By Anna Daniels
What first comes to mind when you think about the presidential contenders in the primary and general election? Do you recall Little Marco? Low Energy Jeb? Crooked Hillary, Lyin’ Ted? Trump had a knack for applying a descriptive label that successfully branded his opponent and stuck throughout the campaign.
The description was used repetitively in debates, at Trump rallies, in tweets and interviews. The press amplified them through their coverage of Trump.
It is remarkable that Trump himself has eluded a descriptive label that conjures up his narcissism, fascist bent, recklessness and corruption or the swirling cloud of illegitimacy surrounding his presidency. Name calling is powerful, it serves a purpose and the left has so far failed to flex it’s linguistic muscles.
Your mother was a hamster
Students of classical Greek and Roman literature are familiar with the use of epithets, “[A]n adjective or phrase expressing a quality or attribute regarded as characteristic of the person or thing mentioned”. Homer did not simply describe the heroic acts of Ulysses, he was constantly referred to as wily Odysseus (Roman Ulysses). Each of Odysseus’ encounters with the gods or men on the battlefield provided additional insight into what made Odysseus deserving of the wily epithet. Virgil used the term “pious” to the same effect in describing the hero Aeneas who left burning Troy to found Rome.
This is no longer the age of epic literature, but the epithet has survived quite well into the age of the tweet. Epithets, as Trump has shown, can be applied as a derogatory label.
So-called President Trump
Trump continues to be the most defensive about the questions aimed at his legitimacy as president. He lost the popular vote by almost three million votes and has lied that he won the Electoral College by a landslide. He has broken with norms of transparency by not releasing his tax returns. There is more than a whiff of corruption (see emoluments clause), treason (see Russian hacking of election) and nepotism surrounding his nascent presidency.
He recently tweeted that a “so-called” judge is responsible for the stay on his recent Muslim ban. Trump has attempted to question the legitimacy of anyone who opposes him as a way to deflect that same criticism from himself.
What is the epithet that we should stick to Trump and make him drag around for the next four years? What label would get under his skin the most?
I’ll be using “So-Called President Trump” until we come up with something better.