Looking Back/Looking Ahead
As we reach the midpoint of 2017 celebrations abound --- graduations, Father’s Day, Flag Day (DJT’s b’day) --- and we’re on the cusp of summer with its warmer, longer days and slower pace. Political news is breaking everywhere and all the time, it seems, and the horror of the Congressional baseball field shooting hangs over us, too. As we wrap up the week the Blast is going to avoid the heavy-duty stuff and just amble around some “under the radar” topics that have also popped up this week.
In 1949 the “top ten” names for boys, from 1 to 10, were: James, Robert, John, William, Michael, David, Richard, Thomas, Charles, and Larry. Boomers in their late 60’s remember going to school with lots of guys with those names (and girls named, 1 to 10, Linda, Mary, Patricia, Barbara, Susan, Sandra, Nancy, Carol, Kathleen, and Sharon). Pretty bland, very “grey flannel suit” (white) “American” names. As a teacher, it was fun to watch the shifting generational names come and go. Years full of Jennifers and Jessicas, Sams and Noahs, Tylers and Taylors, etc. reflected the shifting cultural tides. By the early 21st century, teaching in New York City, I had two students named Shaquille! So this year’s MLB draft’s top ten names reflect something (I’m not sure what, exactly, but something) about what’s become culturally popular. So, without further ado, here are the top ten names of the players chosen first by major league baseball. 1. Royce 2. Hunter 3. Mackenzie 4. Brendan 5. Kyle 6. Pavin 7. Adam 8. Keston 9. Joe 10 Jake. Having watched quite a few Little League games the past few years (the Lovely Carol Marie’s grandsons play), I’m not shocked by the list and can predict that in about 7 or 8 years you can expect to see a bunch of players named Braden, Miles, Rider, Lawson, Austin, and so on.
There’s nothing deep here, just an observation. In naming our children we try (I think) to create a name that makes them a special individual, gives them a certain distinction. Sometimes the name is part of a family “tradition” or honorific toward a family member (as in “Jr.” or “III”). That can be good or bad, from the kid’s point of view, of course. Some names invite taunting and ridicule (“Wilbur,” the 309th most popular name in 1949 was part of the “Mr. Ed”/talking horse show leading to quite a bit of “playful” kidding back in the Sixties) Names, like hairstyles and hem lengths go in and out of style and popularity, simply serving as a barometer of what’s popular in the world at a particular time. Will we see a bunch of young “Piper”s as a result of Orange is the New Black in the near future? Or “LeBron”s or “Steph”s? “Odell”s? Who knows?
Nothing deep. Just keep moving, folks, nothing to see here. Just something to observe.
2. The Democratic “Base?”
As I watch the news programs I keep hearing about “Trump’s base” and the Democrat’s base. In the former case we have a pretty clear idea of who those 35% or so are: white, working/lower middle class, no college education primarily not-urban citizens. When it comes to the Democratic Party’s base I’m pretty unclear. Historically, of course, going back to the FDR’s New Deal & going forward, the Democratic base was: working class union workers, ethnic minorities (immigrants, first generation Americans), Jews, African-Americans, and the LGBT community. In other words an amalgam of groups that might define “identity politics.” Combine that with old line “Lefites” who (like Bernie Sanders) are old school Socialists or Kennedy “liberals,” add a tablespoon of “political correctness” (introduced in the last 20 years or so) and that’s the Democratic base(?). And therein, I believe, is the problem. Given that range of groups/identities what does the Democratic Party stand for? We know the talking points: an increased minimum wage, environmental justice, protection of women’s, LGBT, & “minority” rights, and so on. But what’s their message and how are they going to accomplish things? Yes, they see the Federal government as more “activist” than Republicans and, yes, they’re “for” social justice but what does all that mean? And who, in their ranks, epitomizes their “message?”
Before the 2018 midterm elections roll around the Democratic Party better solve its identity problem, get away from identity politics, and forget about harping on how awful Donald Trump is (it’s obvious, what’s your alternative?). Unless they can create a coherent, intelligent, and clear statement of who they are --- building a base around their ideas/ideals --- the Democrats will continue to whistle in the wind and stand in the wings as the Republicans and Tea Partiers run the show.