Mitt Romney: Dismounted Horseman of the Apocalypse   3 comments

Your guilty conscience may force you to vote Democratic, but deep down inside you secretly long for a cold hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king!” – Sideshow Bob

No Apology: The Case for American Greatness
by Mitt Romney
St. Martin’s Press, 2010, 323pp

As Williard Mitt Romney’s ill designed campaign for the presidency works its way toward its very probable and widely expected defeat (according to the numerically literate, anyway), it’s worth taking a look back at the book he, ahem, wrote* to underlie his campaign. (*There is no secondary author listed, but these days it is safer to assume ghostwriter involvement than not.) Like most campaign books, this one needs to be read and understood in its proper context: as little more than an over long pamphlet dedicated to the greater glory of Mitt Romney and why he should be our paramount leader. It’s not going to tell you anything you couldn’t find out from a campaign website. Of course, given Romney’s ability to switch positions on issues within a single day, it’s actually like a very out of date campaign website. And when you consider his well documented habit of telling any audience he’s with whatever it is they want to hear regardless of whether or not it’s the least bit true (or he even believes it), it’s actually like a very out of date campaign website that was hacked by a drunken intern.

But that very mendacity and obsolescence are what makes No Apology worth revisiting now, as the public phase of Romney 2012 comes to a close. We’re within spitting distance of the finish line that this book was designed to help Mittens cross victoriously. In the interim, his public image has broadened and changed, he’s gone from being an obscure business celebrity to one of the most famous people on Earth, and he may yet become the President of the United States (dear Jebus, let that not happen). And this book, No Apology, is what Romney thought the American people really wanted to hear. In that sense, far from being meaningless fluff or outdated pablum, it’s maybe the most honest thing we’ll ever get out of him.

So, what was on Romney’s mind as he brooded in defeat during the long winter of 2008-9 and dreamed of 2012? Mostly it’s that America is great, and it would be that much greater with him at 1600. (The book’s subtitle is “The Case for American Greatness”.) Romney thinks America’s economy is, while suffering right now, the best darned economy in the world, and wouldn’t it be better with him in charge? He thinks Iran, China, and Russia are run by very mean people, but that none of them have anything on America so long as our president (hint, hint) is super tough with them. He thinks labor unions and taxes are bad, and he’d give ’em both what fer if he was in charge (nudge, nudge).

Mittens thinks that a national heath insurance plan like the one in Massachusetts would be just dandy nationwide, and that he could get it done if – oh, wait, he actually took that part out in subsequent editions when it looked politically inconvenient during the Red primaries. But you get the idea. America is awesome, and could be even awesomer with a president who understood the world as well as Mitt Romney does.

His go to gimmick, to let you in on his impressive but common sense insights, is self serving personal anecdotes that show a) how smart he is, and b) how foolish this or that government policy is. Mitt serially recounts old political and business war stories that always have him in a starring role and consistently demonstrate his fitness for leadership. So the book reads like what it is, a sales pitch for Romney’s America, where church attendance and the gross domestic product will be way up, taxes and unionism will be way down, and it will always be morning.

The problem isn’t with Romney’s goofy, self-refuting vision of a Republican utopia (well, other than the fact that it’s monstrously anti-social, mathematically impossible, and generally insane). The problem is that here, in his earliest and most carefully thought out campaign literature, the man reveals himself a dunce. No Apology covers all the major issues on which a presidential candidate must have an official position, and it tells humbling personal stories that explain how he came to all his iron clad convictions on this and that. So far, so ho-hum, but No Apology suffers from a fatal stylistic choice. While it dutifully describes the world’s problems and Mitt’s solutions, it is relentlessly sunny and optimistic about them. Nothing could be further from the public’s mood, especially among the people Romney needs to vote for him.

