In the movie The American President, Chief of Staff A.J. MacInerney (Martin Sheen) refuses to call President Shepherd (Michael Douglas) by any name other than “Sir” or “Mr. President”, despite having been friends for years. As long as President Shepherd is in office, he will be addressed as “Mr. President” and never “Andy”, because the office of the Presidency deserves that respect.
That idea of Presidential respect has stuck with me for more than 20 years. The office of the US President deserves a level of reverence that goes above and beyond the man behind the office. I am careful to always use appropriate titles and to bestow respect that is due, regardless of my personal feelings and political leanings, to the man holding the Office of the President.
After a great deal of consideration and internal turmoil, however, I have come to the decision that I will not be able to address Donald Trump with the title of President.
There are certainly a lot of reasons why you might question the validity of a Trump Presidency, from foreign interference in the elections to the confusing role of the Electoral College versus the popular vote. My decision, however, comes down to a very simple reality: Donald Trump does not deserve the respect due to any previous President of the United States, because he has repeatedly proven that he does not respect the Presidency or the people of the United States, and he refuses to treat the role with the level of seriousness that it requires.
Recently, Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton and the leader of Inequality Media, addressed the topic in a Facebook post. Mr. Reich was responding to a politician (whom he had chosen not to name) who told Reich that he would be attending Trump’s inauguration and festivities, because he believed “in promoting unity over partisanship and supporting a peaceful transition of power”. Mr. Reich responded,
…It’s not matter of Democrat versus Republican, or left versus right.
The issue here is how former presidents and other politicians should respond to someone who has shown himself to be a dangerous demagogue.
Donald Trump became president by lying, demeaning women, denigrating racial and ethnic minorities, denying intelligence reports of foreign intervention in our election, excusing violence against opponents, and undermining the freedom and independence of the press. And since being elected he’s held rallies and issued tweets in which he’s continued to tell big lies, retaliate against critics, call opponents “enemies,” avoid press conferences, and dismiss conflicts of financial interest.
I told him that, in my view, attending Trump’s inauguration gives tacit support and approval to someone who poses a clear and present danger to our democracy.
The word “resistance” feels scary and reactionary, but it does not feel wrong. My resistance starts with my language. #notmypresident
One thought on “Respect and the Office of the Presidency”
Love you! You are always so skillful at presenting some of the same attitudes and feelings that I’m thinking. It’s going to be a rough ride but I’m hoping that by banding together and showing ‘love’ to everyone around us, we can make it through this next transition in American history. We’ll look back in 40 years and have to explain to future generations why America thought this was a good idea. It will involve some tough conversations.