Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mitt Romney: God's Plan for America is Class Inequality and to Suggest Otherwise is Not Patriotic

As demonstrated by his interview on CBS news today (and later during a speech in Ohio), Mitt Romney is digging deep into his Southern Strategy 2.0 bucket of political feces. Romney's channeling of Lee Atwater's ghost will be much discussed by the pundits and chattering classes. 

As an alternative, I would like to call your attention to this quote from Mitt Romney which may have slipped under your radar a few months ago, before being picked up by the website Politico today. It is just as problematic, if not more so, than Romney's race-baiting:  
“I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare,” Ryan said at the time. “When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on 99 percent versus one percent, and those people who have been most successful will be in the one percent, you have opened up a wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God.”
There is so much to unpack here. We know that Romney believes in Ayn Rand's vision of a bare minimum government where the weak are surplus humans to be disposed of as a drain on the John Galts of the world. This is the context for Romney's comment. It is also helpful to foreground how language works through unstated assumptions about social reality, is dependent upon a set of shared understandings between the speaker and audience, and exists within a broader context of styles, codes, symbols, affect, and genre that together create meaning.

Romney is proceeding from the assumption that America, a country with extreme wealth inequality, is not already divided. Moreover, Romney is suggesting that extreme class inequality is both natural and desirable. 


Ryan's use of "successful" also demands some analysis. The idea of "success" in a capitalist society, and as deployed by an extreme Right-wing conservative, is heavy with ideological meaning--it captures unstated assumptions about hard work, the Horatio Alger myth, American exceptionalism, and the myth of meritocracy. 

The much recycled right-wing talking point about "class warfare" captures many of these sentiments--it also ignores how the economic war in this country has been unidirectional, where the rich have seen record growths in wealth and income, while the middle and working classes have been eviscerated over the last forty years.

As framed by Romney's brand of embrace of neoconservatism/neoliberalism, success is defined as accumulative, financially enriching, monetary behavior. 

What of artists, school teachers, stay at home parents, home healthcare workers, bus drivers, and working class people, who will never rise to the level of the top 1% of earners? Romney is presenting a very narrow view of successful behavior and ignoring how those who are the most rich, robber barons like him for example, have made their fortunes through anti-social, community destroying behavior. Their financial success was individual; their financial success also made it much more difficult for others to maintain a basic standard of living and human dignity.

Romney makes a second important move in his speech. The relationship between "success" and being a member of the "1 percent" is taken as inexorable, and a logical, fair, and correct outcome that is the result of one individual's hard work and risk-taking. Within the Right-wing political imagination, success is just a choice that people makeConservatives do not believe in the power of structures or social institutions to impact life chances and/or life outcomes. These priors are the basis of the Right's repeated deployment of divisive themes such as "welfare queens," "social parasites," and "bad culture" in their political rhetoric and policy making about the poor and people of color.

Romney's speech is ultimately situated within a part of a larger neoliberal, conservative political discourse: here you "choose" to be either poor or successful; if an individual makes the wrong choice, society then has no obligation of care, concern, safety, or protection towards them. 

Because Romney normalizes extreme class inequality, the question of means and chance are not introduced into his conceptual schema. For example, what of those who were born into money? Are they successful? In the United States, most wealth is inherited. Are those people who hit the sperm lotto "successful?" These are questions that Romney's political worldview would have a difficult time internalizing or responding to.

The last portion of Romney's speech is where I need some of your help. He suggests that, "you have opened up a wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God." What is he signalling to here?

I have a few thoughts.

One, this phrase is Romney's effort to marshal a very narrow type of patriotism and nationalism which the Tea Party GOP has skillfully attempted to monopolize as exclusive virtues of the populist, reactionary right. Contemporary conservatives manifest many authoritarian tendencies. Mitt Romney is simply riffing off of the pledge of allegiance to get a cheap high from an audience that is primed to respond to such appeals. 

One of the goals of Romney's address is to validate his public, reinforce their sense of political community, and inspire them to contribute time, energy, and money to the Tea Party GOP. Slogans and phrases that signal to their sense of "us versus them," and that they are unique and special guardians of the "American tradition," are means to this end.

Two, in America, capitalism is imagined by the general public as being inseparable from democracy (this belief ignores the many different types of capitalism that successfully exist around the world). 

Every society has to reproduce itself. Consequently, the United States has been transformed into a market democracy where citizens are treated as consumers who choose between a very narrow set of political actors in a set of ostensibly democratic rituals every so many years.  