These are very grim times for the American right. On virtually every issue that matters to them, they see themselves falling behind. For the Jebus people, we’ve become a new Sodom, a place where homosexuals cavort in the streets, little girls have “rainbow parties” (thanks for that one, Dr. Phil, you fucking asshole), sex and porn are everywhere, and you can hardly find a wife who’ll do the housework and doesn’t mind taking the occasional beating. Not just millions, but tens of millions of them believe that they’re going to see some kind of Biblical apocalypse in their time.

For the racists of all stripes, from respectable white people who just get a little nervous if they see a black guy in their neighborhood up to the neo-Confederates and white power twits, the browning of America is a terrible thing. That the declining percentage of their definition of “white” is inevitable, and the accompanying whiff of Darwinian failure that clings to to that oft repeated fact, just makes it all the worse. They see schools with more minorities and get unnerved. They see people darker than them working as everything from doctors to fast food clerks, and they wonder what the world is going to look like in the future. Above all, they see a black couple in the White House. They think the America they knew, that beat Hitler and the Soviet Union, that spreads freedom and that was a great place to live, is dying in front of their eyes. Whenever you hear someone say they “want their country back”, you can just read that as “I’m at least a little uncomfortable with [mild ethnic slur of your choice]”.

For the money people, they’ve seen themselves seriously disrespected for the first time since Truman left office. And while you might think that’s peanuts compared to the real setbacks suffered by the Jebus and racist people, it worries the shit out of them because they all think the peasant revolt could start at any moment. It’s not for nothing that they talk about “class warfare” likes it’s some kind of civic plague that would destroy the country.

The professionals and successful small business people live in gated communities and have their homes wired with security systems. Above them, many of the truly rich (even the ones who wouldn’t be recognized anywhere outside of a prep school reunion) now travel around with twenty-four hour security. Can you imagine what that does to a person’s mind after a while? To be so frightened of your fellows for the things you own? No wonder they shriek at the President’s use of the word “fatcat”.

Nor does it help that they believe that the country is drowning in debt and will soon be bankrupt. The rich and merely well to do see riots in Athens and Madrid every few months and wonder if it could happen here. While not quite believeing that the guillotine is coming back any time soon, they don’t like the way the poor are starting to grumble, and they really don’t like having the term “1%” become some kind of epithet.

Plenty of rank and file money conservatives, to say nothing of Charles, David and the rest of the wrinkled wealthy, believe all that bullshit about debt cliffs and how public unions with pensions and health care are one or two quarters away from turning us into a penurious basketcase like the ones they’ve got in Europe. Everywhere they turn, the Reds are feeling squeezed in and restrained. Even on issues where the legal fight is going in their direction, notably with anti-woman and anti-labor legislation, they’re motivated more by fear than by anything else.

Consider the misogynists who want to ban women from getting decent medical care but like to fantasize about what kind of specifically inhumane sexual assault they think would actually merit an abortion. They aren’t pushing for trans-vaginal ultrasounds and restrictions on contraception because they think they’re winning. They’re doing it because they think women have much too much freedom these days, and it frightens them so much that they invented creepy rituals like “purity balls” to compensate.

The religious conservatives have lost more than anybody. There are swear words all over television, evolution keeps getting taught in the schools, and gay rights are being “rammed down their throat” at seemingly every turn. It’s not for nothing that end times novels sell in the millions, and more than one in every four Americans think the world is going to end soon, possibly within their lifetimes.

All of them feel like they’re under assault, and all of them think things are getting worse not better. The last thing any of them want to hear is a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed pitch about American greatness from a rich Mormon. Romney is famous for misunderstanding the lives and viewpoints of people who aren’t worth at least eight figures, and No Apology is a three hundred page example of that failing. The book is bereft of gloom and doom, with everything pushed aside to make way for bland pronouncements on how easy and simple all of America’s problems really are if only we all lived inside the same charmed bubble as Willard Mittens himself.

For example, what are the fabled working class white voters, so crucial to Republican electoral success lo these last forty years, to make of anecdotes about how impressed Romney is with the draconian but highly productive working conditions in China? (p102):

Never before had I seen people working with such concentration, speed, and efficiency. As we toured the assembly lines, not one person glanced up at us as we passed. No radios offered potential distractions, and not once did I see a pair of workers sharing even a few quick words – everyone was intently focused on their work.

