Monday, September 1, 2008

Gov. Palin understands federalism?

It's just a little thing, and perhaps we're reading too much into it, but browsing through old video clips of Gov. Sarah Palin, it caught our attention in this interview with Charlie Rose, that Gov. Palin twice used the phrase "these United States."

Again, it is just a small thing, it's just not a phrase that we commonly hear anymore. Sometimes, those who are attentive to the importance of decentralized government will occasionally refer to the United States in the plural -- something that was, in older (and to curmudgeons like MH, often better) days, more the rule than the exception. In fairness, it isn't just conservatives who use this older phrase, so it doesn't necessarily carry political connotations.

Still, as the idea that the federal government should be supreme and that the states should be little more than administrative units of that centralized government has slowly penetrated the American consciousness, we have come to say "the United States of America is," rather than "these United States of America are."

Yes, we're aware that the venerable Shelby Foote, among others, have stated that the Civil War was the watershed between "the United states is" and "the United States are" -- but there has been good documentation of extensive use across the political spectrum and across the country of use of the singular and plural both before and after the Civil War. So don't anybody get the idea of labeling Palin a neoconfederate or something like that -- although we'll doubtless have things much worse than that said about Palin from the left.

Much of the debate over the plural vs. singular usage regarding the United States has been grammatical -- especially since the Constitution refers to the United States, Congress, etc. in the plural.

Maybe it's an Alaska thing, but is it too much to hope that in Gov. Palin, a true believer in federalism has been vaulted to the center of the Republican party and the American political scene? Or maybe she's just a little schoolmarmish about her grammar and knows that the word "states" is a plural. After the way those of us who are particular about the niceties of language have suffered over the last 8 years, can even that be all bad?

Speaking of schoolmarmish, that reminds us of this classic Gov. Palin TV appearance with Craig Ferguson on the Late Late Show. (Yes, it will be coming out that Montana Headlines has been following Gov. Palin's career with interest for quite some time -- we just didn't think she had a real chance in the McCain Veepstakes.)

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

That Craig Ferguson clip was cute. "She said...succ-ulent!"