5 quick thoughts on Romney’s speech and the continuing Republican War on Reality…

Get ready, folks. This is a political post. It just can’t be avoided. Here are my thoughts on the Mitt Romney speech tonight:

1.)    Women Clearly the Republican Party has taken the “War on Women” to heart, and has basically made the argument that “Some of our best friends are women.” Romney continued to make that pitch in this speech. He likes mothers, he had a woman as his lieutenant governor, he’s married to a woman and loves his mom!

There might be some who will be fooled by this, but let’s be smart enough to judge a candidate on their policies, not their rhetoric. Romney has stayed silent while his party has instituted policies that blatantly harm and degrade women. And I’m not even talking about abortion here. Thanks to numerous Republican legislators,  doctors can lie to their patients about the health of their child to prevent them from having a child. In Arizona, the date of pregnancy is now listed as two weeks before actual conception. States have been rolling back equal pay laws, and the national party has rolled back protections against domestic violence. The fact that Romney found some Republican women who might support these policies only indicate that there are women out there who hate—or at least have very little sympathy for—other women.

2.)    Business Romney seems to be insistent that the only people qualified for the presidency are people who run businesses.

Firstly, if you look at the history of the presidency, this is flat out not true. A significant portion of presidents were lawyers before they entered politics. Several presidents were military men. Ronald Reagan was an actor and union man as part of the Screen Actor’s Guild!

As a friend of mine put it, there is a model for business experience in government. And that’s Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. A name that Romney strenuously tried to avoid during this speech for obvious reasons.

Secondly, can we stop this fetishization of business experience? They don’t have a sterling record right now; professional businessmen wrecked the economy, and had to be bailed out for it, just to name one of hundreds of examples. But the values of business simply don’t apply to every other field! Businessmen who can only think from a businessman’s worldview could not possibly make good teachers, social workers, psychologists, scientists, writers, actors, or musicians. Businessmen can’t always transfer easily between different types of businesseses. I don’t think you’d want Romney trying to run a farm. Nor would Romney have hired a professional auto mechanic  as an Assistant CEO at Bain. Simply put, this is not the be all-end all of lifetime experience. (Kudos to Al Sharpton for making this point on MSNBC.)

But thirdly, I don’t want Romney’s particular experience in government. Romney didn’t make things. By all accounts, he expanded his wealth while, in the process, destroying other businesses and picking the bones for whatever millions he could pocket for himself. There’s no record of job growth in his business career, and no indication from his career that he would build jobs while in office.

3.)    The “bipartisanship” myth I was actually thinking of writing a longer piece on this but I think this will do. Romney appears to have borrowed some of President Obama’s “bipartisanship” message from 2008 for this speech, perhaps in an effort to appeal to former Obama voters. For now, I’m not going to focus on the absurdity of a vicious attack dog like Romney calling for bi-partisanship. Let me just say instead that anyone promising you bipartisanship is either a naïve fool or a snake oil salesman. (I’ll lead you to decide what you think about Obama or Romney.) And that’s for three simple reasons:

–          Democracy is built on partisanship. The basis of democracy is that people disagree with each other, and it’s absurd to think you can get around that or that any era in American history was marked by agreement and harmony in our halls of government.

–          Recent legislation and policies show us that bipartisanship sucks. Bipartisanship has brought us some of the worst and most foolish and shortsighted policies of the last 20 years. Bipartisanship brought us NAFTA, welfare reform, banking de-regulation which torpedoed the U.S. economy (approved with 90 votes in the U.S. Senate), the Patriot Act, the absurdity of No Child Left Behind, the Bush-era tax cuts, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, credit card industry de-regulation, the Wall Street bailout, drone warfare, the war on government whistle-blowers, the NDAA provisions that allow the U.S. military to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely without charge, and (my personal favorite) a bill that effectively empowers the Secret Service to arrest any protesters that happen to protest near a major American politician.

–          It’s the worldview, stupid! So I’m not here to say that politicians shouldn’t reach across the aisle when possible and pragmatic to do so. But people fight in politics, and that’s not a bad thing. And a politician who merely promises they will bring you bipartisanship is promising you nothing. He’s promising you that something will be done, even when what is being done is harmful to the nation and to you as a voter. You need to pay attention to their worldview, their philosophy, and their specific ideas for solving problems. The problem in our system is not that we don’t have bi-partisanship. The problem is: Our politicians’ worldivew freaking sucks! Their worldview is geared towards empowering themselves at our expense as citizens and empowering their corporate backers at the expense of the rest of us. If you disagree with that basic idea, then be prepared to fight for it, because it is not en vogue right now. I don’t want to feel like my elected officials are getting along better if that just means they are ignoring critical issues or agreeing on issues that I find abhorrent. And neither do you. If you like a campaign’s ideas (and their experience and their character), vote for them. If not, don’t. But please understand those ideas and understand the things you want your president to be fighting (or reaching across the aisle) for.

