Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tales of a Race-Baiting Mormon: The Personal and Political Hypocrisy of Mitt Romney

In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.

“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”.
It is abundantly clear that the Right, Mitt Romney, and the Tea Party GOP have been channeling a particularly noxious politics of blood, soil, race, and ideology in a concerted campaign to race-bait and "Otherize" the United States' first black President.

Consequently, this most recent claim that President Obama is not one of "us"--because his father's "blood" makes him incapable of understanding the "Anglo-Saxon" heritage--is (sadly) no surprise. It is not that our political culture has just now fallen so low and into the sewer; contemporary conservatism and white racism are long-intimate bedfellows. The 2012 Presidential campaign simply promises to reinforce the fiction that is "post racial" America.

And while Mitt Romney can "reject" his adviser's statement, the reality is that such comments about Barack Obama are part of a now long established pattern where the former's campaign has used racial cues, and appeals to white racial resentment, in order to win support among Right-leaning voters. Romney's adviser simply offered up one more data point. He did this off the record, but likely with the tacit--if not active--approval of his handlers.

The rank hypocrisy of Mitt Romney's efforts to paint Barack Obama--and by proxy black Americans--as a type of dangerous Other, whose values, personhood, and citizenship, exist outside of the American political tradition (precisely because of his racial identity and not coincidental to it) is to my eyes the most troubling aspect of his campaign's predilection for race-baiting politics.

Mitt Romney is a Mormon. For much of their history, his religious community was subject to harassment, violence, and exile within the United States. Mormons have been subject to discrimination because of their religious values and lifestyle. As a group of "internal aliens," and a type of religious Other, Mormons had their loyalty to the United States and fitness for full membership in the polity questioned during the 19th and 20th centuries. In fact, President Buchanan dispatched federal troops to put down the Mormon "revolt" in Utah because they were viewed as a threat to the country's internal security.

Mitt Romney's pattern of race baiting and mobilization of white racism against President Obama, by a member of a religious group that was stigmatized and marginalized, is rife with historical irony.

During the latter part of the 19th century, anti-Mormon sentiment was a tool for reconciliation between the former Confederacy and the victorious North. Hatred and fear of Mormons helped to create a salve to heal the still fresh wounds of the Civil War.

The North and South also created a racial fiction and melodrama at the end of Reconstruction (which they termed "Redemption") which reimagined that era of radical and progressive success in government, by now free blacks, as a horrible disaster. Here, this Birth of Nation moment also produced the myth of Gone with the Wind where the treasonous Confederacy was depicted as fighting a noble, "lost cause" in defense of its "civilization."

The image of the "happy old darky" on yee old plantation would be replaced by the vicious black rapist and "black brute" who needed to be controlled by the KKK, the Black Codes, and Jim and Jane Crow. This moment of national reconciliation and "race and reunion" was purchased by black blood in order to (re)establish white supremacy in the South.

Mormons and blacks, to varying degrees and in different ways, were a common foil that white society in the 19th century used to repair itself, carving out a new understanding of civic belonging at the expense of those marked as the Other.

Mitt Romney should be the presidential candidate who is most unlikely to swim in these dangerous waters. Instead, he appears to be quite comfortable playing with the twin toxins of prejudice and bigotry. Like others, I have suggested elsewhere that Mitt Romney could be sociopathic. Consequently, he is likely incapable of any sense of shared struggle, empathy, and humanity across the color line, where Romney's internal moral compass says, "you know what, given what Mormons have gone through, I will not use racism or racial appeals to win this election."

Romney's campaign has chosen an alternate route to the White House--one that is well-traveled and familiar.

Historically, the way that white ethnics and other new arrivals to the United States earned their full "whiteness" was by distancing themselves from black Americans, engaging in violence against them, and doing anything possible to internalize and reproduce the country's civic and social culture of de facto and de jure white supremacy. In leading a campaign which to this point has deployed some of the most sophisticated racial dog-whistles yet seen in American politics, Mitt Romney has demonstrated that he knows this history quite well.

During the early stages of the 2012 presidential season there was speculation that Mitt Romney's religion would hurt him among the white Christian Evangelical and Dominionist crowd who constitute the base of the Tea Party GOP. Romney's solution to this problem was to emphasize his Whiteness. Here, race trumps religion. Any anxieties about Romney's Mormon faith are quickly trumped by a desire to remove the alien outsider and unfit black usurper (who many Republicans believe is a secret Muslim) from the White House.

