Monday, July 16, 2012

Sympathy For Mitt Romney

“I didn’t know any Negroes, America was still pretty simple, still pretty uncomplicated. I spent some time in Washington later and we had a Negro maid, but we didn’t know any Negroes. It was only after I got to Detroit that I got to know Negroes and began to be able to evaluate them and I began to recognize that some Negroes are better and more capable than lots of whites. Whites and Negroes, in my opinion, have got to learn to know each other. Barry Goldwater didn’t have any background to understand this, to fathom them, and I couldn’t get through to him.”

-Governor George W. Romney
The Making of the President 1968 by Theodore H. White, Page 42

As Governor, George Romney was one of few Republicans to be an adamant, active supporter of civil rights. In a losing campaign for President, he toured poor neighborhoods and spoke with the downtrodden multitudes. He believed, in his heart, that if other men had seen what he had seen, they would understand and come to the same conclusions. If he could speak clearly, if he could let the truth erupt out of him unto the ears of the multitudes like pages out of someone else’s graduate thesis, he could explain to people who did not see. George Romney learned that this was not always true; that some people’s ignorance is fortified and persistent unlike little else. To see, they must see and nothing else short of that will do.

Mitt Romney grew up with a father whose failure was that he did not become the Republican nominee for President of the United States. His father was a lobbyist for a multitude of businesses, but he was a compassionate man who could not disregard the poor. He was a man who could not disregard the refuse and the dissidents. Mitt Romney is not the same man. Mitt Romney, speaking to the National Associated for the Advancement of Colored People, delivered a stump speech where he talked about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a federal act addressing a plethora of issues in the medical insurance industry based in large part on Mitt Romney’s own act at the state level as Governor of Massachusetts. Remarking, to a different audience the next night, on the jeers his call for repeal caused, he prided himself on his integrity in delivering the message of his campaign and the Republican Party: “I want people to know what I stand for, and if I don’t stand for what they want, go vote for someone else.”

Where his father, after seeing the plight of the poor, sought to support their agency and personhood, to take their case to the general public, Mitt Romney made no such mistake. Where George Romney looked at rich white men and told them that seeing what he saw would make them understand the need for sweeping reforms against institutional discrimination, Mitt Romney looked at the demographic hardest hit by the recession and told them that he could give a damn if they saw what he saw. Mitt Romney looked at the multitudes, and he realized, as his father did with Barry Goldwater, that these people just would not see reason: they did not live like Mitt Romney lived and so if they did not understand, they would not understand and they may as well cast their vote for a Democrat.

Mitt Romney was not wrong. How could, after all, a poor person see Mitt Romney’s life? He was born to a father who lobbied on behalf of businesses. When Mitt Romney was a pre-teen, his father rescued an Automotive Company in a model that would inspire his conviction later on in life. When Mitt was sixteen years old, his father became Governor of Michigan. His father was an absolute success, and Mitt, from the day he was born, lived a life of privilege. It was from this vantage point that he opposed student protestors at home. Think of the bludgeon of lessons Mitt Romney learned. First, when he lived abroad in France as a destitute missionary, he learned the limits of his persuasiveness. He saw, firsthand, the French student movement and wildcat strikes with which many American schoolchildren to this day are poorly acquainted. He lived in a nation that had come to hate much of what he understood that he should value. Then, Mitt returned home to find his father’s failing campaign bleeding out with the end of his support for the Vietnam War, the recrimination of the mass media on his Mormon faith, and his staunch advocacy of poor blacks. For the first time in his life, Mitt Romney saw clearly what was in the winners and the losers. His father had sided with and listened to the losers. George Romney had gone into the ghettos where most would not wander. He had been transparent about who he was and where he came from with both his finances and his church. All it earned the elder Romney was the buffoonish disregard of his own party; the party that would go on with Richard Nixon to claim the Presidency. This was his father’s collapse. He threw his lot in with the wrong people, and Mitt Romney would never make that mistake. Mitt Romney was not one of the losers.

