The Great White Hope

Saturday’s New York Times contained a brave column by Lee Siegel, which identified the appeal of Mitt Romney to the de-evolved racists without whom the Republican Party would not exist: Romney is the whitest motherfucker to run for president in living memory.

There has yet to be any discussion over the one quality that has subtly fueled his candidacy thus far and could well put him over the top in the fall: his race. The simple, impolitely stated fact is that Mitt Romney is the whitest white man to run for president in recent memory.

Of course, I’m not talking about a strict count of melanin density. I’m referring to the countless subtle and not-so-subtle ways he telegraphs to a certain type of voter that he is the cultural alternative to America’s first black president. It is a whiteness grounded in a retro vision of the country, one of white picket fences and stay-at-home moms and fathers unashamed of working hard for corporate America.

There is no stronger bastion of pre-civil-rights-America whiteness than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Yes, since 1978 the church has allowed blacks to become priests. But Mormonism is still imagined by its adherents as a religion founded by whites, for whites, rooted in a millenarian vision of an America destined to fulfill a white God’s plans for earth.

Siegel correctly speaks of:

Romney’s meticulously cultivated whiteness. He is nearly always in immaculate white shirt sleeves. He is implacably polite, tossing off phrases like “oh gosh” with Stepford bonhomie. He has mastered Benjamin Franklin’s honesty as the “best policy”: a practiced insincerity, an instant sunniness that, though evidently inauthentic, provides a bland bass note that keeps everyone calm. This is the bygone world of Babbitt, of small-town Rotarians.

[H]e is better than any of his opponents at synching his worldview with that of the evangelicals. He likes to present, with theological urgency, a stark choice between, in his words, President Obama’s “entitlement society” and the true American freedom of an “opportunity society.” By the time he intones the Puritans’ alabaster ideal of America as a “shining city on a hill,” you wonder if he is not also asking us to choose between two different types of mountaintops.

In this way, whether he means to or not, Mr. Romney connects with a central evangelic fantasy: that the Barack Obama years, far from being the way forward, are in fact a historical aberration, a tear in the white space-time continuum.

Jill Lepore, in her study of the teabaggers, The Whites Of Their Eyes, also observed that “everything about Barack Obama and his administration [is] somehow alarming, as if his election had ripped a tear in the fabric of time.” Lepore, an expert on the original Tea Party-era, set out to uncover the nature and meaning of the teabagger era 2.0 that arose following Barack Obama’s election, and installation in the Oval Office. And she found that these latter-day teabaggers were motivated by racism. Every one.

[A]s became immediately apparent in 2009, millions of Americans were unwilling to accept the basic democratic premise that Mr. Obama legally and morally deserved to sit in the White House—and that was before they confronted his “socialist” and “un-American” policy agenda.

Mitt Romney knows this. He knows that he offers to these people the white solution to the problem of a black president . . . [F]or the many Americans who find the thought of a black president unbearable, he is an ideal candidate. For these sudden outsiders, Mitt Romney is the conventional man with the outsider faith—an apocalyptic pragmatist—who will wrest the country back from the unconventional man with the intolerable outsider color.

Yep. That about sums it up.


4 Responses to “The Great White Hope”

  1. 1 possum January 20, 2012 at 5:16 am

    “[F]or the many Americans who find the thought of a black president unbearable, he is an ideal candidate.” What an extremely sad commentary on the state of American politics. That a man such as Romney could even dream of being Preznik is bad enough. That he is taken to be a serious candidate for so many wrong reasons is an absolute travesty.

  2. 3 Julia Rain (the deviant daughter) May 29, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    “But Mormonism is still imagined by its adherents as a religion founded by whites, for whites, rooted in a millenarian vision of an America destined to fulfill a white God’s plans for earth.”

    That’s kind of why I’m surprised more GOP aren’t Mormon. It combines all of their favorite things. Which is why I think they’ll get over his Mormonism.

    Romney is so incredibly boring. At least Bush was entertaining as he destroyed the country. I swear though, if one day Mitt’s animatronic face implant falls off, revealing the wiring beneath I will not so much as bat an eyelash.

    • 4 bluenred June 3, 2012 at 9:56 am

      The GOoPers don’t want to be Mormons because they don’t consider Mormons to be Christians. They consider them a cult of crackpots with huge teeth and funny underpants.

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