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September 25, 2012

Sodexo, a Story:

Courting the BlueJamesCollar Vote Neimeister | page

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Gambier Voter Profiles page

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Kenyon Observer James Neimeister|page 6

October 10, 2012

Kenyon’s Oldest Undergraduate Political and Cultural Magazine


Kenyon Observer the

October 10, 2012


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The Kenyon Observer October 10, 2012

5 From the Editors Cover Stories tommy brown

10 Gambier Voter Profile

Andy, Local Business Owner

pera 11 richard Gambier Voter Profile

Tamara, Village Market Employee james neimeister

12 Working Class Heroes?

Courting the Blue Collar Vote in Ohio

6 To the Editors 8

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talin shaheen

The Real Injustice in Jerusalem A Response to “Tyranny on the Temple Mount” [TKO, Sept. 12] isabel ponte

Just Like Me Mitt Romney and Common Man Posturing in America andrew firestone

16 Political Maneuvering and Conflicting

Visions of America Mitt Romney’s Search for Self-Definition on the National Stage

Cover Art by Nick Nazmi

Editors-in-Chief Gabriel Rom and Sarah Kahwash Managing Editor Yoni Wilkenfeld Featured Contributors Tommy Brown, Andrew Firestone, James Neimeister, Richard Pera, Isabel Ponte and Talin Shaheen Layout/Design Sofia Mandel Illustrations Nick Nazmi Student Manager Megan Shaw Faculty Advisor Professor Fred Baumann The Kenyon Observer is a student-run publication that is distributed biweekly on the campus of Kenyon College. The opinions expressed within this publication belong only to the writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Observer staff or that of Kenyon College. The Kenyon Observer will accept submissions and lettersto- the-editor, but reserves the right to edit for length and clarity. All submissions must be received at least a week prior to publication. Submit to Sarah Kahwash (kahwashs@kenyon.edu) or Gabriel Rom (romg@kenyon. edu).

Quotes Compiled by Megan Shaw


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FROM THE EDITORS

Dear Prospective Reader, As the election nears and Kenyon students prepare for October Reading Days, The Kenyon Observer turns its attention to their roles as local and national voters. We launch this issue with an exchange between reader and author concerning the previously published article “Why You Should Not Vote in Ohio” by Dylan Markovic. Talin Shaheen continues a second discussion, adding a full-length response to “Tyranny on the Temple Mount” by Yoni Wilkenfeld, published earlier this year. Turning to the elections, James Neimeister discusses the blue-collar vote, and Richard Pera and Tommy Brown profile two local voters with differing plans come November. On the national level, guest contributors Andrew Firestone and Isabel Ponte discuss Governor Mitt Romney’s public image and his attitudes towards the American electorate. We invite students, faculty and community members to consider the opinions expressed here, published with the intent to provoke contemplation and stir conversation beyond these pages. As always, we welcome letters and full-length submissions, both in response to content and on other topics of interest. Gabriel Rom and Sarah Kahwash Editors-in-Chief


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TO THE EDITORS

RE: “THE CASE AGAINST VOTING IN A SWING STATE” SEPT. 25, 2012 While I disagree with the opinion that “transient” students should not vote in Ohio, I have no problem with Mr. Markovic making his case. My problem with the article arises from the fact that in the penultimate paragraph the entire message is contorted 180 degrees: “while I do not think it is the right thing to do, I am glad you vote in my state...I am not entirely sure that the means of voting as a non-Ohio citizen are justified by the ends of getting the policies and candidates I want.” Taken in the context of the entire article, these two statements are equivocal and waffling. They are worthy of politicians, not a budding political commentator. Moreover, if he really feel this way, then I think Mr. Markovic should be upfront about it. He writes news articles, so he should know that most readers probably never get to the end of one of these. Most (or at least many) readers will get through the first 50 percent or so of what he has to say and never get to the part where he tells them what he really believes. Isn’t that the point—to tell your readers what you believe? In the final paragraph Mr. Markovic states that “others seem to want to suppress [the student] vote.” Given his cryptic true feelings and the fact that he spends 85 percent of the article arguing for suppressing the student vote, this is hypocritical. Readers who take the time to read all the way to the end are likely to be surprised to find this thoughtful gem: “I exhort you to vote. I only hope that you do it in a meaningful way.” That is the trick, isn’t it? If you really feel that way, then I wish you had spent the first 85 percent of your article informing students on how they might accomplish such a feat. That’s an article I would love to read. Eric Holdener Assistant Professor of Physics and Scientific Computing Instructional Technologist for Visual & Spatial Technologies

