(A version of this post appeared on the BlueMassGroup web site)
So I was up late once again, as I always am, dwelling on what I usually do, which is Mitt Romney, the Man and the Legend. And in light of recent developments, hoping that independent voters, and even my Republican friends, will take a long look at some of the nefarious forces wresting control of the GOP, forces which clearly don’t represent the values of the citizens of the Commonwealth no matter what our partisan leanings.
I was actually contemplating Romney’s role—along with Senator Brown’s—within a larger context. It was more than a little interesting yesterday to see the candidate call for the—can we call him “touched?”—-Rep. Aiken to step down as a candidate for Senate—-and to see him immediately and forcefully rebuffed. And to see Scott Brown beg the Platform Committee to include a clause allowing for abortion in certain cases, only to be immediately and forcefully rebuffed.
Not a good day for the “moderates.”
My conclusions: it’s not Romney’s party—it’s Ryan’s. And I smelled that coming (not the VP pick, which admittedly startled me, but the baleful influence), which is why I’ve spent months harping not on Romney, who strikes me a red herring, but on the Ryan budget. Not only does the revised GOP Platform take a, umm, wider stance that does Romney on abortion; this, to my mind, was even more telling:
“The platform committee also adopted a position on Medicare in line with Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who supports turning the federal health insurance program for seniors into a voucher-like system…. [Romney] also supports allowing seniors to opt to buy private insurance, but he has not fully embraced Ryan’s more aggressive approach.”
This is important. Romney’s the stalking horse, the velvet glove. The Party’s wagging the dog.
As for Scott Brown, whose PAC has been more than generous when it comes to the care and feeding of the far right: it also makes clear that the Senator from MA and anyone likeminded aren’t going to make any headway with the lizard crowd. His gentle remonstrance notwithstanding, Brown is embedded in the nutroll.
That’s the crew that used to be at the fringe, the the kinds of people with whom you can’t engage in battles of wit and reason, in large part because they make no sense.
Romney himself is comprehensible. Romney is man of rational vices, the sort a gentleman of 19th c London would have understood and approved, the kind of man to whom a Mandeville might have dedicated his neoclassical paean to capital, the “Fable of the Bees (Or, Public Virtues, Private Vices).” Romney stands, in rather dated 80s-ish kind of way, for the proposition that money is an inherently splendid thing, and that a life focused on the accumulation thereof is a noble, if not downright sacred, vocation. In short, greed is good, the race is to swift, to the victor go the spoils. “He’s a well respected man about town / Doing the best things so conservatively.”
We may find this view distasteful, but we get it; we’re all a little bit greedy. We’ve all contemplated, however briefly, life in a Provence chateau, replete with wine cellar, weekends in Monte Carlo, Keith Richards passed out in the billiards room, Neopolitan starlets cavorting in the hot tub, cocktails on the veranda with our Bruges-based banker. Or maybe even just a new sink in the bathroom. Avarice and Envy are two of those Seven Deadly Sins in which we all partake; it’s only a matter of degree.
But these others? Back when I was in school, one of the fundamental texts for my area of specialization was Douglas Bush’s English Literature in the Earlier Seventeenth Century. I’ve never forgotten the opening line: “”In 1600 the educated Englishman’s mind and world were more than half medieval; by 1660 they were more than half modern.” It was that stunning transition that drew me to the period. The idea that in 1600, the average Englishperson would easily credit the literal existence of Shakespeare’s Titania and Oberon, and might well believe they were encamped in a glade on the edges of his pasture; juxtaposed with the fact that just a few decades later, Richard Hooker was looking at cells under a microscope.
We’re experiencing something similar. The “natural order of things,” prior to the 1960s, founded on myth and perpetuated by institutions ranging from government to church to media, was equally superstitious, with its own hierarchy and daemonologie: black people were sub-human, gay people were criminal deviants, women were basically good for three things, and America is a Christian Nation. And now they’re fighting to preserve—-actually resurrect and revitalize—the Grand Old Myth against those whom I call without reservation not simply the “more post-modern minded,” but against those of us—-I’m not ashamed to say it–whom time has rendered the more civilized. And they have their hands on the reins on the Party.