The conflation of American style capitalism with democracy also overlooks how class inequality, extremes of wealth, and the excessive influence of money in politics, can lead to a plutocracy that is actually anti-democratic. For the Right, the Tea Party GOP, and the general public, capitalism equals democracy. By implication, any person who questions the impact of class inequality on a democracy is smearing "the successful." Those people who raise uncomfortable questions are deemed "unAmerican" and outside of the political community.

Third, Mitt Romney's mention of "God" is a rhetorical device that is common in American politics. However, given the broader context of his speech, the New Right's embrace of extreme libertarianism, and an electoral coalition that has mated together Christian Dominionists, Right-wing corporatists, racially resentment and reactionary whites, and the plutocrats, could Ryan's use of "God" be a hint at something else? 

The Tea Party GOP, the base of which David Brody describes as "teavangelicals," have a political agenda that involves destroying our country's standing political and social consensus surrounding the necessity of a social safety net, and redefining the role of religion in government. Many of the New Right are also theocrats who want to restore a "lost," "Christian nation."

Religious faith colors and overrides empirical reality and reason for this public. The corporatists have been able to manipulate conservative voters into working against their own political and economic self-interests. Class inequality serves the interests of the financier class and plutocrats. Framing these unequal outcomes as God's will serves the 1 percent and makes sense within the theocratic, fundamentalist worldview that guides the Christian Dominionists and Evangelical wing of the Republican Party.

Could Romney be suggesting that God wants there to be rich people and poor people? Moreover, that some people are "successful" is actually God's will, and its way of bestowing divine grace on those most "saved" and "virtuous?" 

This sounds like old school Calvinism to me. Am I wrong?

17 comments:

CNu said...


The Tea Party GOP, the base of which David Brody describes as "teavangelicals," have a political agenda that involves destroying our country's standing political and social consensus surrounding the necessity of a social safety net, and redefining the role of religion in government. Many of the New Right are also theocrats who want to restore a "lost," "Christian nation."

CDV - do you dispute the objective empirical contraction of the real economy due to declining energy and material inputs?

If you do not dispute that the economy is contracting, and will continue to contract because of non-monetary material constraints, then how can you dispute the necessity of shrinking the safety net?

The fact that democrats and so-called progressives have not honestly engaged on the issue of empirical contraction, leaves the field open to Romney to engage the issue as he see's fit, and, in a manner likely to conduce to the changes that are warranted by the need for fiscal austerity.

So, we're back once again to the issue of austerity - which issue the democrats continue to evade.

Sad but true, what Romney is doing needs to be done, and, constitutes smart, effective leadership of what he has to work with rather than you'd prefer he had to work with. No one to blame for this leadership vaccuum into which Romney has stepped but the Hon.Bro.Preznit.Double-O.

CNu said...

(continued)

Could Romney be suggesting that God wants there to be rich people and poor people? Moreover, that some people are "successful" is actually God's will, and its way of bestowing divine grace on those most "saved" and "virtuous?"

This sounds like old school Calvinism to me. Am I wrong?


Again, he is intelligently working with the tools and the materials at his disposal on a problem that the Brookings institution incumbent has flatly and completely shirked.

Church is the backbone of a proven evolutionarily stable strategy, the common security club, which strategy and formation has demonstrated its mettle over a very long period of historical time.

chaunceydevega said...

@Cnu. Austerity is inevitable. But how, to whose benefit, who is protected, and where are the gains and pain? You know how I feel about religion--fill up the empty bellies with all that guy in the sky talk to keep the rabble from taking down the system.

Romney is running the most nakedly self-interested political campaign in recent--if not modern--America political history. He is in essence getting bankrolled by a cabal of billionaires in order to lower their taxes. Romney as you know will pay less than 1 percent in income tax under Ryan's plan, Romney's own proposals are similarly generous. This is the bankers coup of the 1930s all over again. The mass public has no clue.

CNu said...

You know how I feel about religion--fill up the empty bellies with all that guy in the sky talk to keep the rabble from taking down the system.

That's a whole months worth of discussion unto itself, and while I share your contempt for the old order calvinism that is afoot (the Koch Bros. school I attended from 7th-12th grade was absolutely saturated by this creed) there is a WHOLE LOT more to religion than the summary dismissal you've given it. Taken simply in neurological/ethological terms, there's much more going on than meets the eye, and such casual dismissal is a mistake. Romney is not himself a true-believer in anything more than the elite status he has acquired. He is working with a specific collective neurotype, a demographic subset, and we should all be grateful that he has been endowed with unexceptional tools of his now chosen trade.

