The Problem with Titles (Never-ending Politics Edition)

Watching the coverage of the 2012 American Presidential race, you see a lot of talking heads. Lots and lots of talking heads. People with all sorts of titles and degrees and such going on television to give their expert opinion on why this person or that person is, like, totally awesome. But, when I watch some of these people get on television, I kinda have to wonder why certain folks are introduced in certain ways.

An example: Sarah Palin. Anytime, on any network (despite political affiliation), that she is discussed, she is called Governor Sarah Palin. Typically. It's not Former Governor Sarah Palin or Author Sarah Palin or Fox News correspondent Sarah Palin. It's Governor Sarah Palin. As though she is currently taking time out of her very busy schedule being all gubernatorial to be talked about or interviewed. When, truth be told, she is not actually a governor.

But, the same is said over and over with other people. Newt Gingrich is called 'Mr. Speaker' as though John Boehner doesn't exist. He hasn't been the Speaker of the House since the mid-90s, and the reason he stopped being Speaker is because of gross misconduct and ethics violations. Yet, during debates or political wonks' discussions, there it is, "Mr. Speaker."

Why do we do this?

Why do we allow people to keep their highest achieved rank forever? When I stopped being a court officer, I no longer got any of the privileges the badge provided me. I no longer have the authority to make arrests or write reports or sign my name to legal documents and have it carry any weight. I don't get to be called Officer Fire Lyte. But, I never got to be a Senator or Governor or whatever.

The same is true on the opposite side of the aisle as well. During the 2008 presidential campaign, John Edwards was trying to be the Democratic Party's candidate. He was called Senator John Edwards. But, he hadn't been a Senator in 3 years. He left office in 2005. No longer a Senator by the time he and Clinton and Obama were going at it. So...what's the deal?

In this Rioter's opinion, I think the American people would find it easier to vote for someone if we called them by what they are. That's how the rest of us have to be introduced; why not politicians? If I meet someone at a party and ask what they do for a living, they don't get to say, "Well, I used to be the Dean of the University of [Insert State Here]." They don't get to be introduced as Dean So-and-so if their career ended 20 years ago, and especially not if they were ousted because of ethics violations, like Gingrich, or quit halfway through their contract, like Palin. If you're currently a Starbuck's barista, own it.

Instead of calling Newt Gingrich, "Mr. Speaker", how about we give him the moniker "Mr. Fundraiser" or "Author of Numerous books" Newt Gingrich? Possibly "Guy who keeps trying to swindle money from small businesses under the guise of giving them awards" Newt Gingrich? Governor Romney might not get to be called 'Governor' (as he's been out of office for 5 years - 2007), but we could call him "Guy who's living off the interest of his massive wealth" Mitt Romney.

But, I ask you. Why? Why do folks who leave office, either by choice or scandal, get to keep their titles? They're not theirs any longer. They belong to other people. Sarah Palin does not get to be the Governor of Alaska forever. That would be Sean Parnell who gets to call himself Governor of Alaska. Because he is. Currently.

What do you think? Should people get to keep their titles forever? Why does it apply to folks who hold public office? And, if so, does that mean that Mayors or folks on the City Councils get to keep theirs forever, too? Should we be calling people by what they are, as that is more honest to the American people? Let me know in the comments below!

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte


  1. I think the media assumes that people aren't paying attention enough to know just how important these important people are. Most people surely must be reminded that Mr. Gingrish was the Speaker of the House and that's an oh-so-big deal so big a deal that's still a big deal, a Newt's Head Sized big deal. Sarah Palin's famous not just because she was the former running mate of presidential candidate John McCain but she was a GOVERNOR too. That's an important title so she must be important!


  2. Our former mayor held office for over 20 years, but people don't call him "mayor" anymore. Maybe, considering these people's past, they think they need to remind people of their glory days to be respected.

  3. We have a similar system here in Canada--it's not just the States. Here, both current prime ministers AND former PMs are referred to as "the Right Honourable [insert name here].

    However, some other dignitaries (Governor General, Lieutenant [pronounced "LEF-tenant"] Governor) adopt new titles after their time is up.

  4. On the other side of the looking glass, I'm just glad that it's not required that EACH ONE of a person's job titles are used to address them. I would be "Grocery store clerk; Pizza Guy; Customer Service Rep; Pizza Guy again; Help Desk Coordinator; Pizza Guy yet again; Truck Driver; and Pizza Guy once more" Trithal Divine Wind Tsutaru (Independent - Oklahoma). That's too much of a mouthful.

    However, "Officer Fire Lyte" does sound cute. :)


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