This desire to remove President Obama and to install Mitt Romney is about more than the typical politics of party and interest groups. The White Conservative Political Imagination cannot accept that a person of color is the symbolic leader of the United States. The racial id of the White Right is thus made cognitively dissonant by Barack Obama, his wife, and children, and their status as the First Family of the United States. Mitt Romney's campaign will do everything possible to reinforce those anxieties among his public, and any potential voters as well.

Historically, immigrants to the United States quickly learned to stand on the backs and necks of black Americans in order to raise themselves up, and to earn full acceptance as "assimilable" (white) ethnics. This was the price of full admission to the American civic project.

Mitt Romney is playing a similar game.

Through race-baiting, naked racial appeals to white reactionary voters, and racist dog-whistle politics that are steeped in the Republican Party's "Southern Strategy," his Mormon faith will be transformed into an interesting asterisk next to his name. Thus, it is made a peripheral concern for his voting public.

17 comments:

makheru bradey said...

[When asked about his background, which includes a black father and white mother, Obama said of African-Americans: "We are sort of a mongrel people." "I mean we're all kinds of mixed up," Obama said. "That's actually true of white people as well, but we just know more about it." The president's remarks were directed at the roots of all Americans. The definition of mongrel as an adjective is defined as "of mixed breed, nature, or origin," according to dictionary.com]

I actually have not heard anyone use the term “mongrel” to describe Afrikan Americans other than white supremacists. He also describes himself as a mutt.

“There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic, but on the other hand our preference is to get a shelter dog, but obviously, a lot of the shelter dogs are mutts like me,” Obama said.

So the two-party system has given the American body-politic a choice between a mongrel and a race-baiting Mormon.

chaunceydevega said...

@mb. great and fun word play. do you want to suggest that there is no difference between the 2 candidates?

nomad said...

The difference between the candidates is real. Romney will be tougher on the poor and middleclasses, no doubt. The trade off would be, should he prevail, a reawakening of the progressive opposition that Obama has anesthetized. Both candidates are headed in the same direction: war, dismantling the New Deal/Great Society, and imposition of the police state and surrender to corporatism. The difference? Romney is forthright about his goals. Obama is deceptive. He's also more effective because his bait and switch ruse neutralizes any defense against his noxious policies.

Anyway, disparate persecuted groups do not necessarily support and identify with each other. For example, the black community is not notable for its support for gay marriage. The racism Romney seems to exhibit at times is a part of white culture at large and is a prominent feature of the Mormon religion. Don't they believe that blacks are a cursed race or some such s**t?

Romney might have the details wrong. Perhaps Barama is not literally a foreigner. But he is a part of a criminal cabal that has taken over the government. That makes him, along with the people who engineered his ascendance to the presidency, anathema to democracy and hence, in an ideological sense, foreign.

Beyond The Political Spectrum said...

I'm actually willing to give Romney the benefit of the doubt...and assume he's not so dumb as to display (overtly) racist beliefs, tendencies, or attitudes.

Anonymous said...

Hi CD, Presidential Wishful Candidate Romney’s statement above is merely his latest attempt to shore-up support for his lagging campaign efforts. Silly Wabbit! Moreover, I’m not so willing to give him the benefit of the doubt simply because he doesn’t deserve it. Mitt fits the description of what you see, is what you get. Another dumb-ass Republican who believes that the more you insinuate through colorful statements that African Americans are the root of this country’s social problems, the likelihood of him becoming the next US president simultaneously increases as well. What a winning strategy!! - Black Sage

nomad said...

"Nomad,

Really your spin on Obama is extreme"

Appropriately so, don't you think? No?
Well, 10 years from now when the ship of state has finally run aground by the cabal, black Americans will be wondering "How could we have been so gullible?!!!"

nomad said...

The irony is so ironically ironic!

Obama Supporter Interviews Her 2008 Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=WbX5EwSp_W8

OTB said...

Would it be fair to rate both candidates based on their own words, rather than the words of "advisers", often taken out of context (and sometimes those "advisers" are not even named)?

There's enough tarring and feathering going on without outsourcing guilt for comments to people who are not even the issue.

chaunceydevega said...