“If you can’t convince ‘em, confuse ‘em.” Harry S. Truman


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TO THE EDITORS

RE: “THE CASE AGAINST VOTING IN A SWING STATE” SEPT. 25, 2012 It is true that the first and last portions of my article seem to stand in stark contrast to one another. The reason for this is that I, too, am conflicted: the first part of the article could be said to represent my heart, which finds that non-students voting in Ohio is wrong, while the second portion of the article represents my brain: I know that it is advantageous, in view of my political preferences, that Kenyon students (mostly liberal) vote in Ohio. I sought to summarize this feeling in that sentence that you quoted: “I am not entirely sure that the means of voting as a non-Ohio citizen are justified by the ends of getting the policies and candidates I want.” I ultimately feel, as a citizen of Ohio, that only those whose interests truly lie in the state should vote in Ohio, while those from New York, Boston, etc. ought to vote where their vote represents their family, friends and values. Even if this means the candidates and programs I support are voted down, I think this is the only honest way to approach politics. I do not see any contradiction in this, but reasonable people can and will continue to disagree. As for “voting in a meaningful way,” I tried to make clear my intent to assert that students should vote where their hearts truly lie: at home. I don’t believe it meaningful to vote in a state in which you aren’t a permanent resident simply because it is a “battleground state” or for any other such reasons: to me, that is deceitful and irresponsible. But I am only one person. Dylan Markovic Class of 2014

“Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.” Thomas H. Huxley


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TALIN SHAHEEN

The Real Injustice in Jerusalem A RESPONSE TO “TYRANNY ON THE TEMPLE MOUNT” [THE KENYON OBSERVER, SEPTEMBER 12, 2012]

Mr. Wilkenfeld’s article “Tyranny on the Temple occupied by Israel and the eastern half was adjoined Mount,” published in the Sept. 12 issue of the Ob- to Jordanian territories. East Jerusalem was occupied server, voices the author’s discomfort during his visit by Israel and has been under Israeli occupation since to the Temple Mount. He expresses his disappoint- the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel considers East Jerument that the Israeli police and the Islamic religious salem part of its sovereign territory and unilaterally waqf have restricted the ability of Jews to access the controls the city in a move that violates several United Temple Mount and prohibited them from praying Nations resolutions. out loud there. The author I was particularly conclaims that the restrictions “A lthough P alestinians and cerned with the author’s diswere enforced for security regard for the political conreasons, as there have been I sraelis have suffered from text of the violence on the instances of Muslim wor- this conflict , I do not see Temple Mount, which is also shippers attacking Jewish the site of Al-Aqsa mosque. worshippers on the Mount. equality in their suffering .” The mosque is the holiest He has every right to be outsite for Muslims in Palesraged, as such restrictions tine and is the third holiest deprive people of the basic mosque for Muslims across right to worship and of free access to their religious the world. It is important to note that the mosque has sites. suffered continuous attacks by Jewish extremists. A Unfortunately, the author ignores the political group of Jewish extremists set the mosque on fire in context of occupation, which makes it seem as if the the late 1960s, which led to the collapse of the southtensions stems from religious animosity rather than western wing and the destruction of Salah Al-Din’s years of political instability. He fails to mention that minbar, the pulpit of one of the region’s great MusJerusalem was divided into two major parts in 1948 lim leaders. In 1980, members of an Israeli political as a result of Al-Nakba, the “day of catastrophe” on movement plotted to blow up the Al-Aqsa mosque which many Palestinians were dispossessed during the and the Dome of the Rock. creation of the state of Israel. The western half was Furthermore, Israel has been digging tunnels be-

“Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.” African Proverb


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neath the Al-Aqsa mosque, which threatens its structural integrity. They justify this digging under a claim that the Temple of Solomon is located under the mosque although no archaeological proof has yet been found to substantiate the claim. Israelis have stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque several times and attacked Palestinian worshipers inside their designated territory. Most of the violence that happens at the AlAqsa Mosque is, in fact, a reaction to the provocative presence and actions of Israeli soldiers or extremists, such as in 2000 when then-Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon entered the Al-Aqsa mosque with a group of soldiers in 2000. This act ignited the second Palestinian uprising commonly know as Intifada. On the other hand, accounts of Arabs and Muslims attacking Jews praying at the Western Wall are almost unheard of. Attacks on the mosque are not the only incidents by which Palestinian religious identity has been threatened. Since the occupation of East Jerusalem, the Israeli government has slowly and gradually imposed restrictions on Palestinians both inside and outside the city. For example, if Palestinians outside of Jerusalem wish to enter the city to pray, work, go to school or even visit a doctor, they need a permit from the Israeli authorities. They must wait weeks to obtain a permit, and in many cases it is simply denied. Even with their permit in hand, Palestinians going to Jerusalem still have to go through security checkpoints from cities like Bethlehem and Ramallah—both less than 10 miles away—tedious and humiliating process that is usually intensified during the holy month of Ramadan. As a result, praying at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem has become little more than a fantasy. This is especially true for most males under age 50, who are usually banned from conducting Friday prayers and restrained from practicing their religion in the land where they have lived for centuries. Policies such as this aim to ensure Israeli political control within the city and all of historical Palestine. The restrictions that the Palestinians have to endure in accessing their religious sites and in preserving their religious identity are absolutely appalling. Palestinians—Muslims and Christians alike—are denied access not only to their holy sites but to the city of Jerusalem as well. So while Jews from around the world can have automatic access to the city, many Palestinians are denied entrance. I myself have experience with these restrictive policies. My mother is a Palestinian-Armenian from East Jerusalem and my father is from a Palestinian city called Tulkarem. I was born in Jerusalem, a city that I now cannot enter without a permit. The Israeli government refused to give my mother reunification

status for the family, which would have allowed us to live in East Jerusalem. This has caused tremendous discomfort and division in the family. Since my mother is a Jerusalemite, she is allowed access to the city, but my father, my brothers and I must obtain a permit to enter. We have never been able to visit Jerusalem as a family, despite its importance to us as my mother’s city and my birthplace. I accompanied my

T he R estrictions and policies that the P alestinians have to endure in accessing their re ligious sites and in preserv ing their religious identity are absolutely appalling

mother, who is a Christian, to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher when I was younger, because at the time children under 16 were allowed into the city without a permit. I gained an understanding of how humiliating the process of entering Jerusalem can be. This summer, for the first time in three years, I was lucky to be granted a permit lasting six days that allowed me to be in Jerusalem from morning until evening. I finally fulfilled my mother’s wish of visiting the church, her school and some of her relatives. Although Palestinians and Israelis have suffered from this conflict, I do not see equality in their suffering. I see a power dynamic that is very clear. We should ask ourselves the following questions: Who has the power in this conflict? Who has the jets and planes? Who has the superiority? Who controls the borders, water resources and air space? Who has the most sophisticated and lethal weaponry? Who is the occupier according to international law? Who continuously defies U.N. resolutions? The answer to all these questions is the Israeli government. From the Palestinian perspective, there is an element of “tyranny” to be found in nearly every aspect of Palestinian daily life. Palestinians are simply asking the Israeli government to respect U.N. resolutions that call for Israeli withdrawal from occupied Palestinian land, including East Jerusalem. A just end to the occupation must be sought as soon as possible. Such a resolution must guarantee peace and an environment where human rights and religious freedoms are respected.TKO

“Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” Mark Twain


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TOMMY BROWN

Gambier Voter Profile ANDY LOCAL BUSINESS OWNER

Andy is a small business owner in Gambier and Apple that he feels has been growing in recent decades and culValley, with stakes in real estate and restaurant. He has minated with Obama. Andy argues that Americans cannot seen the real estate market collapse and his businesses collect what they put into their government, and worries take a hit in the past few years. He concedes that markets about the expansion of government entitlements, both may have stabilized in recent months, but worries that culturally and financially. He does not philosophically disthe “American Dream” is all but a myth now. He cred- agree with policies such as unemployment benefits, but its President Obama for preventing the economy from feels the implementation has had no accountability in getgetting significantly worse, but worries about a culture ting individuals back to work. Andy compared Obama’s of spending that Obama has done nothing to stem and, approach to the economy to Franklin Roosevelt’s: the some say, has embraced. New Deal administered govIn 2008, Andy felt good ernment benefits and helped about President Obama. He “A ndy finds it unsurprising grow the economy, but also thought, at the time, that that it is difficult to hire required people to invest their Obama would be able to turn time in improving America. minimum - wage , low - skill Obama’s approach, on the the economy around. He was a not too fond of Obama’s other hand, asks nothing of thoughts on expanding the worker for his business ; af - citizens receiving government welfare state, most notably ter all , unemployment checks welfare. As a result, Andy through the Affordable Care finds it unsurprising that it is Act, but he thought Obama are bigger than their would - difficult to hire a minimumcould be a strong leader in a wage, low-skill worker for his tough time. Andy still thinks be weekly wage .” business; after all, unemployObama is stronger on foreign ment checks are bigger than policy than Romney would be, but that is where his praise their would-be weekly wage. ends. “Don’t get me wrong,” Andy said when I spoke with The debate concerning the national debt has been him, “I doubt Romney can do anything to fix this menfestering in Congress for the entirety of Obama’s term tality or work ethic.” He stressed that such government and highlights Andy’s major concern this election, one he programs come with consequences, beyond their cost, doubts either candidate has the ability or will to address. that will outlast either candidate, leaving him to wonder Andy is worried about an American entitlement mentality whether there is a point to voting in this election.TKO

“Men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.”Abba Eban


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RICHARD PERA

Gambier Voter Profile TAMARA VILLAGE MARKET EMPLOYEE

An alumna of Mount Vernon High School, Ta- needs. They also allow the district to retain teachers. mara graduated from Kenyon in 1993 with a major Tamara and her husband are Party and Knox in Sociology and concentration in American Studies. County Democrats. She supports President Barack Tamara works at Gambier’s Village Market. Her hus- Obama and almost always votes along party lines. band is a survey technician with a private company in Her three principal issues are education, the econoMansfield. The couple resides in Gambier with their my and health care. Tamara would like to see greater 11-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son. emphasis on student financial assistance, including Political issues most important to Tamara are Pell Grants and federal student loans. those that directly affect She worries that her kids her children, especially will not be able to afford a acknowledging college education when they education. Tamara’s two “A lthough children are enrolled in that he has not completed get older. It has been difGambier’s Wiggin Street ficult for her to find work Elementary School, where several of his goals from after Kenyon, particularly in she is very involved. Her recent years. Tamara and her daughter is an avid learner 2008, she believes that the husband do not have health who enjoys classes and nu- P resident and the D emocrat - insurance, forcing the fammerous extracurricular acily to pay high premiums; her tivities, while her son is on ic P arty offer the best solu - son’s disability further comthe autistic spectrum and plicates family expenses. tions to national problems .” requires special needs. Tamara believes that PresTamara deeply supports ident Obama’s first term in annual Mount Vernon office has benefited the State school district levies. She of Ohio. While she acknowlexplains that the Mount Vernon community includes edges that he has not achieved several of the goals he a large number of citizens who do not have children set in 2008, she believes that the President and the in the local school system, making it more difficult Democratic Party offer the best solutions to national for a levy to be successful. According to Tamara, problems. Tamara believes that those solutions will levies are vital because they fund programs like her also positively affect Knox County and the state as daughter’s extracurriculars and her son’s special a whole.TKO

“Insanity in individuals is something rare, but in groups, nations and epochs, it is the rule” Nietzsche


