Terms Not So Endearing
Copyright © by Len Holman, 5/11/12
The general election for President of the United States is on. Sure, there is the anointing thing (the conventions), but that is a mere formality. And the speculating is getting very noisy, centering on Mitt Romney and his ability, or lack of it, to “pivot.” This pivoting means, apparently, two main things: he must switch over somehow from a “primary mode” to a “general election” mode. And he must begin, in earnest, cementing his rift with the far right of his party. He must choose a running mate which will help him pivot, and I can imagine the calculating in the Romney camp is fierce and very heated.
But the term pivoting bothers me because it implies a total change of direction, as when one pivots from west to east or pivots from front to back or from facing away from the hoop to pivoting toward it. Can someone—without shattering the laws of physics—pivot and stay where he or she started? For example, there is the claim by his primary opponents that he was a moderate, that if he were elected the voters may as well stay with Obama, that his health care system in Massachusetts is Obamacare writ small, that his Mormonism is a suspect Christian sect, that he firmly stands on every side of an issue, that his wealth and business ethics don’t jive with the average voter who is underwater on his mortgage and wondering whether to buy meds or food, and that he transports dogs on the top of his car. Some of these are not so important…I’ve had dogs who leaned so far out of my car window, they could’ve run alongside the car while I held the leash. Of course, I wasn’t running for President, so no one made a headline out of it.
Some of these accusations will require Romney to be a bit more agile (some might use the adjective “slippery”). He must “pivot” away from his own healthcare system while denouncing Obama’s health care system. He must attract more centrist voters while also attracting voters whose idea of a center is a black hole. He must stay true to his Mormon faith while cozying up to evangelicals who believe Bishop Ussher. He must face east into the rising sun, but still feel the glow of the setting western sun on his face. He must convince the Bachmann/Santorum Christians that he is one of them, in every way, while staying a Mormon in every way—including explaining to moderates why he fired his openly gay foreign policy spokesman, Richard Grenell, while explaining to the Tea Party core why he hired him in the first place.
One of his toughest pivots will be that health care business. It’s New England Obamacare and he has to denounce it, or show it’s not EXACTLY the same—or different enough to call it, well…different. Another tough one—which he is in the process of attempting—is his stand on the car business, which he thought should have been allowed to fail, per “free market” principles. This will come as something of a surprise to the people who own, for example, Chrysler stock, and who have seen that company take off like a cat with a lit firecracker tied to its tail. Pivoting is very hard work—unless you are the Flash or some Marvel Comic hero. You have to be (it’s impossible not to come to this conclusion) two-faced, a Janus who faces both the old year and the new. Easier for a god than a politician—though not by much. So perhaps the word “pivot” isn’t the correct word. It IS a smooth, untainted word, redolent with images of a well-oiled machine, a noiseless, frictionless contrivance which effortlessly does what it has to do. But politics is not that smoothly functional, not that clean. Not that simple.
For Romney to defy the laws of the physical world, he will have to enter that OTHER world, the fantasy world of movies which uses a lot of wires to have heroes flying through the air and performing miraculous, gravity-defying stunts. It’s the only way. Pivoting, then, is the wrong term. How about “multiple universing”? A bit cumbersome, perhaps, but more like what Romney needs to do. He needs to be Two Romneys. In one universe he is the soul of reason, appealing to independents and moderates who will see him as less than a nut case, a reasonable, calm, confident, efficient administrator. In the other universe, he appeals to those who want women back in the kitchen making cookies, when they’re not in the bedroom making babies, who wants God to make public policy, and who want LGBT people to get back into that closet—and stay there. Ok, maybe some other term that will endear Mitt to the masses—like “desperate need to be President.” No, too obvious—even though we all know that anyone who wants the toughest, most intricate, most observed, commented-on and critiqued job must be crazy and/or desperate. Freud must be smiling by now. I guess the only compact term which fits here is “whatever it takes to win.”
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