdings forth with “news”–mostly headlines and videos.

I have noticed that many of the guests are still referred to as “Democratic strategists” or “Republican strategists,” with no other reference to the person’s qualifications, expertise, or employment.

I suspect, but do not know, that the producers of these shows generate a list of people who are presentable and glib, and if the person doesn’t even work for a think-tank or run a business or teach at a university (etc.), the catch-all “strategist” is used.

When a word like this becomes generic and popular, I get suspicious because it gets less precise. Second, are they really strategists? Are they even tacticians? I think they are primarily people who are willing to be interviewed and who are relatively comfortable on TV. I think they should be described as “citizens” unless the producers can come up with something more specific with regard to expertise or experience. I’m sure they are not strategists–designers of broad plans to guide a Party.

It’s good to be suspicious of words that have become widely accepted but don’t seem to denote much, as Orwell noted, chiefly with regard to worn metaphors and stock-phrases.


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