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JAMES NEIMEISTER

Working Class Heroes? COURTING THE BLUE COLLAR VOTE IN OHIO Since at least the 1980s and the rise of the Reaganism in America, few have resisted the idea that market deregulations are the only way to grow the economy. During the Clinton administration, politicians pursued a “third way,” trying to balance regulation and cuts to social services while promising that the ensuing growth would make everyone better off. Even Clinton considered treaties like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to be undoubtedly wellintentioned and beneficial to the economy. Such policies have led to the loss of countless American manufacturing jobs, despite the claim that this cost would be alleviated by benefits to the financial and service industries. But as the erosion of American manufacturing slows the economy’s recovery, politicians of both parties are going out of their way to court the bluecollar vote. Nowhere is this clearer than in Ohio, a crucial state for winning the presidency. With its once manufacturing-based economy battered by factory closings, layoffs and industrial decay, candidates from each party have been bending over backward to convince Ohio voters that they can reverse these trends. Both parties, for instance, frequently criticize the United States’ trade relationship with China, especially with respect to Chinese currency manipulation. Suddenly the widely held consensus that free trade is good for everyone seems to be in doubt. In the context of this election, economics—so long considered objective and apolitical—finds itself nudged and reminded of its origins as explicitly

political. Both Republicans and Democrats, not to mention special interest groups, have been pouring enormous sums of money into the presidential and Ohio senatorial races. The National Journal reports that the parties combined have spent about $95 million on advertisements in Ohio; Democratic groups have spent about $53 million and Republican groups have spent around $41 million. The super PACs brought into being by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision have contributed about $8.5 million on behalf of the Democrats and about $22.5 million dollars on behalf of the Republicans. The amount of money spent on advertisements in this election is unprecedented. These political advertisements have been defined by their attempts to appeal to working, blue-collar Americans. While all the candidates are sticking to their usual messages, tropes and talking points, certain common characteristics are showing up everywhere in ads for candidates of both parties. Most notably, China is mentioned at some point in almost every television spot. Mitt Romney has an ad bluntly titled “Stand up to China” and uses similar language regularly in his political discourse. On the other hand, the Obama campaign has attempted to capitalize on similar anxieties amongst blue-collar voters by targeting Mitt Romney’s experience at Bain Capital, attempting to connect it to the waves of layoffs and outsourcing that have plagued the manufacturing sector for years. Fears that the U.S. is losing jobs to China are playing a major role in this

“Republicans have nothing but bad ideas and Democrats have no ideas.” Lewis Black


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election. This trend has played out not only in the presidential race but the senatorial race, pitting incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown against Ohio’s state treasurer, Josh Mandel. Mandel and Brown traded barbs in a series of editorials for the Mansfield News Journal. “We need a national manufacturing strategy,” Brown asserted, lamenting the fact that manufacturing, once representing 25 percent of the U.S. economy, now only represents 12 percent; meanwhile, financial services, which once represented about 12 percent of the economy, now comprise 20 percent of the economy. Brown pinpoints Chinese currency manipulation as one of the sources of this problem, touting a piece of legislation he wrote last year called the “Chinese Currency Manipulation Act.” Mandel, on the other hand, argues that “career politicians” are at fault for failing to spur job creation; he argued for deregulation and urged the U.S. to be “tough” on China. Mandel asserts that, while trade is good, depending on China for trading and financing the American debt puts the U.S. in an unfavorable in negotiations. China is gaining global power at a spectacular rate, a fact that is worrisome for anyone whose job is suddenly in competition with Chinese workers. What may be even more worrisome, though, is that the nation’s leaders have reacted to the crisis in American manufacturing by blaming China. While fears of China’s ascent have played a major role in campaign rhetoric, this election has also been characterized by the way politicians have been projected in appealing ways to blue-collar voters with highly precise visual cues. In the most overt example, incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown appears in a commercial called “Both from Ohio,” wherein he lists the names of the various car parts, manufactured various cities across the state, that go into the Chevy Cruze, itself assembled in Lordstown. At the end of the ad, Brown takes the chance to proudly mention his vote in favor of the bailout of the automotive industry, a move which was certainly decisive for many Ohioans’ jobs. In fact, it is now estimated that one in eight Ohio jobs depends in some way on the automotive industry. In general, workers in Ohio’s automotive industry are quite loyal to Obama. The Romney campaign, in turn, has criticized Obama for this, accusing him of rewarding “union bosses” in an act described as “crony capitalism.” Indeed, Romney goes further, tacitly posing union workers against non-union workers by adding that “Obama’s union allies...reaped reward upon reward [from the automotive industry bailout], all on the taxpayer’s dime.” Curiously enough, one Mandel advertisement, “Ac-

