Friday, November 2, 2012
#265- The American Evangelical Love Affair With Mitt Romney
Various aspects of this post have been running through my head for some months now and I just thought I should get them out before the election. So, here it is. I'll admit that it's less polished than some of my other posts and it's not nearly as humorous, unless you take after the Horkheimer/Adorno school of comedy, where true laughter only comes from the pure horror, which in this case fits nicely. Anyway, please read and feel free to comment.
Antonio Gramsci died in 1937 after nine yeas of imprisonment at the hands of Benito Mussolini's fascist government. A member of the Italian parliament and the Communist Party, Gramsci died for his opposition to the actual oppression of the National Socialists, as opposed to the farcical fear mongering of conservative pundits over President Obama's insidious plans for the America of 2016.
(A helpful hint: history and common sense tells us real socialist dictators don't run for two terms or downsize the military as precursors to destroying democracy, but then again, no one ever accused hardline conservatives of making any sense or having a grasp of actual, non-made-up history.)
I can't help but to think about Gramsci when I see the wholehearted support for the Romney-Ryan ticket my fellow Christians have poured out since the sad battle of attrition that was the Republican Primary. Let us embark on a short comparison. Unlike Romney, Gramsci was an actual self-made man, born to a poor countryside family and making the best of his scant opportunities. Mittens and Ann would like you to believe that they know what it's like to struggle, that they're down with the folks on Main Street, but aside from having to tough it out in a condominium or classic townhouse right out of college—you know, in the bad part of town next to the trashy New Rich—their lives have been anything but a Rand-ian Objectivist Bildungsroman. The most glaring disparity is also the one that continually surprises and depresses me about the Christian support for Romney; that while Gramsci never wavered from his lifelong mission to better the lives of poor and working class Italians, even in the face of imprisonment and death, Romney has very famously done and continues to do the exact opposite. Gramsci wasn't perfect, of course, because no one is, but the instructive point here is that Gramsci's life and death are the very antithesis of Mitt Romney, a man whose campaign represents the very height of political cynicism.
Liberals will often call Romney a liar for his flip-flopping on everything from his policies to what he had for breakfast yesterday. It really isn't fair to call him a liar, though, because changing positions on an issue is a necessary strategy for all politicians. It makes sense to change your stance on something as public opinion shifts and every politician who rises to national prominence has more than likely done it. It's just that Romney does it so often and so shamelessly, you can't really put him side by side with other political opportunists.
Visiting the “Political Positions of Mitt Romney” Wikipedia page is like reading a doctoral dissertation on the “Edit” function. Seriously, the first paragraph of his Agriculture position reads thus:
“In his 1994 Senate campaign, Romney called for the "virtual elimination" of the federal Department of Agriculture and for reductions in farm subsidies. In 2007, when questioned about these views, a Romney for President Iowa campaign spokesman responded: "Governor Romney believes that investing in agriculture is key to our economy and families."
Get rid of the dates and specific issue and you more or less have the blueprint for Romney's political strategy. (1) Say one thing when it is politically beneficial to you. (2) Say something else when it's politically beneficial to you. (3) Rinse and Repeat.
EDIT: I thought I'd add this delightful tidbit, courtesy of Gawker: Rudy Giuliani has made his post-mayoral and post-failed-presidential-nominee career as the Republican Party's blustering mouthpiece lately. In 2008, he was an opponent of Romney for the Republican nomination and said this about the Governor: “This is a man without a core,” he said. “This is a man without substance. This is a man who will say anything to become president of the United States. I think that is a great vulnerability.
