Why Are Democrats Using the Word ‘Latinx’?

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) gestures in a televised townhall on CNN in Los Angeles, Calif., October 10, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Some unpleasant news for progressives consumed by the ever-evolving demands of properly administering their identity-politics agenda: A new study conducted by the progressive firm ThinkNow Research has found that a whopping 98 percent of Latinos in the U.S. prefer to describe themselves with terms other than “Latinx.”

Latinx is a relatively new formulation, coined by those so fixated on gender theory that they believe it necessary to eradicate or modify beyond recognition words that feature masculine or gendered endings. Here’s more on the intricacies of the term and its aspirational goals, from HuffPost:

Latinx is the gender-neutral alternative to Latino, Latina and even Latin@. . . . It’s part of a “linguistic revolution” that aims to move beyond gender binaries and is inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants. In addition to men and women from all racial backgrounds, Latinx also makes room for people who are trans, queer, agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming or gender fluid.

As left-wing activist circles have gravitated toward using this term rather than the more common — and intelligible — Latino/Latina, some members of this year’s slate of Democratic presidential candidates have decided they had better go along for the ride, some more clumsily than others. During the first primary debate, for instance, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren pronounced the word “Latin-X,” perhaps an understandable error given the unnaturalness of the word (not to mention the unfortunate fact that not all of its fans agree on how it ought to be pronounced).

But the results of ThinkNow’s poll suggest that this sort of obvious pandering is unnecessary, and perhaps even harmful. Ross Douthat put a fine point on the matter in his most recent column for the New York Times:

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But if Warren’s linguistic move seemed normal to journalists — in our world, the phrase “Latinx” is increasingly commonplace — it’s still a curious one for a politician doing outreach. There’s very little evidence that “Latinx” is a thing that many Hispanics or Latinos call themselves, at least in the kind of numbers that normally determine how political candidates talk.

“Though Latinx is becoming common in social media and in academic writing,” a recent Merriam-Webster “words we’re watching” entry noted, “it is unclear whether it will catch on in mainstream use.”

If Latino Americans don’t in fact identify with the word “Latinx,” as this poll suggests, one is left to wonder not only whether Democrats who persist in using it are undercutting their support but also whether, in using it in the first place, they’re aiming to appeal to Latino voters at all. More likely, Democratic politicians are far more concerned with appeasing the white, highly educated, progressive activist class who use the term than they are with appealing to the individuals whom the word is supposedly meant to better represent.

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