Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mitt Romney positioning himself as The Great White Hope

Carpetbagger looks at two over-the-top news stories from NewsMax.
Look, I know NewsMax is a conservative political magazine. I don’t expect hard-hitting investigative journalism, and I don’t expect anything but flattering coverage of Republican candidates and officials.

But Ben Smith noted yesterday that NewsMax wrote a profile about Ann Romney, Mitt’s wife, that is so remarkably over-the-top, one almost wonders if it’s a joke. Alas, it isn’t.
“Ann is warm and very natural. She has the look of an outdoors woman bred to be an equestrian, which she is — good carriage, rosy complexion, square jaw, and blond mane.

“When she is not flashing her truly unbelievable smile, she may lower her eyes demurely. But Ann Romney is not demure — she may be modest, but she isn’t meek. She is unpretentious, but she isn’t shy. She lowers her eyes, thinking, and then looks up directly at her interviewer and dazzles him with that smile.”
The article Carpetbagger notes is one of several fluff pieces from NewsMax positioning Romney and his family as the beautiful family we should all envy and admire.

It seem outlandish and over-the-top, but bear in mind that propaganda usually is outlandish and over-the-top.

If you pay attention to the Romney campaign, you'll notice that it is a campaign that pays a great deal of attention to style while doing the bare minimum for substance. You are supposed to envy and admire Romney for his wealth and his good looks and his beautiful wife and their beautiful children. In his campaign videos he is always shown speaking to a sea of white people.

He is running as The Great White Hope, and I fully expect him to win the Republican nomination--following the theory that in a field where all of the candidates are damaged goods the candidate with the winningest smile and the most presidential appearance will carry the field.

The Great White Hope is a 1970 drama starring James Earl Jones that more people should see. It is loosely based on the true story of Jack Johnson the first African-American world heavyweight boxing champion. The title refers to the furtive attempts of the white boxing world to find a white boxer who could beat him.

You can bet that racism and misogyny will be prominent undercurrents in the 2008 campaign. You can also bet that anyone who points out those undercurrents will be openly derided in the main stream media.

Romney's tighty-whitey campaign is calculated. The Democratic field is heavily dominated by a woman and an African-American. And Governor Richardson has decided to run as a the Latino candidate. On the Republican side, McCain regularly shows African-Americans in his advertising. And Giuliani's campaign, as befitting a former mayor of New York, also embraces diversity.

The only opponent that Romney could potentially face that could throw his 'white-man-deluxe' campaign out of kilter would be John Edwards--the other handsome white man. In fact the comparisons between them are stark. Romney grew up rich and privileged. Edwards was the son of a mill-worker. Romney has always used connections (prime example: his appointment to head the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee). Edwards is a former trial lawyer. They both have essentially the same amount of national experience: Romney, 1 term as Governor of a liberal state; Edwards, 1 term as Senator of a conservative state. And their messages are strikingly different. Romney is for social stagnation, and Edwards is for social mobility.

Thus the contrast between the Romney is handsome and well-groomed stories, and the Edwards is a Bret-girl stories. These contrasts are deliberate. They are planted. They are propaganda.

There are many Democratic partisans who think that there is no way that Romney can win the nomination, with his record of flip-flops (was for abortion before he was against it; was for gay rights before he was against it). But these partisans haven't learned the lesson of IOKIYAR: it doesn't matter. What matters is looking good while saying the right things.

p.s.: Go read this excerpt from Al Gore's new book on media manipulation and political discourse.