4.)    Someone resolve this contradiction in thought. So Romney finally sorta got to talking about his basic plan for the economy. Not deeply or with great substance, but sorta, as well as some specific critiques of Obama. I’m not going to get to the accuracy of his claims yet, but I want to speak about how the Republican philosophy right now is at war with itself. How can Romney simultaneously claim the government is not responsible for creating jobs while trashing Obama for cutting the military… because that move will cost jobs? In making that argument, Romney recognizes that the government can, in fact, be a job creator. It is, in fact, the most direct form of job creation.  And God knows that there are jobs that need to be done that business is just not equipped to deal with. (Education, police, alternative energy technology, space exploration, military, highway rebuilding, etc.) To argue tax cuts will create jobs relies on an indirect cause-and-effect that really only works in theory. There are lots of things people and businesses can do when their taxes are cut, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll start hiring people or investing significant amounts of money into the economy.

5.)  Anti-Reality strikes again  This seemed clearly crafted to be the applause line of the night:

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise…is to help you and your family.”

Now first of all, this is giving Obama waaaaay too much credit.  His record on dealing with climate change has been mixed at best. He put very little weight behind the cap ‘n’ trade bill as it went through Congress, has completely dropped the idea of investing in alternative technology, and looks to be on the path to approving the Keystone Oil Pipeline, not to mention offshore drilling. There’s no reason to believe that President Obama is a climate change president. But let’s go with it for now.

At this point in the game, if your worldview is rooted in science and rational thinking about our future, you’re going to be baffled by this line, and maybe a little insulted. If your worldview is built around denialism of basic, objective reality and a hatred of hippies—and maybe your salary comes from oil or coal companies—you are going to love that line. I happen to belong to the former group, and I’m going to bet at this point, a lot of other people are, too. (Including up until the last few years, Mitt Romney.)

And to me, all I could think is, I would like a president who is concerned with preventing the oceans from rising. That sounds like something that would help me and my family.

I’ve always been baffled when Republicans have attacked  programs that really just seem—on a non-partisan level—like good, commonsense ideas. A few years, Bobby Jindal—in responding to an address by President Obama—wanted to find examples of wasteful gov’t spending. The program he went after? Volcano monitoring. You know, because fuck preparing for and attempting to predict natural disasters!  Governor Chris Christie here in New Jersey made one of his crowning achievements closing a tunnel that would have drastically reduced traffic between New Jersey and Manhattan! Who needs all that increased economic activity?! Republicans were central in holding up money to be given to 9/11 workers who suffered illnesses as a result of their service that day. One of George W. Bush’s last achievements in office was vetoing a bill to provide low cost health insurance to poor children and his administration was noted by drastic cuts to veteran’s benefits and health care for soldiers while he sent them overseas.

If ever there was evidence of the callousness Mitt Romney’s Republican Party has for the impoverished, it is the ability of Romney to simultaneously say he will help families while slashing the very services many of them rely on. If ever there was evidence of the short sightedness of Mitt Romney’s Republican Party, it is his ability to say he will help you and your family while mocking climate change as it brings massive droughts to the American Midwest and threatens to turn coastal areas up and down the United States into flood zones. And if ever there was evidence of the Republican Party’s distinct anti-reality stance, it is their inability to see how investing in efforts to prevent climate change can only serve to benefit me and my family, not harm it.

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Categories: Politics | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “5 quick thoughts on Romney’s speech and the continuing Republican War on Reality…

  1. Sam Wendel

    A comment about bipartisanship – a certain bloc of republican representatives once existed that was helpful in supporting certain centralist, if not liberal, policies. There were “progressive” republican representatives who favored relief program spending and an increased role for government, like Arthur Capper of Kansas and Robert B. Howell of Nebraska. These men both served in the Congress in the 1930s and supported the New Deal agenda. I believe that this segment of the GOP has been lost. These voices of the Republic Party have been crowded out by extremists like the Tea Partiers. Maybe bipartisanship doesn’t have a great track record, but it’s pretty hard to accomplish anything when neither party has an overwhelming majority in the House or the Senate. But more importantly I think the loss of moderate voices in the Republican party has skewed the national discussion rightwards.

    • A fair point, Sam. Progressive Republicans were also essential in pushing forward the Civil Rights Act and Great Society reforms.

      I don’t think, though, that the loss of moderates has been an effect of the rightward discussion, not a cause of it. The reason conservatives have gained power is because they have an ideology that is compelling to a lot of Americans. There are lots of reasons for this (e.g. Reagan’s speaking skills, the conservative movement’s wealthy backers, a strong intellectual movement, the rise of the modern Christian Right, etc.) and are worth analyzing. Progressives, meanwhile, have failed to build that sort of movement, the sort that either party feels the need to pay attention to. The trouble has become, to me, the Democratic response to the Republican Party’s move rightward. If we want progressive policies, we need to build a grassroots progressive movement that will push candidates to adopt those policies.

      Conservatives have learned an essential truth about politics: You get what you want by building a strong grassroots movement, sticking to your principles, and expecting others to compromise with you. We need to learn from that lesson going forward.

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