Showing posts with label Game Change. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Game Change. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

2012 addendum: Romney's no-show

In this post of April 2018, I suggested John McCain's rash choice of Sarah Palin signaled ambivalence to the prospect of defeating Barack Obama.  If McCain had become president, his greatest victory would've been credited, by some, to racism.  He would've governed with the Illinois senator and Great Black Hope ("The Chosen One," per t-shirt) over his shoulder.  If that sounds manageable, our 2019 is also dire.
Mitt and Ann Romney, 2012

If Senator McCain was torn in 2008, what of Governor Romney in 2012?  There's no narrative film about the Romney campaign (so far), no Game Change on HBO; any self-sabotage would likely be less spectacular.

That said: TV Guide's issue of Nov. 12, 2012 devotes a half-page (page 8) to "Mitt Romney's Pop-Culture Picks," a themed tradition for the periodical.  Problem: Election Day was November 6, before this issue reached most readers.  (President Obama's rec’s appeared in the Nov. 5 issue).

An editor's note explains:

Romney's campaign representatives missed our pre-election deadline

Still primarily print-on-paper, TV Guide appeals to aging, less educated readers, which makes it seem irrelevant — until we recall 2016.  The TV Guide brand reportedly sold for $1 in 2008, but by 2012, was called a comeback story with about 2 million subscribers.

Romney's lateness seems unfortunate, given responses which are surprisingly humanizing (of one regularly compared to a mannequin).  In addition to predictable fare (sports, JustifiedNCIS), he claims the left-leaning sitcoms 30 Rock and Modern Family, the latter being his and wife Ann's "favorite show to watch together."  As a non-partisan -- and if it matters, viewer of 30 Rock seasons 1-4 -- I remain favorably surprised.

Following on the McCain piece, an earlier version of this post cited the Obama mystique.  Finally, I remembered Mitt, the 2014 documentary.  After viewing, I’m flipping (in Mitt, Romney repeatedly contests his reputation as a “flip-flopping” Mormon).   

Admittedly, there’s nothing in Mitt to support my original thesis, although Republican voters may’ve shown ambivalence by nominating a place-holder.  Somehow, after 93 minutes, I don’t like Romney any more than before, despite the film’s obvious bias: like Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry, Mitt is friendly to its subject.  Both John Kerry and Mitt Romney are driven, wealthy and rather dull, but whereas Kerry has inspiring achievements on his resume, Romney's record is merely impressive (he's a wealthy businessman).

Nevertheless, Mitt alleviated my tunnel vision, in recalling his worst gaffe.  Implicitly, the film tries to re-frame his slam of the "47% of Americans” receiving government assistance.  That won’t happen, as there’s nothing revelatory here, whereas "47%" describes the speaker.  So does "I like to fire people" (capitalism as moral framework).  So does "binders full of women" (people as commodity).

After the 47% gaffe, Romney claimed concern for "all the people," which is belied by his rhetoric, dominated by the usual cries for relief from taxes and regulations.  Like many conservatives, Romney is preoccupied with entrepreneurs.  Wealthy conservatives need to believe the working and middle class can become wealthy.       

A punitive perspective on American life grows from the guilt and puritanism in the national character.  Such an attitude is best understood in a religious context, with the American religion most evident not in churches, but in sacred texts, for example, The Wizard of Oz:

If you did not wear spectacles the brightness and glory of the Emerald City would blind you.  They are locked on, for Oz so ordered it when the City was first built … all of the spectacles … had green glasses in them.

To survive in the U.S., we wear glasses the color of money, even though the entire city, even the sunlight, is already green.  Superheroes, many of them essentially orphans like Dorothy Gale, reveal connecting mythology: Superman's glasses allow his concealment of identity.  The Green Lantern uses the namesake artifact, such that its light will be seen. In They Live (1996), custom spectacles reveal alien capitalists.  The far future of H.G. Wells's The Time Machine includes the Palace of Green Porcelain.  Each narrative suggests the mystical renewing of American culture.

It’s easy to forget the pointed sadism of the first Oz book.  The Wicked Witch of the West describes her prey:

one is of tin, and one of straw, one is a girl and another a lion.  None of them is fit to work, so you may tear them into small pieces. 

In the U.S., work means not being torn to pieces.  Don’t be like freeloading crows:

another crow flew at him, and the Scarecrow twisted its neck also.  There were forty crows, and forty times the Scarecrow twisted a neck, until at last all were lying dead beside him.  

Another foundational text: the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, further hymns to self-sufficiency and pioneer spirit.  Wilder and her daughter and editor, Rose Wilder Lane, would today be called libertarians.  As recounted by Vivian Gornick (The New Republic, Dec., 2017), they were enraged by the New Deal:

“The more I see,” Rose declared in a letter, “the more I’m reluctantly concluding that this country’s simply yellow.  Our people are behaving like arrant cowards.  And it’s absurd.”  She saw nothing “fundamentally wrong.”  At the very time Rose was writing this, in the early 1930s, 13 million workers lost their jobs, leaving nearly one-quarter of the country unemployed. 

