Monday, July 30, 2007

My friend Fred Brown wrote in the Denver Post over the weekend to defend the recent misuse by him and others of the term grassroots:

Definitions evolve over time and drift from their moorings…

(That) fate has befallen "grassroots," perhaps. Although John S. Wren would dispute this, and did, in an e-mail after a recent column:

"Fred Brown in his column Sunday [June 24] used the term 'grassroots' incorrectly, in my opinion."

(I had written that "'Grassroots' is a term used at both ends of the political spectrum to denote a party's most ardent true believers - the left-most Democrats the right-most Republicans.")

Wren cited the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, which defines "grass roots" as 1: basic, fundamental; 2: being, originating or operating in or at the grass roots; and 3: not adopted from or added to an existing facility or operation.

"When Ben Franklin said, 'we have a Republic if we can keep it,"' Wren continued, "the 'we' he was referring to \[is\] the grassroots, it seems to me, used in this sense. He was referring to all Americans." Then Wren got to what he was really driving at, which is his support of Colorado's sometimes controversial caucus process. "Keeping the common person involved and potent is the only justification for our wonderful Colorado neighborhood caucus-assembly system for nominating to the primary ballot," he wrote.

"Words are power, and I believe the Denver Post and Mr. Brown owe our community a correction."

I had to concede, and did in an e-mail response, that "Your definition of 'grassroots' is certainly correct, but it's not the way politicians use the word these days."

In today's politics, in the overly manipulated world of spin, words are not used casually. They are carefully selected for effect, and to suggest value judgments…

Well, OK. It's true that politicians will misuse words for political purposes. But shouldn't journalists be held to a higher standard?

The bigger question is what do we do about the disappearance of the true grassroots. We've saved the neighborhood caucus. Now can we use this powerful tool to save the TRUE grassroots?

We'll continue our discussion of this important topic at our next CoCaCoP (Colorado Caucus Community of Practice) Meetup, join us! RSVP at If you can't make the next meeting, RSVP "No" and you'll receive an invitation to next month's meeting with information about who will be speaking.

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