Romney is running the most nakedly self-interested political campaign in recent--if not modern--America political history. He is in essence getting bankrolled by a cabal of billionaires in order to lower their taxes. Romney as you know will pay less than 1 percent in income tax under Ryan's plan, Romney's own proposals are similarly generous. This is the bankers coup of the 1930s all over again. The mass public has no clue.

Yes.
Yes.
Yes.
Yes.
Not quite.
and Yes.

Not quite the corporation coup, and, there's no Gen. Smedley Butler waiting in the wings to bust it up either.

I'm still not detecting the significant difference between Obama and Romney aside from Obama's exceptional rorschachian endowments.

If Obama was genuinely an avatar for Change and Hope, at the very least we might have expected him to lead with at least the tiniest little smidgeon of situational truth a la Carter and Mondale in 1980.

Thrasher said...

The question regarding the metrics of a contracting economy is not a given nor is the austerity an nature emperical fact..

The Occupy movement correctly interpeted the emperical data regarding the fiscal equation in America as such the issues of austerity and the need to shrink the nation's social safety net is moot.

Romney is a hollow figure head vomiting out the scripts of right wing think tanks and religious dogma based upon a flawed premise about many truths about America.

America is no longer a religious nation it is soley driven by the culture of politics.

The church in any society ancient or modern was never an evolutionary force it was just an anthropological aspect of the nature of human beings and the need to be a connected as human beings..

Cheyanne (Shy Ann) said...

With all this "God" talk I can't help thinking RMONEY is taking a line and a thought process from Lloyd Blankfein when Blankfein said Goldman Sachs was doing "GOD's Work"

Also, the opposite of God is obvious The Devil to these dual minded people, (possibly teavangelicals) who have no in between space in that gray matter of a space they call a brain, so the polar opposite might be where he was going with his One Nation Under God, devisional class statement. Rich= Good=God
...Poor=Bad=Devil

Just some thoughts.

Anne O'Nimmus said...

What CNu refers to as "the corporation coup" I refer to as the "KovertKorporateKoup" - it's the privatisation (or pirate-isation) of political and public space. Notice how personal and/or trivial the issues that actually enter the public discourse (via msm) actually are - the big issues are now decided by the lobbies in their masters' favor. This graph shows:
http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2012/08/10/the-amazing-return-from-lobbying/
If you invest in Dow Jones Industrial Av, your return on investment since 2010 would be 11%. If you are part of a lobby, then in govt subsidies & tax breaks, or price fixing, your return is in the multiple thousands of percent - take a peek and be disgusted!
The present state of politics is one of total dishonesty, and outright warfare of the 1% against the 99%, practising divide and rule to distract us from their evil machinations. On your side of the pond, you should be regularly reading the Tax Justice Network!

Razor said...

I agree with CNu on his point about old school Calvanism, which was the precursor for the Health/Wealth Gospel, a staple and foundational priciple of the evangelicals which now include a sizable segment of the new black Christian churches, which are an abomination referred to as Baalism in the Book of Revelations...which God hates.

I agree with CNu. CD, your deconstruction and analysis of Romney and Ryan's message is brilliant, but regardless of your view of religion per se, you ignore the power, reach and meaning of the False Religion of the False White God of White Power/Privilege at your own itellectual peril. I refer to the great majority the American white Christian churches this way unapologetically, not out of any ill-will or hatred of any kind. I have written before that these churches made conscious choices, in the face of great white theologians biblically articulated opposition, to pursue the course of supporting slavery and genocide to advance another demonic theology...in exchange for acceptance of men and wealth. They became poly-theistic...attempting to worship two gods. They chose the False god over the God of the Bible. Many of them still do. They knew what they were doing.

That's why there is so little integration in the modern day "body of Christ". There still remains "two altars and two gods" in most white churches...and two religions, both incompatible with the other. The one God compels you to be a missionary to spread the gospel. The other ( the Devil) will always follows them to steal, kill and destroy you...and justify it.

CNu said...

CDV - Cheyanne, Anne, and Razor have now completed a full octave of truth on this thread.

Yet I find myself still left-struggling to detect significant purported policy differences between RMoney and Obombney...,

From where I sit, at this juncture, this whole and entire campaign doesn't amount to very much more than a popularity contest.

Razor said...