But maybe you didn't like that I used Gramsci as a comparison earlier—too Marxist for your tastes? How about this: Abraham Lincoln. It's actually pretty good; Lincoln was quite unpopular during his own Presidency and his decisions didn't often win him many fans. We remember him as the Great Emancipator, but although he was personally opposed to slavery, he felt it was a states' rights issue for the majority of his two terms as President (much like Obama on the issue of gay marriage. Just as Frederick Douglass was disappointed for Lincoln's lukewarm support of the rights of blacks, so are LGBT groups similarly disappointed with Obama's meager answering on promises. Also similarly, both of Lincoln and Obama have been attacked for their personal and private, but less than actual and tangible support for these groups). Lincoln eventually changed his stance, of course, and he paid for it (and the South's loss) with his life. Simply ask yourself, does this type of change in position, from one that was not popular to one that was even LESS popular, sound like anything Mitt Romney would do, given his history?
I've made it through the entire post so far without mentioning the infamous 47% video. You've seen it, right? Seriously? Well, go watch it, I'll wait.....
Back? So, yeah, there's that. I'm not going to go into a lengthy breakdown of it, because many people far more intelligent and better paid than I have already done so. With that said, I've argued that the video tells you less about what Romney thinks about many Americans—which we really should have already known by now—and more about how Americans view themselves. The fact is, huge swaths of the 47%, many of whom sit in UPC pews, can watch this video and be completely blithe to the fact that Romney is talking about them. He doesn't care about them, he mocks them at a $50,000 per plate dinner at the home of a billionaire who also hosts poolside orgies with Russian sex-workers (yeah, look it up), and they remain blissfully unaware.
I could really go on, but the information is out there, you really just have to look, and not even that hard. I'm tempted to rely on Gramsci's famous concept of Cultural Hegemony to explain the Evangelical Christian worship of Republican policy, even and especially when it has no actual direct benefit for their lives and basically never has, but that's too easy and a bit to high handed. And anyway, it's probably easier than that.
In as simple language as I can possibly muster, here's the deal: Mitt Romney does not stand for God, for you, your family, or your values, because he does not stand for anything other than what he needs to win the election in this moment or the next. Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and their campaign advisers have no respect and no concern for your intelligence and wherewithal as a voter and citizen. Some time ago the Romney campaign realized that American Conservatives, a great deal of whom are Christians, hate Barack Obama so much that he could literally say anything, even if it contradicted what he'd said previously and what he would say soon after, as long as it is delivered as some kind of attack on the President.
If he felt like it, Romney could stand in front of the press tomorrow and detail a tax policy that would eviscerate Americans making less than $250,000 a year and Conservatives would hail it as the sensible plan and the complete opposite of what Obama would do. That Romney can with a straight face critique the Affordable Care Act, a program which is an almost exact copy of the health care program his administration enacted during his tenure as Governor of Massachusetts, and and not even referencing the moral grounds Christians hate the Act for, sums up perfectly the kind of hypocritical blinders Christians have worn during the election cycle.
The overwhelming emotion I will have after this election, regardless of the outcome, is shame and depression, because if nothing else, this recent cycle has taught me that Christians have a powerful capacity for hate. It is telling, even incriminating for our alleged status as Christians, that we can in one breath pray for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to receive the Holy Ghost and follow Jesus and then in the next cross our arms when the pastor asks us to pray for President Obama, a fellow Christian. Need more? Why do Christians hate President Obama so much that they'd call Romney a “Man of God” when they would otherwise look down on him as a lost Mormon, as lost as a Buddhist or Muslim?
I can't do everything for you, use your imagination.
Oh shoot, let me make it a little easier, just for fun! Here's a list of some things Christians think President Obama is, even though we know he isn't and one thing that he actually is. See if you can find it!
1) He is a Communist.
2) He is a Marxist or Socialist or something else -isty and un-American.
3) He is a Kenyan, non-American (or something, I'm not sure)
4) He is giving the gays all of the rights they don't have yet.
5) He's turning America into the only non-sovereign state member of the UN, thereby turning us into the only non-nation in the United Nations.
6) He plans to legally force everyone to get abortions at least once and to make churches pay for them, solely.
7) He is a Muslim.
8) He wants to take everybody's guns away.
9) He wants to make all the drugs legal.
10) He wants to get rid of the military and paint a big sign that says "INVADE US" at every border patrol station.
11) He is an African-American.