The sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia surprised many Americans. Perhaps not surprisingly, the political debate over his successor started immediately.
Republican candidates for president such as Marco Rubio argue that President Obama shouldn’t make a nomination to the court because he is a “lame duck.” Some media organizations are using that term for Obama as well.
This use of “lame duck” warps its meaning. Bill Walsh of The Washington Post tweeted this tip:
Reminder: A lame duck is an elected official whose successor has been chosen.
— Bill Walsh (@TheSlot) February 14, 2016
The Merriam-Webster dictionary lists a similar definition as well as this one: “one whose position or term of office will soon end.”
What is “soon” is subjective, but Obama has 11 months left in office. That’s a significant amount of time.
Editors should be precise in their word choices. So let’s reserve “lame duck” as a label for Obama on Nov. 9, 2016.