@OTB. On this level those "unnamed advisers" are the real mouth pieces.

They can push talking points and allow a candidate to say, "me? I would never do or say such a thing!" Plus, that adviser's talking point was consistent with Romney's game plan to date. It is totally fair game.

OTB said...

@chaunceydevega

1) What did Romney himself say?

2) What is the full context of the quote from this "unnamed adviser"?

3) Romney has been ripped to shreds for honestly answering a direct question from Brian Williams, an answer that reflected what the British media had already suggested.

True, both sides have surrogates. Both sides are misquoted and taken out of context. The bottom line should be what each candidate personally says, and the full context in which it is said.

chaunceydevega said...

@OTB. Don't be so naive.

Anonymous said...

Would it be fair to rate both candidates based on their own words, rather than the words of "advisers", often taken out of context (and sometimes those "advisers" are not even named)?

There's enough tarring and feathering going on without outsourcing guilt for comments to people who are not even the issue.

@OTB,
I hope you’re smarter than to believe that a political “un-named adviser” would place a US presidential candidate’s standing at risk by blurting a racially toned statement without prior approval from Romney himself. Huh! Even further, Romney has given many interviews since these statements were made and not once did he utter a denouncement of these comments and that he’ll investigate this issue and have this “”un-named adviser” immediately terminated. His weak response is suspicious enough to point a finger directly at him. Give me a break; Romney is well aware of whom this individual is that made these comments. After all, Romney isn’t running for the lofty position of the local High School Presidency. -Black Sage

OTB said...

@chaunceydevega,

What is naive about asking people to be judged by their own words and the full context of same?

What is naive about my words above?

@Black Sage,

What was "racially toned" about the comments from this "adviser", and is it possible that Romney has better things to do than apologize every time somebody claims somebody else's words are "offensive"?

chaunceydevega said...

@OTB. If you can't see it I can't help you. You are trying to engage in a conversation about serious matters where you win by exhausting those with whom you speak. You want us to sketch out obvious matters and by contesting all of the most basic facts you demonstrate your claim. It isn't "winning" it is exhausting.

I would suggest reading some of Romney's speeches and interviews where he says Obama can't understand America (I wonder why...hmmm; also check out the USA Today American exceptionalism editorial by Romney), review the Birther Tea Party Obama is a secret Muslim mess, and then read what Sununu, a Romney surrogate said last week.

If you remain so naive about the nature of politics I would suggest coming into the real world. The light can be blinding at first. You do get used to it after a while though.

OTB said...

@chaunceydevega:

I'm am not trying to exhaust anyone: I asked for simple answers to simple questions and charges made by you.

If I recall correctly, you have long stressed that context matters. So asking for it shouldn't be "naive".

I don't believe Romney has any connection to birthers, secret Muslim, etc. (taking money from Trump does not mean he believes everything Trump believes, any more than Obama taking money from drug lords would make him an addict).

I would appreciate the other quotes you cite (just so we are looking at the same words). I am unable to find a USA Today op ed by Romney.

I'm not contesting basic facts: I am attempting to see that we are looking at the same ones.

makheru bradley said...

Do you want to suggest that there is no difference between the 2 candidates?—CDV

Quite to the contrary, I think that a second term, more unrestrained Barack Obama will be much more dangerous for anyone concerned about peace and justice.

Obama is the most brilliant stroke of disguised hypocrisy in American political history. The oligarchic psychopathocracy will never have a better tool in their hands. The Republican establishment knew this in 2008. That’s why Bush did everything possible to sabotage McCain.

Some of these entertainers are saying a second term Obama will go gangsta. He’s already an international gangster, but be careful what you wish for. Going even more gangsta will probably include an attack on entitlements and an attack on Iran. The latter may come this fall to guarantee his re-election.

Steven Augustine said...

"The latter may come this fall to guarantee his re-election"

I'm rarely surprised these days but I will be if that *doesn't* happen. However, I believe there will need to be some nonsensical "straw that broke the camel's back" event to get more emotional bang out of it, since the war drums have been beating so monotonously for so long that, minus a melodramatic tweak or two in the script, an all-out attack, at this point, would be anticlimactic. Stoning a beautiful young virgin on YouTube? "Western" Hostages (beautiful young ones)? There aren't many options on the table.