Wonk. n. One who studies an issue or topic thoroughly or excessively.
Synonyms: "pundit" and the British term "boffin."
Earliest reference: 1962 Sports Illustrated and something something about Harvard.
Derivation: 1) "know" spelled backwards, or 2) Acronym for "WithOut Normal Knowledge."
In a heavily divided America where every person is being increasingly encouraged not only to vote but to be a wonk for their guy, gal, or position, we can only proceed by identifying which policies and candidates we choose by wearing the appropriate t-shirts or by playing The Political Machine game until we are as wonk as possible.
We all know just how valuable those political posters in our neighborhood yards have proved to be over the years, decisively swaying the vote one way or the other because if [insert neighbor's name] is voting for that candidate, golly-gee-wiz then so am I.
How exactly do people decide who they are going to vote for? Do their minds really change? Okay, I'll admit that I wanted to vote for Carter in 1980 – but then I wasn't the smartest 2nd grader. I did later change my mind. But does a t-shirt proclaiming abortion rights, pro-war, anti-war, high taxes, low taxes, or decreased school funding cause me to respond politically by voting accordingly?
Even with truer wonks that have a little more substance (or at least passion) to their arguments on TV talk shows, have you ever seen either the liberal or the conservative concede to the other's position? "Well, okay, I guess you're absolutely right, Hannity!" Don't hold your breath, or you'll be one less vote.
If there is a multitude out there that is going to be persuaded by the way that they think most of the people around them are going to vote, then we're all in trouble.