If the first half of Mitt Romney’s biography taught him resent for the losers, for the intransigence of the leftist elements, and spite for his father’s lack of conviction, the next half of his life would teach him clearly the base constant value of his life and the base value of the winners: wealth. If the measure of a man is money, then Mitt Romney is one of the greatest men that ever lived. You have to understand, of course, that profitability on a personal and corporate level really is the measure of a man in the life Mitt Romney went on to lead. Money is, for all practical purposes, what makes a man good. More than trying to be a winner, Mitt Romney was trying to be good and goodness was wealth. Think of a soldier. You may approve or disapprove of war or particular wars, but many of us understand that these young men and women grew up with a value of protecting their country through combat. They grew up in towns that taught them that when you become of age, the best thing you can do is join the military. It is honorable, it is decent, and it is brave. It is what it means to be a good person.

Mitt Romney is that soldier, but his war is money and he wages it by gutting the innards of crumbling structures, removing the long-festering mold and corrosion of pensions, benefits and employees. Working for Bain, Romney waged this war daily and his colleagues were his compatriots. They understood the value of this country. They would not turn away from it. They would never join the loser, who sat in spite for not being on the right side. If only that spiteful lot could all see what the executives saw, which of course they never could. Mitt Romney, to get to sleep at night, needed to reinforce that everything he did was for the best, that there was actual risk he was taking, that the people that lost jobs were redundant or at best, the incidental casualties of a war of correction. He spent his life opposed by regulators and Democrats, the representatives of the losers, who of course had no idea what the fuck was actually going on out there. If they could only be shown, they would know, but they’re too scared to see and too stupid to understand.

Everyone around Mitt Romney believes they are a good person. They have money because they are good people. They do a service to America and American interests by salvaging its businesses. Mitt Romney is a winner, and when Bain takes over a company and people lose their jobs, it is an unfortunate outcome of an overall success. When a business goes under and Bain keeps its fees, it simply cannot be helped. It is the natural ebb and flow of business, an act of the gods of growth, beyond the hyper-mortals even at Bain Capital. All these losses must belong to someone else who doesn’t understand why they deserve it out of the same inadequacy that led them to this failure. They belong to the father who lost his pension and now has a life of poverty at best ensured in old age, and no provisions to pass onto his children. If he were good, he could get back up like Mitt Romney’s father did after the failure of his Presidential campaign. He could get back up like Mitt Romney himself did after constantly being bludgeoned by the losers in stacked election races. Mitt Romney knows this. Mitt Romney knows that if you want more “free stuff,” you should vote for the other guy. Mitt Romney earned his bonus money. He earned three years of wages as CEO of Bain from 1999 to 2002, years when he himself has said he barely even ran the place. That’s how good Mitt Romney is: even a little of him costs a hundred thousand dollars a year.

So now he stands in front of every audience and lets them know what his values are. You still don’t understand? Of course you don’t, because you don’t see. You didn’t grow up rich. You didn’t stay rich. You don’t have rich friends. You didn’t go to France to spite the people living there when you were a young man. You didn’t have a father who was a lobbyist, a business owner, a Governor and then a potential Presidential nominee. You didn’t have Edward Conard talking to you and explaining how well everything is going, and how this is just the system as it is, as men like Edward Conard and Mitt Romney have lobbied to make it, and so the masses who do not understand are betraying that system. You have no idea what good is. You think good is someone at the margins who works their whole lives at a job that, in scale, is meaningless, to put food on the table. But Mitt Romney knows that man’s life was built on the back of Mitt Romney’s labor, his children’s thirst quenched by the sweat of Mitt Romney’s brow, their stomachs filled with the keep that men like Mitt Romney have afforded them. Mitt Romney knows because he has seen it himself, not in the ghettos or crumbling homes of people whose inadequacy surrounds them, but in the glistening board rooms Mitt Romney bought, sitting with the other Masters of the Universe. He has tried to reason with you, but learned long ago how unreasonable you are, and how futile it would be. You will never understand what it is to live outside the bubble of your marginalization. You will never know what it is to be powerful, to have agency over the lives of millions of people. And it is from this crevice, this crack in a street that Mitt Romney knew he shouldn’t have paid for, that you stand in ever-sinking spite of his greatness.

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