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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Matt McGovern. Yeah, McGovern. What's It to Ya?

What is Pat Powers's problem with Matt McGovern? Sure, McGovern is working to convince the public that we need to get off our addiction to fossil fuels and invest in clean energy, which of course we know is just a Marxist plot to take away Pat's freedom to rev his engine. Yes, Matt McGovern is the grandson of George McGovern, which in Pat's world can only mean the younger McGovern is just another ├╝ber-liberal who loves Fidel Castro and wants to turn South Dakota into Lib-a-palooza.

PP is entitled to go ape over McGovern's liberal politics and pedigree. He's entitled to fret over McGovern's actual and potential political activities and launch some flak to give his nervous Republican readers some cover.

But PP's obsession with Matt McGovern's name is an overblown distraction from real issues. More than once, PP has made a fuss of the fact that Matt McGovern's folks hyphenated his last name when he was born. Matt McGovern-Rowen.

After discussing how his work for clean energy is a natural result of his South Dakota family values, McGovern takes time to discuss his family name with Tom Lawrence at the Mitchell Daily Republic. He said he's been known simply as "Matt McGovern" since he was a kid. He said he formally switched the order, putting his dad's name in the middle and his mom's name at the end, for the perfectly logical reasons that "Matt McGovern" sounds better (alliteration is a good thing), is more convenient than the hyphenated form, and helps build his "brand" as a practicing lawyer.

Is a man not entitled to do what he wants with his name? Can a man not change or shorten his name for convenience or even to help business? I don't see Pat Powers going by "Patrick" or "Patrocles" or whatever his full given name may be. Is he hiding something? No: he probably just likes the sound of "Pat" better. One short syllable followed by a cool last name, both alliterating—that's good branding! And that's exactly what Matt McGovern is doing.

There is no deception in Matt McGovern's legal name. He didn't change his last name to Mickelson or Reagan or Christ or some other moniker with high recognition. He chose his maternal grandfather's name, a name that's on his birth certificate. We wouldn't even notice his choice if we didn't live in a patriarchal society that favors father's names.

Ah. Could that be the real source of PP's angst? Is he just upset to see a man favor his mother's name over his father's and thus threaten male headship? PP suggests South Dakota's "collective psyche" might have issues with a man picking his mom's name... but that sounds like projection of PP's psyche.

Russ Janklow gets to boost his attorney's brand with his famous last name. His kids will have an easier time using Grandpa Bill's big name as well, if they so choose, just by the luck of their dad's chromosomal draw and patriarchal tradition. If Shonna Janklow Haugen's kids decide to boost their brand in South Dakota and pick mom's name over dad's, it will be perfectly practical and understandable. Of course, if the judgment of history swings the other way, Shonna's kids might want to stick with Haugen. And that's fine, too.

I have my political disagreements with PP, but I don't try to win those disagreements by pointing out that he has a girl's name or that his initials sound like the second or third thing I do each morning. When Orly Taitz was in the news, I didn't have to make an issue of her name (and oh, the punnery possible!) to pound her nutty beliefs. Such name games are just silly, not to mention intellectually lazy.

Matt McGovern is Matt McGovern. That's his name. Cranky Republicans and fossil-fuel addicts can and will call him all sorts of other names... but none of that has anything to do with the real issues of building a sustainable energy economy.


  1. I am surprised that so little attention has been paid to PP's consistently petty, small-minded, meanness he displays. But that is the hallmark of the party he claims to speak for.

  2. Men change their names all the time. Chad Ochocinco from the NFL, Hulk Hogan of the WWF and on one episode of the Simpsons, Homer even changed his.

  3. Thad! Keen point! I certianly don't question Hulk Hogan's manliness for changing his name. And then there's Mr. T: anyone want to criticize him for shortening his name to something more memorable? Yikes!


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