Category Archives: Politics

“Backbencher” spike

Back in 2013, I looked at U.S. adoption of the British political word “backbencher,” referring to junior members of Parliament who literally sit in the back benches. [Update: As the comments reveal, this is not a good definition of British “backbencher.”] Three years later I noted failed Republican presidential nominee Jeb Bush’s habit of using the word to disparage his rivals in the race.

Now, Nancy Friedman reports a surge in U.S. use of the word, thanks to newly elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka AOC), a liberal Democrat who seems to really get on Republicans’ last nerve.  “Backbencher” is actually one of their milder epithets for her, but it might be the most popular. Nancy writes:

Do a Google search for “Ocasio Cortez backbencher” and you get results from the Orlando Weekly (“For all the attention paid Ocasio-Cortez, however, she’s just a backbencher”), The Federalist (“She could easily become yesterday’s news, dismissed like other backbenchers and cranks within the House Democratic caucus”), The Hill (“[I told her] to pick some of those issues and really lead on them from day one and not to be told to keep her head down or be a backbencher, but to come here and lead” – California Rep. Ro Khanna), The Advocate (“If she wants to even be moderately effective as a legislator and not some permanent backbencher … she’s gonna have to play the game”), and Esquire (“that backbenchers-should-be-seen-and-not-heard business should’ve died with Sam Rayburn”).

And she reproduced some tweets, including:

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It’s almost makes you think that all these people were working from the same talking points.