The prominent place that the False God of White Power/Privilige has enjoyed within and alongside the God of Jesus within the white American churches has always presented a moral conundrum. By tearing it (altar of the False White God) down, as more are struggling to do, there is at once a recognition that they and their fathers have engaged in ungodly worship and service, yet face extreme and sophisticated opposition from within and without their communities, to seperate themselves wholly from this religion due to all of the earthly advantages provided by that god.


By refusing to fully eradicate the false god's premises of white superiority and their divest from it's fruits they remain a very dim light on a hill for those weary world travelers burdened by the sins that plaque man, though many are still seduced by their rhetoric and blessed appearance, in keeping with the Calvanistic doctrines...a gateway Ayn Randian-type apostasy.

The undermining and deconstructing of the False White God of Power/Privilege...or demystifying it...lays bare it's ugliness and vanity...as an elaborate but still just garden variety, frequently utilized tool of Satan through the ages....tapping into man's greed for money and power,,and wanting to be "like
god" and not of God.

The continuation of this false religion is crucial to our imperialism, capitalistic market democracy, and everything that CD has brought out in the article about the present American system. Unfortunately, this campaign will have no effect on changing the course of behavior of the elites who win every election, regardless of the party affiliation of the winner. But how people interpret the religion of Jesus and follow it is more important than you think.

Bruto Alto said...

@CNu
"From where I sit, at this juncture, this whole and entire campaign doesn't amount to very much more than a popularity contest."

Then came Ryan, and his policies. CDv had a story about Mitt being a "pussyfooter" well Ryan gives him cred with the right and hate with everyone else. I think this kills Mitt.

CNu said...

We shall see how this popularity contest plays out, but, I'm looking at four years wasted by the Obama Administration, the first year of which he could've gotten anything he wanted through congress.

I'm looking at his unparalleled and tactically evolutionary warmaking, I'm looking at his bailout for banks and phuk-u for mainstreet, and I'm looking at his continuing and escalating militarization here in the U.S. and in Africa, and uh, well uh, er, ah....,

Here's how my boy Denmark Vesey puts it; PLANTATION NEGRO HINT: If You Love Obama & Hate Romney ... But Can't Name A Single Policy Difference Between The Two ... You Might Be A Plantation Negro

nomad said...

Well, it is hard to argue lesser evilism when the evils are both so similar....Wait! He did repeal don't ask don't tell. Betcha Romney wouldn't have done that. In yo face, Obama haters!

Razor said...

Some writer stated in an article recently that Obama is serving George Bush's third term. I believe that the statement is essentially true...except there is only silence now from Bush's critics in Congress. Alas, the campaign sre like Chris Hedges wrote...just political theater.

And for those who believe there is some substantive difference between the actual policies of Obama and Romney, Repubs and Dems, you are as Malcolm X famously told an audience of black folk....You been had...you been hoodwinked.

Whatsmore, just to hit you with another terrifying apocalyptic type true terror alert (that they might dumbstruck you out of what clear senses and compose that you might still retain America) after rolling out Sarah Palin in 2008...this years object of political terror is Paul Ryan for those who have sitting on the fence.

Pangolin said...

A good article but a lot of fail here in the comment thread. Romney's campaign in riffing on Calvinism but his core, what he grew up with, was an explicitly racist Mormon church that espouses and enforces a strictly, patriarchal, hierarchical and caste structured social order.

The criticisms here of President Obama ignore the fact that he had a single month between the late seating of Al Franken in the U.S. Senate and the death of Ted Kennedy in which he had bare House and Senate majorities to work with.

The Republican Party, which has become demonically possessed by the soul of the Old South has no moral problems with destroying the nation if they cannot control it. Mitch McConnell said publicly that the #1 republican priority is destroying President Obama. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas hints repeatedly that Texas is ready to secede from the Union again which can hardly be called dog-whistle racism anymore.

This is waaay beyond the rich guys getting another run at the moneypots and well into a cold Civil War.

CNu said...

clutching him pearls...,

Could you have thrown a little Cleon Skousen in there for dramatical flair?

Nah Pangolin, not buying that weak-as-hell post hoc rationalization of Double-O's first term epic fail. If you don't stand for anything, then you'll fall for anything - I'm not falling for anymore of the rorschachian's banksterish warsocialism and voracious consumption of the frayed and threadbare remains of black moral capitol.

As for a civil war, laissez l'bon temps roulez..., let's get those red beans cooking!!!

CNu said...

Non-prosecution of Goldman Sachs - Prime example of lack of presidential leadership and complete lack of testicular fortitude.