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Wednesday, September 30, 2009


President Obama recently said, in reference to the fact that his health care proposal would force many seniors out of their Medicare Advantage plan, "These folks are going to be able to get Medicare that is just as good."

This happens not to be true, but that is not the point of this post. The point is, Obama seems inordinately fond of the word "folks." He uses it at every opportunity. What a folksy guy!

It actually shows what a consummate politician Obama is, because the word has all sorts of positive connotations.

For starters, it's how people refer to their parents, as in "my folks."

Then there's "just plain folks," to denote unpretentious people. "Ordinary folks" has the same connotations -- you know, salt of the earth types.

Then there is the word "folklore," which implies a common history. Hitler was very fond of the word, by the way, and named the car he designed the "folk's wagon," or, as we know it, the Volkswagen. (I am not a liberal, so I am not trying to imply that Obama is another Hitler because of this very superficial commonality.)

The expression "old folks" has a somewhat old-fashioned ring to it, as does "young folks," for that matter. It's an expression your grandmother would have used. (Your American grandmother, if not your Kenyan one, anyway.) It evokes the middle class, the heartland, a place where Obama once lived but doesn't seem to identify much with. (Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. We're in the South Side of Chicago -- and thank God for that.)

People sometimes say "They're good folks," to ascribe a solid morality to whomever they're describing. It's not a phrase you associate with rich people. It's more....Auntie Em kind of folks.

What Obama wants to imply by his constant invocation of the word is that he cares about these people. But repeat any word often enough and it starts to sound nonsensical: folks, folks, folks, folks, folks, folks, folks, folks.....

At least that's the effect his repetitiousness is starting to have on me.

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