His Republican rivals do not merit this honorific, nor does Hillary Clinton, who sometimes is just called “Hillary,” like a little girl.
If reporters thought about fairness, or even journalistic professionalism, they would surely call all the male candidates “Mr.” and address Hillary Clinton as “Ms. Clinton.”
We readers need to be alert, this strange campaign season, to the way language is being distorted, subtly, to convey certain points of view. Historically, to use “Mr.”—and to a lesser extent “Ms.”—has conveyed a certain level of respect, while to use a first name alone is belittling, and to use both first and last names is neutral. As a writer, I am keenly attuned to these subtleties, and becoming aware of them is our obligation, as readers.
It’s important to remember that in newsrooms, still largely inhabited and dominated by male reporters and editors, the old boy rules apply, the scoffing and jeering, ribbing and joking that made Mark Twain’s “Journalism in Tennessee” such a hit well over a century ago, and makes it is still relevant today.
Donald Trump is, in essence, the bad boy, the specter that haunts many good boy’s dreams.
How much fun it would be to indulge in such outrageous behavior, to insult, exaggerate, misrepresent, even outright lie—with a mesmerized throng of reporters following, and reporting on, every grossness! To be applauded on stage for every outrageous expression of prejudice!
How terrific to forget all about manners, decency, respect for women or those “Others”—eleven million strong—that Donald Trump would throw out of the country!
How delightful to imagine a wall, a real wall, a tall wall, hundreds of miles long, paid for by the government of Mexico! How liberating not to need to think of the sheer impossibility of such an outlandish notion!
To be fair, all of us—men and women, boys and girls—long to escape from the constraints of reality, at least from time to time. But most of us are not in positions of power; most of us influence few people outside of the circle of our families and friends. Those who aspire to political prominence must adhere to a different set of rules, foremost of which is to behave decently, speak with moderation, and take responsibility for influencing those (especially the poorly educated among whom Donald Trump has a large following) who may lack judgement in speaking and acting and who take Donald Trump as their hero, excusing excess of all kinds.
There are other curious facts about the coverage of this campaign, but one stands out: no reporter as far as I know has commented on Donald Trump’s orange hair.
Do you remember the vicious newspaper criticism of Hillary Clinton’s appearance, her clothes, her hair, her make-up, which was only stilled by our determined pushback against it and, during her last campaign, by her decision to wear versions of the same outfit so that after a while there was nothing new to criticize?
The one who has benefited most from this salutationary re-focusing is Mr. Trump.