An unexpected word usage came up at least a couple of times during the convention weekend.
During Hillary Clinton's Saturday-morning press conference, a reporter asked the senator to comment on the suggestion that she is the candidate of the establishment while Barack Obama is the candidate of the insurgency. You know, the reporter said, head versus heart.
Later, at a California Young Democrats party at downtown's Museum of Contemporary Art, New Mexico governor Bill Richardson tried to rally the crowd of young, drunken Dems with his claim that he is "the insurgent, the underdog."
Webster's defines an insurgent as a person who "rises in forcible opposition to lawful authority" or a member of a political party who revolts against the tenets of that party. Either way: a rebel with a cause.
By using the word "insurgency," that reporter was implying that a wave of American Democrats is rising up against its party by supporting Obama, and-though this may be a stretch of interpretation-that those people were acting out of passion (the heart) rather than intellect (the head).
And Richardson, bless his goobernatorial soul, wanted to position himself as the rebel. While it does take some cojones to blaze a campaign trail with no shot of winning, to define himself as an insurgent simply because of his underdog status seems an inflated claim.
The use of insurgency in both cases, though not inaccurate, is jarring because the term has become so loaded with negative connotation. For most Americans, it is currently a word inextricably linked to crazed kidnappers, suicide bombers and beheaders, not to an empathetic underdog.
Americans were once insurgents, though. Remember a little thing called the American Revolution? At that time in our country's history, insurgency was empowering, the road to freedom.
Perhaps this is what Donald Rumsfeld meant in late 2005, when, in a press conference, he decried the portrayal of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his supporters as insurgents. Rummy, in his steadfast wisdom, was suddenly convinced that "insurgency" had positive connotations. He called this realization an "epiphany."
Maybe the Democratic Party needs to claim "Insurgency" as its new overall motto, no matter who ends up in the lead. A passionate outcry of revolt against everything that's happened during the Bush administration was a common motif of the candidates' speeches.
Instead of planting roadside bombs, the Insurgent Party could lob explosive ideas. Instead of breeding an army of haters, it could lure new members with positive, persuasive arguments. It could lead with its heart and its head.
Now, that would be a true epiphany.
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