countable,” shows him in a vague, metallic setting metaphorically representing a factory floor in which he proclaims that “the more we can empower our working blue collar workers to grow the economy, the stronger we’ll be as a nation.” This particular example does not stand out as unique in comparison with Mandel’s other attempts to attract blue-collar voters. Trying to call the Democrats out on their opposition to coal, Mandel stumbled, stating that “[the Democrats] think coal is a four-letter word.” This somewhat stunted attempt at solidarity has been part of a larger effort by Republicans, who are campaigning very aggressively in Ohio’s coal country, to boost Romney’s image amongst working class voters and to simultaneously push the party line on environmental and energy policy. Whether this will actually make Romney more attractive to all bluecollar workers remains to be seen. Indeed, it seems rather peculiar that candidates of both parties are chasing votes by emphasizing their relationships with various niche groups. It is striking, then, that workers do not identify with workers in the present political climate. Rather, groups foster strong internal relationships: steel workers identify with steel workers, coal miners with coal miners, union workers with union workers and non-union workers with non-union workers. As people struggle for employment and consistency in an economy defined by uncertainty, there is hardly any sense of unification among workers, perhaps representing a broader trend in the fracturing of social solidarity and any wider sense of identification. These political trends echo a similar erosion of its collective power. Despite better than ever access to potential voters, political parties are finding it increasingly more difficult to reach actual voters, spending more on campaigns that generate less enthusiasm. Even the mighty nation-state has been buffeted by the gale-force winds of the market, diminishing its power and agency. Countries cannot establish trade barriers like they once could. Even China may be able to manipulate their currency, but they too are grappling with their own economic problems, unable to slow down the breakneck pace of their overheating economy. In response to this overall disruption of the old power structures, politicians have become narrower and narrower in the scope while campaigning. Perhaps this year’s Republican primary campaign was more than just a nightmarish aberration; perhaps it represents a grim sign of times to come—a new phase of electoral politics, ever more focused on highly specific and audience-tailored campaigning.TKO

“Democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike least.” Robert Byrne


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ISABEL PONTE

Just Like Me MITT ROMNEY AND COMMON MAN POSTURING IN AMERICA

In the time it takes me to walk the length of cam- growing impatience with politicians who seem “out pus, Mitt Romney makes $3468.99. In the time it of touch,” and prompt a larger discussion about takes to read my mail? $867.25. The time it takes what being “in touch” really means. to sit in seminar yields alThe notion of political most a full year’s worth of leader as common man is a t seems we want our lead Kenyon tuition. This all tradition born with Caesar ers to be both extraordi from “romneymakes.com”, and resurrected in Amerwhich breaks the candi- nary and just like us at ica—not during the condate’s income down into an stitutional convention, but hourly wage and begs the the same time in Andrew Jackson’s presiquestion of proportionaldency. Jackson was an army ity: how difficult would a profession have to be for man who fought in duels and said 99%-ish things it to deservedly earn ten grand an hour?* like, “I have always been afraid of banks.” That he The ongoing battle over the release of the was a wealthy landowner by the time he was elected Governor’s tax returns and his infamous “47%” did not seem to undermine this image. comments released last month underscore a pubSince then, the importance of the common man lic relations problem for Romney. They also show angle has varied by election season. George W. Bush

“I

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.”

“Every politician should have been born an orphan and remain a bachelor.” Lady Bird Johnson


