November 30, 2016

As Rep. Tim Ryan was wrapping up his interview with Chris Matthews after he lost to Nancy Pelosi for minority leader, he indulged himself in some good old populist talk.

Ryan made the argument that humans are social animals who "become the social culture that we are immersed in most of the time." He went on to say that people absorb the values and opinions of people they socialize with, and those people understand each other.

Apparently to illustrate the point, he went on to say, "You can maintain a level of pragmatism even though you may drink not the dago red wine in Youngstown but some kinds of fancy Napa Valley wine."

"Dago red wine" is a thing. It was even a brand, but "Two Buck Chuck" sold more. "Dago" is also a slur toward Italians, and to a national audience, it did not resonate. In fact, to this Napa Valley wine sipper, it sounded downright ridiculous and ignorant.

Chris Matthews suggested that Ryan be careful about his mentions of dago red wine, to which Ryan responded, "That's what we call it in Youngstown, Chris."

Matthews came back with, "You talk people's talk."

So here's the thing. I'm not the language police. I understand that there are regional colloquialisms like this, but to a national audience, it sounds like nails on a chalkboard. Is the idea here that we're supposed to lapse into ethnic slurs because that's how they talk in Youngstown, even if it means marginalizing a group of people?

Even snooty Wine Spectator acknowledges this:

Let me begin by apologizing to my readers, because "dago red" employs an offensive racial slur that is no longer in use in the wine industry, but it is a part of wine history. For those not familiar with its use as pertains to wine, it's a dated term that refers to both a style of wine, and also to a former commercial wine venture of the same name.

Surely there was a different way to talk "the people's talk" without using a vague reference to a defunct '80s brand of wine that also happens to have an ethnic slur in it?

As Democrats, I'd like to think we can be populists without being offensive, or is the idea here that we should just go ahead and shrug off all pretense of social empathy in favor of getting down, dirty and ethnic? Was the lesson of the 2016 election that Ryan learned to be more like Trump?

Archie Bunker was a Republican, as I recall. I'm not sure it makes sense to try and remake the Democratic party in his image.

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