As the "you didn't build that" debate continues, Romney and his supporters are staging a number of rallies titled "We Did Build This." Admittedly, I am not the resident grammarian on this blog, but as a continuation of my post yesterday regarding my complete confusion that it's not okay to say the government built the internet when it did, I want to talk about pronouns.
Namely the pronouns "that" and "this." So we'll start with the President. The quote that's been bandied about is as follows: "If you got a business, you didn't build that." Pitchforks and socialist recriminations have ensued, but what's plain to see if you read the fuller quote is that the quote above is taken out of context. Here's the full quote:
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.In other words, the President wasn't saying that the "that" is "a business," but rather that the "that" are "roads and bridges." Quite an inopportune moment for a great orator to have pronoun confusion, but I think we can all agree that business owner A didn't build road B or bridge C. That's the work of a government based on priorities vetted by a community or its elected representatives. But that's not how the quote is being received by people or how the Romney campaign is talking about it.
No, the Romney campaign is twisting it around to imply that the "that" meant "a business" and we're hearing that message back from Romney backers. Take this quote from Melissa Ball, a business owner at a "We Did Build This" rally in Richmond, VA, “President Obama is wrong. Americans do build their own business and we need a president who believes that as well.” Oh pronouns! Why do you spite us so? Clearly the name of the rally is meant to imply, incorrectly that the "that" Obama spoke of was "a business" because the rally's "this" is clearly intended to mean "business."
And so now we're down the rabbit hole and the light is fading. President Obama never said people don't build their own businesses, just that they don't build the roads or bridges that grease the gears of our economic machine. It's disappointing to see Romney's campaign embrace the wrong contextual appearance of the president's comments, but it is campaign season and recriminations abound on both sides. So I guess I'll just have to me mad a pronouns that betray the American people. I hate them...Wait, maybe I said that wrong.
UPDATED: Damn you Jon Stewart! The Daily Show talks pronouns and context. This is what I get for going to bed early!