Walking back, to avoid climbing down
A pedestrian metaphor proves to have legs in this electoral season
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Nor are we hearing much about any given electoral race as a "cakewalk." This term is used mostly in the negative of late, and mostly to refer to sports contests.
"Cakewalk" was the prediction from Kenneth Adelman, a conservative security and defense official, for the US war in Iraq. Things didn't quite work out that way, and if "cakewalk" has subsequently fallen out of political discourse, this may explain why.
The original "cakewalk," as Slate explained in 2003, was an informal dance African-Americans in the antebellum South invented. It was "intended to satirize the stiff ballroom promenades of white plantation owners." Dancers took part in contests, competing for slices of cake – hence the name. After emancipation, "cakewalk" came to mean "an easy task."
But it's the autumn of 2012, and there aren't many cakewalks here. The pedestrian metaphor that does seem to have real "legs" this season – on both sides of the political aisle – is "walking back."
It seems to be a variant on "backtracking," meant to be a little more neutral, and a little more dignified, than a "climbdown."