So that while we comprehend Romney, we cannot get into the heads of the American Family Association and the Family Research Council and the Aikens and the Bachmanns and the Santorums and the Huckabys. We can only exclaim, with Kurtz, “the horror … the horror … exterminate the brutes.” Figuratively, anyway, come November.
This election season isn’t about idealism, or polity; it’s not just about a jobs program, or a minor detail in healthcare policy. It’s about medievalism vs. modernism, and before anyone suggests that I’m neglecting critical economic issues in light of the culture war battles and downplaying Romney’s role, I’d note that these forces of darkness have forged an uncomfortable but powerful alliance with the forces of greed. The old mythic values of rugged individualism are used to justify hedge fund managers raking in hundreds of millions in annual income and keeping more rather than less of it; the same antique view of minorities provides a foundation for egregious cuts to safety nets along with the just-announced plank promoting the execrable Arizona immigrant policy as the national standard, and a similar perception of women underlies the votes of Ryan et al against the Fair Pay Act.
For years, I dreamed of the eventual split within the GOP, between the more or less “reasonable” coastal types (the Romneys, Schwarzeneggers, Christie Whitmans and Charlie Bakers), men and women who are, say, unlikely to make a creationism a central tenet of their agenda, and the yahoo element. I watched with no small degree of glee as the Tea Party gained ascendancy and made those rifts plain in Republican primaries in which the least-reasonable usurped the seats of relatively more responsible incumbents, though that glee turned all-too-quickly to dismay when these same bozos took their seats in Congress.
The Romney-Ryan ticket represents the uneasy co-existence of these two factions, but the electorate shouldn’t be allowed to succumb to the god-cop bad-cop routine in play. The many who were cool to Romney are clearly hot for Ryan, and despite all that malarkey about Ryan being the “intellectual heavyweight” (a label I’d never previously seen applied to anyone so enamored of the ludicrous Ayn Rand), Ryan very clearly espouses a Weltanschauung that panders to both culturally savage and economically brutal sensibilities. The Ryanistas will be, willy-nilly, the overarching force in determining the policies of a GOP in the WH—and the shaping of the GOP Platform makes that eminently clear.
So the election isn’t really a referendum on Obama, what he hath done and what he hath failed to do. It’s about us, and, clichéd as it sounds, about what kind society we’re bequeathing to our children.
There are no elves in the glades. Women do not secrete contraceptive hormones. Neither 9/11 nor hurricanes are manifestations of Jehovah’s indignation at the Massachusetts State Supreme Court. Bloodletting is not a universal cure-all. “Climate change” is not a hoax dreamed up by a bored Vice President with too much time on his hands. The Fed is run by neither Rosicrucians, the Illuminati, nor the Elders of Zion. And poor people are not in the straits they are in due God’s will, nor are they to be rendered even more destitute because the GOP priesthood has re-created Jesus in the image of Mammon and sold the resulting blasphemy throughout the heartland.
Centrism has clearly run its course. Romney, should he win, will perforce serve as the handmaiden of the barbarians. And with a Republican in the White House, a re-elected Scott Brown will no longer be permitted to utilize the coy tactics he has in posing as an independent mind—and vote.
Massachusetts Democrats, despite any disappointment with the current administration’s performance, need to understand that what’s at stake isn’t the fate of a pet item or two, but the way in which our culture defines itself. Independents, especially, need to take a cold, hard look at the men and women behind the curtain and decide whether these neolithics really represent the best values of the Commonwealth, no matter what their thoughts on fiscal policy. And I’d even go far as to suggest that Republicans, who, here in MA tend to manifest a certain decency and intelligence, inquire of themselves as to whether this far-right version of America is really, at heart, their vision.