Presidential pronouns


When Mr. Trump speaks (both publicly and privately, I imagine) he uses pronouns to indicate various people and groups. This is not something unique to the president; we all use pronouns. Some of us use them correctly, as in, “Please pass me the butter,” and some of us use them incorrectly, as in, “Tune in to Jennifer and myself for the 6 O’clock news.” In formal English grammar (I picked this up in the ninth grade), there are myriad rules governing pronominal usage. I was just an average student, though, and to this day, I can never remember to use the correct form: “To whom do you wish to speak?” My preferred choice is “Who d’ya wanna talk at?”

In addition to the rules of use, there are many accepted, common regional pronouns, some of which often are taken as stereotypical. Many of us have bumped into the “Y’alls,” “Doze Guyz” or the “Whus-up” versions of street talk connoting distinctive societal layers. I, for one, can’t get quite used to numerous phrases that find their way from “urban discourse” to the airwaves via rap and hip-hop music. I find these intrusions into my otherwise bucolic existence grating. It’s not that I’m an effete snob, it’s just that I don’t quite understand the noise.

Mr. Trump, while seemingly not afraid to use verbal modifiers in his speech/tweets (“Crooked Hillary,” “Silly Nancy,” “Pocahontas Warren,” “Sleepy Joe,” to mention a few), has a rather distinct way in his use of pronouns. We’re all aware of this penchant of his. When he uses “I,” we have an exact, pinpoint reference: that “I” refers solely to the president himself. Likewise, when he uses “we,” Mr. Trump almost exclusively refers to the Republicans, or to the few, still-favored members of his administration. “You” is reserved for Democrats, outsiders, the opposition and the rest of the world.

For the most part, the above distinctions are fair (perhaps not just, but fair). They are verbal indicators of what the president is speaking about, or about whom the president is speaking. Classic first-person, second-person and third-person referents; I can never remember which.

What is bothersome, however, is that when Mr. Trump uses the indicator you incorrectly or pejoratively; this is particularly troubling when he links you with people, as in “you people.” Having witnessed Mr. Trump’s informal speechifying for the past couple of years, “you people” comes as no surprise. What did come as a surprise just the other day was when our president said the following: “You people and your silly emoluments clauses...” What? In which universe does the president actually exist?

No, Mr. Trump, it’s not “your” — the Democrats’/Liberals’/Socialists’ — emoluments clauses. It’s our —Constitutional/representational/checks-and-balances — emoluments, built into our U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8; see, also Article II, Section 1, Paragraph 7), and in the Articles of Confederation (Article VI, Paragraph 1) by persons smarter than you who were afraid of — and prepared for — the misuse of public office. (These clauses were based on similar ones from the Dutch Republic, circa 1651.) Our founders deemed these “silly” clauses to be of such significance that they were incorporated into the original bindings of the Constitution, not as afterthoughts or amendments. Perhaps these finer intricacies of our Constitution were skipped over in your 10th grade U.S. history class.

Mr. Pence’s stays in your Irish hotel (and his 300-plus-mile round trips to there and back), the G-7’s 2020 gathering at your resort hotel in Florida, Mr. Giuliani’s quasi-official meetings at Trump Towers in New York City, or your daughter’s/son-in-law’s ill-advised high-profile government positions are exactly the reasons for such — and each — of those “silly” emoluments clauses.

It is not simply a matter of “we against you” or “I against us.” These emoluments clauses — not nearly as silly as you would have us believe — are about our government: we the people.

Demonstrate some respect, Mr. President, for our country and your presidency. Please consider your office as a privilege, not something that’s just for your “I.” Try to remember that there is a we in our Declaration of Independence, and the substance of that we is what has held your country together for the past 243 years.

 Cris Torp is a resident of South Beach.

 

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