At the California Democrats Fall Endorsing Convention in Long Beach last weekend, every name player in politics was discussed. For the Democrats it ranged from nationally known names like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren to more local people like Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Many Republicans were also mentioned, including one spirited discussion in a committee meeting over Newt Gingrich and Ohio Governor John Kasich. Even foreign leaders like United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson had mentions.
But one name stood out and was never said out loud: Donald Trump.
The Globe kept a record of the many different names he was called. Among the most popular were “45”, “Him”, “The Other Guy”, “You Know Who”, “That Guy”, and the Harry Potter-inspired “He Who Must Not Be Named”.
While this has been prevalent across the nation since 2016, in California it has been especially prevalent with many top Democrats, including Governor Gavin Newsom, using one or more of the stand-in names.
The Globe asked many at the convention, and received several different answers, ranging from dislike to not recognizing him as the President.
The most common answer was simply being against Trump and showing resistance against him.
“If we say his name, then he doesn’t have as much power,” said Dana Russo, a Delegate at the Conference. “He’s built his entire career on his name. It’s a brand. Not even acknowledging it while talking about him damages that.”
“It feels good,” replied Colt Thompson, another delegate. “Just saying his name can make some people wince. At my college many groups actually banned his name being said because it gave some students and professors mini-panic attacks.”
“But it also shows how many are against him. You automatically know who is against him if they don’t use his name.”
Over the past few years many people, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter Bernice King, have said to “Use his name sparingly so as not to detract from the issues.”
The Globe talked with former college student services psychologist Dr. Samantha Encarnacion about this phenomenon, why it is happening, and how effective it’s been.
“First things first, this is nothing new,” Dr. Encarnacion began. “A lot of people have not been named by people opposing them before. During the Obama administration a lot of people on the right did the same thing, or made names like “Hussein” and “Obummer” instead of saying his actual name. Many politicians have had this happen to them, as well as specifically infamous people.”
“It’s an act of resistance at the same time it’s an act of fear. You want to be against them, and you’re afraid of what they have done or what they will do. It makes people comfortable to start talking about them and the issues since their name is so stigmatized.”
For Donald Trump, not using his name or calling him something like “Drumpf” makes those that oppose him willing to talk about him more. It disassociates itself away from all the pain and anxiety his name causes due to all the negative connotation or actual personal loss it brings. Look back to all those coal miners in West Virginia in 2016 who called Hillary Clinton anything BUT Hillary Clinton. They believed their jobs and entire lives were on the line, and they couldn’t bring themselves to even say her name.”
“I had students who had severe anxiety because they were worried about their parents possibly being deported during the early Trump years, and I had students who had loved ones killed overseas in drone attacks that they thought was caused by Obama’s policies. None of them could say the presidents name, but when they said ‘He’ or ‘Him’ it got them talking.”
“It’s not just the ‘not my president’ type of thinking, or actively resisting a presidency. It can cause mental pain to call them by their name.”
While President Trump’s name being excised is going strong in California, other candidates are slowly receiving the same treatment by Republicans, most notably Joe Biden. However, those efforts have not broken down his base, and for Trump, it hasn’t had a large effect.
“He still has his base, his core group of supporters of about 30-35%,” explained Dr. Encarnacion. “Not using his name only really speaks to detractors. There are Republicans who have done this to him. Ted Cruz did it to him in 2016, and many Republican lawmakers now are starting to not use his name because of the ongoing impeachment proceedings.”
“But not using his name won’t psychologically work now on them. All it has done is make both sides lock down more for their own side.”
“What it has been doing is making the name negative. Politically it has done all the damage it can do and is now not being used as simply an easier way for those who oppose him to discuss him. On the business side of it, marking his name down as something toxic is going to hurt all of his brands.”
“His hotels have seen a huge decline in business because of people not agreeing with his policies, and even after leaving that stigma won’t go away.”
“This has been especially noticeable in California because of the large percentage of left-leaning people. Even on newscasts you can notice they won’t say his name often. To many he’s damaged goods.”
At the Convention the Globe finally did come across one registered Democrat willing to say his name.
“I’m told not to by all my friends,” he said in chuckle. “But it’s his name. Just because you don’t call them that doesn’t mean they stop existing, right?”
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