You can almost feel his erection for total control of the workers here: not even a radio! No idle chitchat whatsoever! It is positively Dickensian, but Romney evinces not a single sentence of sympathy that this might not be a pleasant work environment. He simply marvels at how fast and efficient they are and you can practically hear him wanting to ship your job over to them.

Shortly thereafter he defends America as being more “productive” than China, though he lays most of it at the feet of automation and Americans doing more sophisticated work. Again, nevermind the people actually doing the work, or the American workers who see those well controlled Chinese doing their jobs at seven cents an hour. Romney manages to describe outsourcing jobs like it’s the most natural, side-effect-free thing in the world; and the one time he does sympathize with ordinary people it’s a justification for free trade and phony “job training” programs.

So while No Apology contains all the requisite Red arglebargle (“There is good and evil in the world. Many do not agree; they dismiss such a claim as simplistic and moralistic”), dick waiving (“America is a decidedly good nation. Therefore, it is good for America to be strong”), and Obama bashing (“Never before in American history has its president gone before so many foreign audiences to apologize for so many American misdeeds, both real and imagined”), it is a book without an audience. Mittens has nothing but childishly simplistic, factually incorrect, and crashingly bland descriptions of America and its place in the world. (His explanations of international relations read like a recap of a particularly dull game of Risk.) Anyone who even halfway follows the news has a perfectly sound grip on the background he offers, and those who don’t pay attention are unlikely to be interested in the anecdotal minutia of Mitt Romney’s life experience and governing philosophy.

Looked at in that light, it’s not hard to see why his campaign for the White House has generated no real passion and instead has been forced to rely on hate reflecting off of President Obama. In their bones, the deep Red partisans know that even if Romney wins, even if he appoints Scalia Jr. to the Supreme Court, bombs every dictatorship on Earth, and lowers the top marginal tax rate to -4%, it won’t cause women, minorities, paupers or those insidious homos to remember their place. One look at the guy shows you that he is a man contented, that there is no trace in him of the desperation so many of his supporters feel. His runs for national office seem to have come about because he literally has nothing better to do, not because he belives the barbarians are at the gate. So even if he didn’t have the personal charm of a malfunctioning toaster, he simply isn’t offering anyone on the right what they want to hear.

Ultimately, Romney, his campaign, and his book exist in a world apart. He has hardly any sense of the one the rest of us inhabit, and even less of the people he’ll need on Tuesday. But No Apology is likely true to its word. When he goes on television around 11:30pm Eastern on Tuesday to concede, he won’t say he’s sorry for blowing the only chance the Reds have to rid themselves of that troublesome negro. He’ll talk about how America is still great, how he wishes Obama well, and how he still has hope for the future. His supporters, meanwhile, will read from Revelations, buy more gold, and scan the headlines for further signs of the apocalypse.

Posted November 4, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Reviews, The Simpsons

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3 responses to “Mitt Romney: Dismounted Horseman of the Apocalypse

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  1. Nice review. The excerpt of him clucking about Chinese workers is chilling. Reminds me of the end of Animal Farm when the humans are lead around by the pigs and marvel about how hard the animals are toiling in the fields.

    “Today he and his friends had visited Animal Farm and inspected every inch of it with their own eyes, and what did they find? Not only the most up-to-date methods, but a discipline and an orderliness which should be an example to all farmers everywhere. He believed that he was right in saying that the lower animals on Animal Farm did more work and received less food than any animals in the county. Indeed, he and his fellow-visitors today had observed many features which they intended to introduce on their own farms immediately.”

    • That Chinese factory section was hard to believe when I first read it. I went over it a few times, looking for some kind of acknowledgement that it might not be the most awesome thing ever, but there was nothing. You couldn’t write it as satire, no one would believe it.

      Charlie Sweatpants
  2. Pingback: Reading Digest – 21 November 2012 « The Ann Arbor Review of Books

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