For these two women, forged in a Great Plains crucible, New Deal farm bills were the work of the devil.  Compare Mitt Romney’s evocations of inundation, as he realizes he’ll lose in 2012:

I don’t think this is a time for soothing … I can’t believe that he’s (Obama’s) an aberration in the country.  I believe we’re following the same path as every other great nation, which is we’re following greater government money, tax the rich people, promise more stuff to everybody, borrow until you go over a cliff.  … I think we have a very high risk of reaching that tipping point in the next five years.    

Nowhere does Romney specify why the 20-teens will be the breaking point for those in our queue of weak creditors.   

I started this post by comparing McCain and Romney, but there’s a difference in their challenges to Obama: in 2012, we'd had an African-American president.  Another difference between the losing candidates: McCain had a notorious temper and sharp tongue, as when he damned anti-Kissinger protesters as "lowlife scum."  Everyone knew when McCain was angry (so did he).  In his even temper, Mitt Romney is more like Ronald Reagan or, for that matter, Barack Obama. 

I still believe Romney's lateness with the TV Guide response, seemingly trivial, is significant.  Based on the above, however, his motivation was not any particular ambivalence about defeating Obama.  Like Hillary Clinton, candidate Romney sought the support of the right kind of voters. 

Call us 47% or deplorable, we are too many to lightly dismiss.  Prick us, we bleed.  Many of us work, whether or not (well) compensated.  We'll keep an annual commitment on the first Tuesday after the first Monday.    

Note: for various reasons, this blog does not include comments.  
However, I very much appreciate your reading.  

Saturday, April 14, 2018

everything has a reason: McCain picks Palin, 2008

** This post reviews Game Change, the 2012 made-for-HBO film **

Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin
Game Change is the fascinating, Emmy-darling account of Sarah Palin's role in the 2008 election.  Although not a flattering portrait of the then-governor of Alaska (played by Julianne Moore), it makes clear she was (also) victim to a careless campaign.  And she was 2-3 gaffes short of respectability.

Though based-on-fact (Nicolle Wallace called the film "true enough to make me squirm"), Game Change is also prophetic: even as Palin becomes a laughingstock her popularity soars among the base, leading to defensive egomania and the "going rogue" (reclaimed) pejorative.

As depicted here, John McCain grew to fear Palin, even as he inched away from the loose-screws showing up at GOP campaign events.  It could've been worse: with Palin hapless at debate prep, her desperate team noted her acting skills and wrote lines for her to memorize (it worked).

Game Change offers psychological nuggets.  Near the end of the first hour, campaign latecomer Wallace (Sarah Paulson) has this epiphany about the hurried vetting process: "You guys didn't grill her because you wanted it to work."  Of this failure, adviser Mark Salter (Jamey Sheridan) later says, "It haunts me."
Finally, the beaten candidate (Ed Harris) confides to strategist Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson as the film's protagonist) that his (McCain's) father and grandfather lost will-to-live after their respective service to country, thus "I can't quit."
So: Why Palin?  The usual explanations -- youth, gender, conservative credentials, her sons (one bound for Iraq, another with special needs), a lagging campaign needed disruption -- explain her being considered, not the inattention both to her insecurities and ignorance of world affairs.  If the campaign was out of time, well, why did a major-party campaign wait until out-of-time?

When behavior seems incomprehensible, we often resort to insults, but Senator John McCain and staff were neither stupid nor crazy.  Comprehending irrational behavior requires acknowledging the role of emotions -- the psyche -- with "conscious vs. unconscious" being largely a dichotomy of convenience.  Conversely, to reject unconscious motivations primarily for lack of proof is a fallacy, the appeal to ignorance.

There are enough dots in Game Change for an arrow pointing to McCain's choice, especially in light of subsequent history.  All concerned are amazed by the adulation greeting Barack Obama (Palin gropes for a metaphor: "I didn't know we were running against a Greek god").  At the end, when Schmidt seeks to block Palin's intended "concession speech" -- unprecedented for a V.P. candidate -- he forbids disrespect to the election of the first African-American president.

Inevitably, the Obama moment aggravated conservative-party anxieties in a browning America.  This anxiety naturally manifests in vice presidents (nominees), at once a ceremonial position and source of future presidents.  In 1968, Richard Nixon chose Spiro Agnew -- whose Greek Orthodox father made him diverse for the era -- overlooking corruption that forced Agnew to resign in disgrace a year before Nixon.  The need for young blood led to Dan Quayle's nomination in 1988, nearly as misguided as Palin's.  The 2000 GOP opted for denial, with mainstay Dick Cheney appointing himself George W. Bush's running mate.

As much as John McCain wanted to be president, he looked across barricades at an historic phenomenon.  We know Obama's election didn't fix America, but in 2008 it seemed possible.  On the contrary, a McCain victory would've been anticlimactic -- and widely attributed to racism.  (Note: McCain insisted on a clean campaign, to the point of barring use of Reverend Jeremiah Wright in campaign ads.)
The above considered, the McCain camp wanted to win, but with a condition (however unconscious): they wanted victory by act of God.  Thus, they let the spirit move them, ignoring protocol, to the obscure but deeply religious (and female) Sarah Palin.