Scott Walker and the royal "we" | Wis.Community

Scott Walker and the royal "we"

[img_assist|nid=129645|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=100]Scott Walker shows an increasing tendency to speak of himself in the royal "we." Especially when he's responding to questions about criminal charges against appointees who have worked for him in public office. Asked Friday about the latest charges against two women staffers accused of fund-raising, Walker said:"I have every confidence that when this is completed people will see that our integrity remains intact."

Some people hearing that might have been led to believe Walker intended by "our" to mean his entire campaign organization. Which would be odd. While it's true that no one has yet been found guilty of any crime, the charges against five Walker staffers and a campaign contributor surely suggest that the campaign organization's integrity no longer remains exactly "intact." That high-speed train has already left the station. But, pretty clearly, that's not what Walker actually meant.

If you look at the context of his other recent comments, it's clear that he is using the royal "we" -- that is, he is referring to himself in the plural. Wikipedia explains this strange, pompous and hoary construct. The royal "we" is, according to the online encyclopedia:

... a nosism employed by a person of high office, such as a , earl or . It is also used in certain formal contexts by and university . According to legend, the expression was first used in 1169 when the English King Henry II (d. 1189), hard pressed by his barons over an investiture controversy, used the word "we" to mean "God and I..." By reminding his audience that the monarch acted conjointly with the deity, he reasserted his claim to be the ruler by "divine right". (See Rolls Series, 2.12) In the public situations in which it is used, the monarch or other dignitary is typically speaking, not in his own proper person, but as leader of a nation or institution.

That definition would seem to fit Walker to a T. He has a high regard for himself and his office. He's an Eagle scout, dontcha know, and he is the state's top elected official. And, from past statements, we also know that Walker regards himself as very devout and that he confers with God, or at least Jesus, as when he received transcendental advice on whom to marry.

This is also a case of mixing religion and government. Note that when Walker refers to himself as "we," he is ascribing relatively privileged and somewhat private attributes to his public office. The continuing John Doe investigation concerns alleged criminal activity within Walker's campaign. Walker himself reacted to early public revelations about that (before this week's charges) by sending an email on his private campaign account to his county (i.e., public) staff.

Now, responding to the press in his role as governor, an elected public office, he is through the royal "we" sublimating a kind of "divine right" to his rulership. It's a way to fend off and defend himself by linking to a supposedly unassailable deity -- which, after, all, is something Republicans in general are quite good at. Witness, just to take one of many examples, Newt Gingrich and his multii-martial pecadilloes, all supposedly absolved by the mere assertion that Gingrich has sought forgiveness from God.

But more than that: Walker is perhaps deliberately confounding the singular and plural. Good news he can announce using singular personal nouns like "I' and "me." He does not, for instance, say that "we" were an Eagle scout. Meanwhile, bad news he assigns to the royal "we," as if the matter involves a crowd, thus spreading the potential blame around a little and muddling the issue. In this way, his personal "integrity" is now linked to a broader community, potentially absolving himself of some if not all responsibility.

It's really snarky and sneaky, and gives us a glimpse into the way the man's mind works: I'm great. We're pretty good. You're not so hot.

Well, let Walker have his royal "we." But then allow me engage the editorial "we" in order to say: We are not amused.

Kudos to Rich Eggleston for the graphic used above.


January 28, 2012 - 5:07pm