Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mitt Romney’s Boca Moment*

You've probably seen it, but here it is.

So Mitt Romney has been caught out peddling "a country-club fantasy" to dimwitted donors. (So says David Brooks who I've always thought probably felt right at home in such venues.) These folks, Romney's base, just know that the "little people" (so described by the unlamented, tax-hating hotel magnate Leona Helmsley) are parasites or worse. Certainly the moochers are not worthy of a say in the direction of their country. No wonder these donors fund a political party whose current strategy for surviving changing demographic tides is to suppress the votes of people who aren't like them.

Somehow I doubt that it helps Mr. Romney's electoral chances to express contempt for 47 percent of potential voters.

Most mornings, I read the psalm(s) appointed for Morning Prayer. The morning after the video of the Boca Moment came out, I encountered this:

… though wealth increase, set not your heart upon it. Psalm 62

Apparently that bit of ancient wisdom never got through to Mitt. I think I understand him a little; as I've written previously. We're exactly the same age and I came up in an environment enough like his to catch more than a glimpse of men like Mitt. The years of our youth -- the 1950s and early '60s -- were the apogee of United States power, militarily and economically. It was easy for the more fortunate among us to believe that endless comfort and prosperity were our natural lot, to expect a rosy, an ever-more felicitous, future.

Most of us eventually were jarred out of our complacency. We ran up against the brutal U.S. Vietnam adventure, the broad struggles for full democratic rights launched by people of color that spread to women and gays, the reality that our economic arrangements didn't offer a fair chance to everyone. We stopped living in a comfortable '50s bubble of capitalist self-satisfaction.

But none of those things ever happened in Mitt's world. He prospered without ever encountering the United States that most of us live in. Wealth increased and he seems to have "set his heart upon it," never learning that there is so much more he can't even see. His rich donors may not spring from quite Mitt's comfort, but he's evidently an admirable figure to them, perhaps the oblivious, almost innocent, patriarch they wish wealth would enable them to pass for.

Today another verse from a psalm put me in mind of Mitt. Psalm 72 asks God's blessing on the good King the deity has given Israel.

He shall defend the needy among the people; he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

Mitt wants to be King, but somehow he missed the part about the King's job description.
I'm not the only religious person in whom Mitt inspires pained reflection. Joanna Brooks is a faithful Mormon who tries to explain her tradition to those of us who find the Latter Day Saints a curiosity, writing at Religion Dispatches. Mitt's Boca Moment clearly leaves her gasping.

You’ve got to love the people you serve.

It’s a saying I’ve heard time and again within the precincts of Mormonism.

You’ve got to love the people you serve. At least in the abstract. …

… now it’s hard to shake the sense he doesn’t like us very much. Us being the public. The ones he is presumably running to serve. …

So, let’s say it again: anyone who thinks Mormonism will play some unusual or outsized behind-the-scenes influence on Romney’s campaign need only roll the Boca Raton fundraising dinner video.

You’ve got to love the people you serve. At least in the abstract.

And that love—Romney saves it for the donors behind closed doors.

I feel Brooks' pain here. Any adherent to any faith who has to endure the public failings of politicians who claim the same faith can recognize the emotion.

But you do begin to wonder whether there is something really wrong with Mitt Romney.

*H/t Ed Kilgore.

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