Standard bearer? 旗手

2019-09-10 12:21:39

Reader question:

Please explain “standard bearer” as in someone being described as “the new standard bearer of climate change.”

My comments:

If someone is the new standard bearer of climate change, then he or she is the new leader of the movement, the movement to fight climate change or to curb global warming.

Why is “standard bearer” equivalent to a leader or the leading man (or woman)?

Literally, the standard bearer is the flag carrier, originally someone who clutches the distinctive flag of an army in combat. Standard, you see, is the big flag on a pole, an emblem or symbol of an army or kingdom. The bearer is someone who bears the weight of the flag, which necessarily is tall and big, so tall and big that soldiers from a distance will be able to see the flag and follow it.

Nowadays, when someone champions a cause and is in fact a leader of that movement, he (or she) is often called the standard bearer, even though no standard of the physical kind is being born or carried. Just symbolically, the standard bearer is someone who marches in front, metaphorically speaking, who’s tall in stature, also metaphorically speaking, and who is very visible for everyone to see.

In our example, “the new standard bearer for climate change” must be someone who’s taken the mantle, so to speak, from an old standard bearer, someone who used to lead the movement. The new standard bearer is now the person people follow and look up to – for direction, inspiration and leadership.

The standard bearer can similarly be called the torch bearer (as the torch bearer we see at an Olympics opening ceremony), the trailblazer (who finds a new path), the spearhead (or the tip of a spear), the ringleader (leader of a ring or gang or group of people).

Only “trailblazer” implies something brand new; “spearhead” sounds a little too sharp while “ringleader” smacks of activities that may be sinister in nature.

One thing in common, though, is that all of these people, the standard bearer, the torch bearer, the trailblazer, the spearhead and the ringleader are all in a position of authority and are all frontrunners.

Frontrunners, that is, instead of followers.

All right, here are media examples of “standard bearer” for this cause and that:

1. AirPods may be the standard bearer for wireless Bluetooth earbuds, but at $160 a pair, you know that you’re paying a big premium for the Apple name. There are plenty of budget alternatives, and you won’t see many bigger savings than the Bluetooth 5.0 AirTaps from Trndlabs.

The AirTaps have a sleek, true-wireless design to ensure minimal bulk, and they come with a lightweight charging case. Not only is the case handy for keeping the buds together, but it also gives you an extra 10 hours battery life.

The playback time from the AirTaps is already up to four hours, so with the extra juice from the charging case, you can go all day without needing a power socket.

The AirTaps use Bluetooth 5.0 for enhanced connectivity with your device, so they won’t lag or drop out while you’re enjoying your favorite tunes. They’re pretty damn stylish too.

If you like the look of the AirTaps then today is the best day to pick up a pair. They’re on offer for better than half price this week. The usual value is almost $100, but right now a set is just $36.99.

- Deal: The $100 Bluetooth 5 AirTaps are under $40 today,, April 20, 2019.

2. “Weird Al” Yankovic, the best-selling comedy artist in the history of the record industry and a multiple Grammy winner, weighed in late last night on the reports that MAD magazine will be ceasing publication, expressing sorrow for the loss of “one of the all-time greatest American institutions.” Yankovic was just one of many voices last night, upset after the news broke that MAD magazine was cutting way back and would stop publishing new interior content in the magazine later this year.

In 2015, Yankovic was the first person ever to be the magazine’s “guest editor,” a role that fulfilled a childhood fantasy that he and likely many other kids have had. “It was my childhood dream to one day be a contributor to MAD Magazine,” Yankovic said at the time. “This is an excellent example of why children are never allowed to make important decisions.”


Reports of the magazine’s demise turned out to be exaggerated -- but only slightly. The humor publication will stop circulating at newsstands after next month’s issue, and the issue after that will be the final MAD made entirely with new content. After that, MAD will begin republishing great strips from the past with a new cover each month, published exclusively to the comic shop direct market. DC intends to continue publishing MAD’s venerable year-end specials as well as other one-shots and special projects. Still, as an ongoing topical humor magazine, MAD is functionally going to be gone by the end of 2019.

It has been a while since MAD was the standard-bearer for American comedy and satire that it once was; Yankovic’s issue was a rare moment of publicity for the magazine in its later years, and the magazine never seemed to fully recover from the loss of longtime editor John Ficarra, who declined to join DC when the company moved from New York to Los Angeles. In 2017, DC replaced Ficarra with veteran Bongo Comics editor Bill Morrison, but he was laid off earlier this year, and any breath of fresh air DC hoped his new editorial regime might bring was clearly not entirely effective since MAD relaunched with a new #1 in April of 2018, and never quite seemed to find its niche.

- Weird Al Yankovic Admits He Is “Profoundly Sad” Over MAD Magazine Cancellation,, July 4, 2019.

3. When is the right time to have a meaningful, substantive debate on gun control?

The correct answer, of course, is “yesterday.” For Republican lawmakers, the answer is “never.” For the field of Democrats running for president, the answer might finally be “now.”

It’s taken a few years — a few decades, perhaps — longer than one would hope, but Democrats in Congress and on the campaign trail are beginning to find their voice on the issue of gun control.

As recently as a few years ago — even after mass shootings at Virginia Tech, at Sandy Hook, at Fort Hood, in Aurora, Colorado, in Charleston, South Carolina, gave birth to groups like Everytown, Moms Demand Action, and Giffords — Democratic lawmakers in Washington were still treading lightly on the issue of guns.

Sure, every mass shooting triggered a wave of indignation at our collective inability to curb gun violence, and renewed calls for legislative action. But when those bills inevitably stalled at the feet of Republican obstructionists, Democrats would allow their outrage to recede, at least until the next mass shooting. Like the tides, their interest ebbed and flowed.

In this case, the gravitational force at work was the National Rifle Association. Republicans have cowered in fear of the group’s undue influence for decades, but more than a few Democrats did as well. And leaders within the party were keenly aware that their most vulnerable members in Congress often hailed from districts where existing “gun culture” all but forbade politicians who wanted to win an election from running afoul of the NRA.

That is simply no longer the case. If gun control was once a third rail of Democratic politics, it’s now a litmus test.

There are two broad and interconnected reasons why. The first is the aforementioned rise of new advocacy organizations focused on the issue of gun control. Many of them have been around for years, but their political influence is only now coming into maturation thanks in no small part to the survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Their refusal to be silenced and forgotten has kept the issue of gun control in the public consciousness even as the current administration sets the rest of the world on fire.

Gun control, even as recently as the 2016 election, was never a Top 5 issue for voters in the same way health care, the economy, and social safety net programs were. But since Parkland, there is evidence to suggest the issue is firmly lodging itself in the minds of voters. During the 2018 midterms, gun policy was ranked as a very important issue by 69 percent of voters in a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. That ranked it ahead of taxes, Medicare, Social Security, immigration, and all but two other issues.

So animating has the issue of gun control become, among Democrats in particular, that an entire presidential campaign was launched atop a platform of gun control. And while Rep. Eric Swalwell’s (D-CA) entry into the field was short-lived, the very notion of a candidate running on the issue of gun control was unthinkable even four years ago.

Simultaneously, as the influence of gun control groups has grown, the NRA’s has waned. Once the standard bearer for single-issue advocacy organizations — their grading system for politicians once had the ability to sink or sustain an entire campaign — the NRA is now limping into the 2020 election season after a series of highly publicized and deeply embarrassing failures.

- The 2020 election might be the first to hinge on gun control,, August 9, 2019.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)