Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Romney Vision

Reflecting on the upcoming Labor Day holiday, Robert Reich Reflecting on the upcoming Labor Day holiday, Robert Reich noticed "Big American corporations are making more money, and creating more jobs, outside the United States than in it" while CEO pay has "soared" and " the ratio of corporate profits to wages is now higher than at any time since just before the Great Depression." Soon afterward, Politifact grudgingly conceded "Reich's claim is essentially correct."

Little has changed in the succeeding five months, though private sector employment has risen, which no Republican dares admit.        President Obama has extended the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy and the struggling alike while the overall, combined tax rate of Americans is lower than at anytime in the past half century.

And so the leading GOP presidential contender continues to campaign sans substance, as Joe Scarborough noted this morning on the cleverly named
Morning Joe ("powered by Starbucks!").            Earlier this month, Mitt Romney charged 

President Obama wants to make us a European style welfare state, where instead of being a merit society we're an entitlement society, where government's role is to take from some and give to others.     What I know is if they do that, they'll substitute envy for ambition,and they'll poison the very spirit of America and keep us from being one nation under God.

Romney was on message, having late last year boasted

Let me make this very clear.    As President of the United States, I will devote myself to an American Century.      And I will never, ever apologize for America....

I believe we are an exceptional country with a unique destiny and role in the world.      Not exceptional, as the President has derisively said, in the way that the British think Great Britain is exceptional or the Greeks think Greece is exceptional.    In Barack Obama's profoundly mistaken view, there is nothing unique about the United States.

There is little if no substance there, mostly generalities and platitudes, bereft of facts or figures and not even advancing a cogent argument.          Not surprisingly, columnist Eugene Robinson finds that Romney's "core message" seems to be "yes, I made a ton of money.      You got a problem with that."     (The second part would sound more natural, though, coming from Romney's prime surrogate, Chris Christie.)         

Robinson concedes that Romney may successfully adapt his message and defeat Obama.       But perhaps unaware that he has shifted his argument, he concludes of the candidate "what he doesn't seem to have is a compelling narrative about the kind of America he envisions and the road he will take to us there."   

There is no roadmap- winning candidates generally avoid specifics- but there is a compelling narrative about the kind of America the former governor envisions. Borrowing from the Pledge of Allegiance,  it's "one nation under God." 
Romney, unlike that acolyte of Jeremiah Wright, believes in God- however strange his religion may seem to many voters.         And practically every American professes to believe in God, however he or she may define, or defy, the deity. 

America is the best (exceptional) anywhere and deserving of an "American century"- us and us alone!        Romney hints at a nation based entirely on merit which, many non-minority citizens believe, once existed.  In a nod (which no one will recognize as such) to political correctness, Romney takes a swipe at Europe, which most Americans, including Donald Rumsfeld, don't especially like- and which is economically distressed currently.           

Blacks and Hispanics, roughly as patriotic as the rest of the country, may nonetheless may be less enthusiastic about claims of exceptionalism and uniqueness.      This is of little significance, however, given that the base of the G.O.P.  is white and the party's opportunity to tap into minority support is somewhat limited with Barack Obama on the ballot.       

This is not strictly, or even primarily, a racial appeal, though the reference to "take from some and give to others" is an echo- however subtle- of Newt Gingrich's "food-stamp president" knock on the first black Chief Executive.        Meanwhile, the Village might find in Romney's skepticism of an "entitlement society" a helpful skepticism about Medicare and Social Security.      To most Americans, who intuitively recognize those programs as earned benefits, "entitlement" has a different implication.        And that is especially so when when contrasted with "merit," which itself is considered in many minds incompatible with affirmative action, a bugaboo among many white Americans.

In a throwback to a theme adopted, and dropped, by the 2012 McCain campaign (video below), the objective is to paint the candidate himself as a traditional American patriot, godly, and even macho- never, ever apologizing for America.  (In Republican fantasy, Barack Obama always apologizes, never mind Osama bin Laden, Muammar Ghaddafi, and Somali pirates.)        In this formulation, Mitt Romney will be a conventional American president, like we used to have before this strange guy somehow got elected.         Romney doesn't have to say that he is white, was born and raised in the American heartland, and doesn't practice radical religion.         (A more overt message would be objectionable to the media and the vast majority of citizens.)       The voter understands- and little else matters.

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