Monday, August 6, 2012

Mitt Romney: The Man Who Would Not Be King

You may know this situation, from one side or the other: a child faces an adult. The adult asks the child questions. the child is evasive. The adult is insistent. The child lies. The child hides things. The child is evasive. No parent is truly fooled by a child who is seeking to hide their transgressions. It doesn't stop the child from trying; they have no idea that their parents probably played out the same tableaux when they were children.

In the Digital Information Age, there really is no hiding anything. Though the Internet has yet to absorb the sum total of human knowledge over the centuries, enough exists in great enough detail for the last fifty years that hiding what you have said and done, if you are a public figure, is nigh impossible. Every utterance on tape, every expostulation before the camera, every missive in newsprint, can now dog you wherever you go. The track of your career can be plumbed in great and gory detail, mined for every iota of potential inference as to your character or position, not just by those who seek to know more about you, but by those who wish to tear you down.

Mitt Romney is in the unfortunate position of having much of his life laid bare, and not just in his biography, but by all those he has interacted with throughout the years. In his business capacity, or as a Mormon leader, or as Governor of Massachusetts, or even trying to rescue the Salt Lake City Olympics, he has left a trail of evidence to be followed in now accessible records. Very few parts of his life are truly closed to prying eyes.

In his second go at becoming President, he has attacked the problem of disclosure by not -- not, that is, disclosing anything. Not answering questions. Not outlining detailed plans. Not releasing tax information. Limiting interviews, and in those few, remaining evasive. On top of this, he seems to have surrounded himself with a staff whose main function is to attack every fact with a thousand counter-charges, to muddy the waters as much as possible, or to distract through impudence and irreverence.

While one can point to any number of positions he holds -- or does not, as the wind blows -- as a reason to avoid voting for him, no specific set of facts is really necessary beyond the fact of his ability to lie with seeming impunity, even in the face of facts to the contrary, and his desire to keep so much of his life hidden from the citizenry, the very people he is attempting to cajole into voting for him.

Mitt Romney is a child. He is the child who has broken his mother's favorite lamp, hidden the pieces, and now stands before her, questions being hurled at him left and right, tossing off rejoinders, spewing evasions, and clasping his hands behind his back with fingers crossed, even as he denies all knowledge of the lamp and what happened to it, a slight smirk barely perceptible.

It does not matter what his tax plan is, though it would appear to be nothing different than that which got us into our financial mess. It does not matter what his immigration policy is, because it is whatever it needs to be depending on your heritage. It does not matter that he wishes to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Day One of his presidency, failing to realize that he can do no such thing. It does not matter his stance on same-sex marriage, because it will come and he will not be able to stop it.

No. None of that matters.

What matters is that the man is slick, he is evasive, he prevaricates at the drop of hat and is unrepentant about it. What matters is that the man is seeking the highest, most public office in the country, and he still tries to hide behind his privacy, as if people have no right to know who the real man is, that they should just elect him on adulation and "trust" him.

A President who chooses to keep secrets is then a slave to them. A President does have secrets to keep, national secrets, but those are things in the interest of the nation. To have personal secrets, which may or may not have value to someone with ill intent, or to be hiding some sort of malfeasance that might considerably darken his already dim character, or trying to paper over some financial embroilment that would reflect badly on him personally, is not the mark of a person we should trust with the keys to our military and our country. While we cannot hope to find perfect paragons of integrity running for President, we can expect those people who do run for the position to be completely open with us. If they cannot do that, they have no business sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office.

Mitt Romney is the man who wishes to be king, to be seated upon the throne before the adoring masses. He runs a campaign that is part inept circus sideshow and part homage to what he clearly feels is a fait accompli. He is busy taking his victory lap before the race is even run. A man with such a sense of entitlement, combined with his obvious detachment from the world he flits through, makes no sense as President of the United States, a position which has aged and torn down more than one man with its rigors. Mitt Romney has gone as far as devil-may-care conservatism can take him, and America is not looking for a king.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

We Vote For Them

The United States of America was founded on the idea that, given the opportunity, the citizenry of that nation could -- through elected representation -- govern itself in accordance with the doctrine of unity and mutual interest. So it was that an electoral system was devised to ensure that every person who was a United States citizen could vote and that their vote would count equally across all the States. A larger State could not necessarily monopolize the election of a President by turning out all its voters, and thus overriding the votes of smaller states. It presumed that anyone wishing to be elected President, would have to show each State that they carried that State's best interests -- and those of the nation as a whole -- to heart.

