“Now later he decided to run for governor of Michigan, and so you can imagine that having closed the factory and moved all the production to Wisconsin was a very sensitive issue to him, for his campaign,” explained Romney, who described a subsequent campaign parade in which the school band marching with his father knew how to play Wisconsin’s fight song, but not Michigan’s.
“Every time they would start playing ‘On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin,’ my dad’s political people would jump up and down and try to get them to stop, because they didn’t want people in Michigan to be reminded that my dad had moved production to Wisconsin,” said Romney, laughing.
Thus ended an anecdote Mitt Romney shared with supporters in Wisconsin via a campaign conference call in an attempt to demonstrate that he had some sort of connection with their state. Now, this was far from the first time that the former governor of Massachusetts has said things that reinforce the idea that he is a absurdly wealthy hedge fund tycoon who was no compassion whatsoever for any social set lower than his NASCAR- and major league franchise-owning friends. He has previously let us know, for instance, that corporations are people, that he likes to fire people who provide services to him, and that his passion for sports seems to depend entirely on how the owners he knows will be affected. Romney’s other gaffes show a certain level of cluelessness about the average voter, or at the very least a total inability to relate to them in a way that they can understand. But this quote, as well as the values that underlie it, are far more dangerous, and emblematic of the conservative movement as a whole.
Without a doubt, not even Mitt Romney could be considered gauche enough to have shared this anecdote were he still competing for the primary votes of Republicans in Michigan, but with that win and those delegates safely in the bag, he had absolutely no trouble laughing about how his family eliminated the jobs of perhaps those same voters he was courting not too long ago. But not only does Romney have no shame about sharing this story in public, he did so gleefully in an attempt to show some sort of relationship to the state he is currently campaigning for. In Romney’s mind, after all, the voters of Wisconsin should be happy because they got a factory and jobs, regardless of whether it came at the expense of destroyed hopes and dreams on the other side of Lake Michigan.
Unlike his other gaffes, it’s not just that Romney was too tone-deaf to understand how his comments could sound off-putting to voters. Instead, he actively expected this anecdote to appeal positively to Republican primary voters in Wisconsin. The unfortunate part is, he may be right.
In the same way that Wisconsin’s gain was Michigan’s loss regarding the American Motors factory owned by George Romney, the conservative mentality regarding most aspects of politics, economics and civil rights is by default antagonistic and competitive, and uses the logic of a zero-sum game whereby any party’s gain must necessarily be another party’s loss. If the government provides economic support such as jobless benefits or stimulus, it must necessarily have hurt the economic prospects of those who were still on their feet, irrespective of the benefits of reintroducing that money back into the economy. If the LGBT community gains the fundamental civil right of marriage, it must, by necessity and definition, have impinged on the civil rights of heterosexuals, even if nobody can precisely articulate exactly why. If women are granted access to the medications they need to lead a happy and healthy existence, it can only have come at the expense of the the right of religious freedom, which has now been deemed by conservatives to include the right to impose one’s religious values on one’s employees. If millions of people are successfully added to the insurance rolls, then that must, by logical default, have resulted in death panels or denial of care to other, more deserving people. In the conservative mind, after all, there is only so much of any one thing to go around: consequently, someone must win, and someone must lose.
Mitt Romney is inhumane, and cannot be allowed to assume the presidency. He is not inhumane because he sees no problem with strapping his dog to the roof of his car, or because he is comically inept at small talk. He is not inhumane because he likes to talk about his friendships with sports team owners, or even because he hired a lobbyist in an effort to secure the permitting process for a car elevator in his dream mansion in San Diego. He isn’t even inhumane because he used his position at Bain Capital to destroy jobs, hopes and dreams for his own economic benefit. Most of all, Mitt Romney is inhumane because he, like the conservative movement that surrounds him, does not believe that all Americans can enjoy increased freedoms and economic prosperity, to say nothing of understanding the conditions and policies that would achieve this end.
Ultimately, this is why Barack Obama will be re-elected, and conservatism will fail. Conservative Teen Magazine notwithstanding, younger generations tend to take a more cooperative, collaborative view of the world, and will turn out to the candidates and political parties that embrace this vision. As the conservative movement continues to embrace the doctrinaire plutocracy embodied by Mitt Romney, it will ultimately wither away in all but the reddest areas—right alongside the elderly white Fox News demographic to which it appeals.