By Deliciously Geek
Guest Blogger and Women’s Historian
So in what could only be called “a tragic failure to refuse” I blindly agreed to be Thursday’s “Convention Cop” for WRUN. No doubt the admins could have found someone a little more passionate, a little more knowledgeable about politics – but on what should be the biggest night of the convention, with Romney speaking for himself finally, you lovely lot have little old me.
I am not a politician, an activist, or even a partisan – I’m first a feminist and an historian. And what you get in response to tonight’s RNC coverage will no doubt reflect those perspectives.
To begin with, the Reagan-worshipping Gingriches, Newt and the ever-plastic Callista compared Romney’s popularity to the actor-turned-president. This was followed by the inevitable Carter-Obama comparison and how, during each of their terms, neither was able to turn around the government they had been handed- which is probably the most important overlooked fact of the entire rhetoric. Carter inherited his government from Gerald Ford, perhaps the most accidentally-comedic president since Taft; Ford himself had inherited a broken, war-scarred government, and he was inept at worst, unprepared at best. Obama inherited a country which had spent seven years fighting a “war on terror” that it was nowhere near to winning. Not once has anyone given a thought about where the country had come from before Democrats such as Carter, Clinton, and Obama were elected.
Have the Gingriches, and those who are like-minded, completely forgotten the principles of Reaganomics? I suppose I can offer a quick refresher: In 1980, Reagan proposed a phased-in 30% tax cut, the bulk of which would be concentrated in the upper-income brackets. This focus on those who had the most wealth was based on the idea that they would spend more, which would in turn boost the middle-income economy, causing them to spend more and boost the lower-income economy. This supposed “trickle-down theory” was meant to stimulate the entire economy from the top down. The key word here was trickle- that’s all that was left when it finally reached those of the lowest income brackets. Under Reagan, the economy fluctuated wildly, and that paired with trillions in defense spending caused the largest deficit the country had ever seen: the national debt tripled between 1980 and 1988.
…And this is the America the GOP wants to restore? “The decade of greed” is best left to the history and economics books. We are no longer at war with a gas-giant like the Soviet Union. We are no longer trying to quash Communism at every corner. Ladies (and the occasional gentleman), we are only fighting the legacy of those years.
Whew – that got deep. Let’s bring in the comic relief – Mr. Clint Eastwood! Now, I love me some Eastwood – Dirty Harry, the Good the Bad and the Ugly, Any Which Way but Loose – but I’m wondering who thought it would be a good idea to allow him to speak tonight. He might have had a few amusing things to say, but frankly, he just looked ridiculous talking to the empty chair he kept affectionately referring to as “Mr. President.” Get this man a handler – that would make MY day.
Eastwood awkwardly segued to Mark Rubio, the former VP-would be hopeful from Florida. As early as last fall, I even conceded that the smart move would be to choose Rubio as a running mate – he had the melting pot written all over him. The problem, I think, is that Rubio comes from Florida, that state of dangling chad and Jeb Bush. While his ethnic background might have been a boon, his political background and experience might have been more of a hindrance. So let’s hear him speak about not being chosen, and why we should believe Romney is the man for the mission.
Rubio’s focus seemed to be twofold: you can come from nothing and become something; and our path to economic salvation is by trusting in god. Time for an ethics lesson and an history lesson.
Couched in a number of similar phrases, Rubio said, “[Obama] tells Americans that they’re worse off because others are better off. That people got rich by making others poor”. This is a cold, harsh truth of capitalism: one cannot prosper, under capitalist theory, without someone else falling into poverty. In order for a capitalist economy to function properly, there must be always be some small percentage of unemployment, some percentage of the population in abject poverty, in order to keep the cost of commodities (food, land, and even labor itself) down and market prices even. Not a pretty picture if you spend time considering just how much we Americans value our “enlightened capitalist” views.
Now the history lesson:
Rubio eventually claimed that “America was founded on the principle that every person has God-given rights.” The problem here is that America was founded on the principles of the Enlightenment: there is a natural order to the universe, and as human beings we are granted natural rights which include life, liberty, and property. We have the right to self-government; we have the right to form a government as a way to protect those rights, in order to advance humanity and society as a whole, with the full knowledge that we give up some of our natural rights in order to form said government. Our founding fathers were faithful students of the Enlightenment, not religious men, who wanted nothing more than for the white landed males to find happiness (self-actualization) within a self-administered government. The original motto of our country was E Pluribus Unum – “one from many”- referring to the unifying of the various colonies into one federal unit. There was no mention of god or trust, just the firm assertion that in solidarity there is strength.
Perhaps Rubio could take a pointer from that lesson – his speech was very much about himself, not about what his party could do for this country. He wasn’t priming the audience for Romney. He was promoting himself for 2016.
But because we are still mired in 2012, Romney made his grand entrance like the great white bride making her short-lived but glorious voyage down the aisle. Thankfully, there were no hideously dressed bridesmaids… I take that back. There was this guy.
Romney’s speech was perhaps best summed up when he said “I was born in the middle of the century in the middle of the country” – he could have stopped there and we would have all come to the same conclusion: Romney is middle of the road. His delivery was clearly rehearsed, perhaps coached by Mr. Cleaver, and it seemed as if applause and laugh tracks were timed appropriately. He predictably emphasized Obama’s shortcomings in the last few years, he managed to say many words with little substance, and he made promises that he will no doubt be unable to keep should he be elected. That is the lot of politicians.
However, the tame, controlled Romney was briefly overcome when he got to the following: “What America needs is jobs. Lots of jobs.” No one can argue with that – our unemployment rate is uncomfortable at best; middle-aged experienced employees are competing with college-dropouts for retail and entry-level positions at the most base rate of pay. Romney worked himself into a frenzy by the time he got to “by 2020, North America will be energy independent by taking full advantage of our oil and coal and gas and nuclear and renewables” and he topped it off with the icing of Republican cake: “I will protect the sanctity of life. I will honor the institution of marriage. And I will guarantee America’s first liberty: the freedom of religion.” Freedom of, or freedom from? Romney ended his appearance with a group prayer after the children and grandchildren had been trotted out for public adoration.
This has been called Romney’s “speech of his life” – but not for its content or its promise. This was a speech about his life, about Romney the man, and his obviously passionate views about his family and his values. In anyone else, this might be admirable. In a politician, this can be terrifying – especially in a politician who seems to have studied acting under Hugh Beaumont or Robert Young. As I watch and listen to Romney speak, I keep thinking he’s playing a politician. He sounds…fake. Perhaps he really, truly, fundamentally believes what he’s saying, but his delivery comes across like an overblown Will Ferrell role. And honestly, this shakes my very soul – we put an actor in the White House once. Look at what happened. Look. Carefully.