The idea of One Person, One Vote and all it implies, is pertinent now more than ever, with a modern Presidential election awash in 'soft money,' as rich benefactors with hidden agendas and secret motives look to manipulate public opinion by pouring money into so-called "social welfare" organizations and having them run advertising seeking to paint the current President in the most unflattering light possible in the name of "saving" America. "Saving America" is a code for saving the current system, whereby the wealthiest elite benefit at every turn by the sweat and tears of those "beneath" them without having to care about their welfare.

No matter what this tiny fraction of American society thinks it can accomplish by flooding the election with its money, at the end of the day, it can only buy so much. True, it may have bought patronage from some local and state legislators, in the form of means to suppress the turnout at the polls through execrable "voter identification" laws, though they are always subject to appeal to Federal power. It may have bought hours and hours of radio play and TV commercial time, reams of newspaper advertising, and blocks Internet traffic in which to pour half-truth, innuendo, and outright lies couched as fact, but people are under no obligation to listen, read, or pay attention to any of it. At the end of the day, the one thing they cannot do, under any circumstances -- is use the money directly to do the one thing that would have the greatest impact: buy actual votes.

For if we are to be serious about it, the only way to really influence an election to any great degree, is to pay people to vote for your candidate. But, of course, not only is that patently illegal, it is folly to believe that not one of those so bribed would be able to keep their mouth shut about it. As we have seen, with the era of social media, when a figure crosses a line that they did not see but we as Americans always knew was there, they are exposed to a virulent counter-reaction which leads to the loss of that they so rightfully believe is theirs. Were any scion of wealth to attempt the transparent and buy votes, it would spell the death-knell of corporate "free speech" in elections and bring a tidal wave of condemnation akin to the march of the villagers waving torches and pitchforks as they seek the destruction of the monster in their midst.

It comes down to this: we hold our own counsel and we hold our right to our vote. It is not a light burden, this decision. Many cannot bring themselves to do it. They sit on the sidelines, content to leave the decision to others, some convinced they can't take the chance on voting for the "wrong person," others refusing to "waste" a vote on the "lesser of two evils." It is actually harder to avoid voting than it is to simply accept that it is your responsibility, because to do so means that you do not believe in your fellow American. Now, for some, it easy for them to look at other Americans as impediments, free-loaders, or to dismiss their plight by fobbing off all the responsibility for it on them, as if each American operates as an independent island, connected by no bridge to any other, which is simply fallacious. We are the "United" States of America, and were so from the very beginning, when disparate groups of Colonists came together to fight for and support a worthy cause: their independence from a foreign power and gaining the right to govern themselves.

Our vote is not just a vote for ourselves; it is a vote for each and every other American. We may certainly decide that a candidate holds for us the key to our happiness, our personal wealth, our future, but that cannot be enough of a consideration. When we vote, we vote for our friends, our neighbors, our local business owners, our civil employees, our military personnel, and every American of every stripe. Our vote does not just influence us, but influences everything that happens to every other person, known or unknown to us. We may like what a candidate says or does -- and in the end, it is what they say and do, not what their proxies say about them, that should matter -- but we should keep in mind what effect those policies will have on people who are not us.

Voting is our responsibility and like so many such responsibilities, taking it seriously is paramount. The only vote truly wasted is the vote not cast. But before we so willingly commit that vote to permanence, let us take a moment to look beyond our own interests, at the broader spectrum that will be influenced by our vote. Let us ask ourselves if what is best for us is truly what is best for others. While we may not suffer the ill effects of a poor choice of candidate, so many others may. We are part of a larger collective, an integral whole, that owes its existence and gains its power from all of us. When we vote, we vote for us all... it pays for us to consider that before we step behind the curtain.