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successfully ran on ignoring this same gap between appearance and reality. In a masterful performance, the wealthy son of an aristocratic family from the East Coast, and educated at Andover and Yale, managed to make his election to the White House seem like a triumph of the little guy. Bush escaped the old joke about his father by former governor Ann R ichards of Texas: “Poor George. He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth!” Partly by having grown up in Texas, George W. Bush was able to get away with being wealthy by having something else in him background to get him into the common man club. Next to Bush, Romney looks amateurish and inaccessible. In the current presidential race, the discussion of his wealth has at times overshadowed the focus on his policies. This is probably an issue of bad performance combined with bad timing, as the recession has highlighted the contrast between Romney’s fortunes and those of averages Americans.. Gaffes aside, there’s evidence to suggest his income is a factor we should take seriously. According to George Washing University’s John Sides in a piece for The New York Times, social class affects how elected officials vote. In theory, the rich help the rich, the middle class help the middle class, and so on. But no one will ever be able to represent every state, every religion, every ethnic and racial background. So in the context of a presidential, race the public tests candidates’ capacities for empathy; Romney’s perceived lack of empathy is a big part of what motivates the criticism of his wealth. Striving for more diversity in government is a noble goal, but a discussion centered on Romney’s inability to pander doesn’t change anything. It seems we want our leaders to be both extraordinary and “just like us” at the same time. This contradictory impulse gets us painful-towatch political theater. Remember the embarrassing Joe the Plumber episode from 2008? Or Sarah Palin’s frantic posturing, made all the more awkward because it was half-real? Democrats are equally af-

f licted. Nancy Pelosi’s too-late attempt at R ick Rolling comes to mind. Though Obama mostly manages to avoid rich-guy, the obsession over beer-brewing in the White House comes across more as hipster affectation than believable blue-collar hobby.

“S triving

for more diver -

sity in government is a no ble goal , but a discussion centered on

R omney ’ s

in -

ability to pander doesn ’ t change anything .” It’s unlikely that any politician will be elected in the near future running on the platform, “I’m very wealthy and can’t quite understand your struggles firsthand, but I’ll educate myself and feel a sense of duty toward all American citizens.” The fact remains that “I am one of you” is just that much more powerful. We’re just as unlikely to see a real representation of the average in the Oval Office. Meanwhile, the entire Supreme Court graduated from two law programs (Harvard and Yale), and millionaires make up two thirds of the senate according to a Politifact estimate. This doesn’t mean all those people grew up in a privileged sector of society, but at what point does a candidate’s upbringing start to take on less significance than his or her current circumstances? These are difficult questions to address, and they require confrontation with some uncomfortable paradoxes in American political rhetoric and public life. It is much easier to fret over whether a single candidate is too rich to be president than it is to address increasing social stratification, or come to terms with the fact that the United States is not exempt from the presence of an entrenched ruling class. But the last two are probably more fruitful questions than looking up how much Romney makes while you microwave macaroni and cheese ($693.80). TKO

“I was told that anybody could become President. Now I’m beginning to believe it.” Clarence Darrow


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ANDREW FIRESTONE

Political Maneuvering and Conflicting Visions of America MITT ROMNEY’S SEARCH FOR SELF-DEFINITION ON THE NATIONAL STAGE

On Wednesday, July 11, Governor Mitt Romney munity, you are looking at him.” travelled to Houston, Texas to speak in front of That night Governor Romney flew to Montana the National Association for the Advancement of for a small fundraiser. After mentioning that he Colored People. One minute into his speech Gov- had spoken at the NAACP earlier that day he exernor Romney assured plained that “I don’t give campaign has different speeches to difthe audience that presi- “[R omney ’ s ”] dential candidates “don’t walked a tight rope , with ul - ferent audiences…I want count anybody out, and people to know what I we sure don’t make a tra - conservative demands on stand for, and if I don’t habit of presuming anystand for what they want, one’s support.” He went one side and moderate inde - go vote for someone else, on to say that he hopes pendents on the other .” that’s just fine.” to “represent all AmeriTwo months prior on cans…from the poorest May 17 he spoke at a prito the richest and everyone in between.” After ac- vate fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida. What he did knowledging “the unemployment rate, the duration not know at the time is that a guest at the event of employment, average income, and median family filmed 47 minutes of footage that was later picked wealth are all worse for the black community,” he up and publicized by the liberal publication Mother maintained that “If you want a president who will Jones. Referring to a study conducted by the nonmake things better in the African-American com- partisan Tax Policy Center, Governor Romney dis-

“When words lose their meaning, people will lose their liberty.” Friedrich Hayek


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cussed the 47% of Americans who pay no federal income tax. Putting aside for a moment the payroll, state, and local taxes paid by almost all Americans, let Mr. Romney’s words speak for themselves. Mr. Romney argued that these Americans were “dependent upon

“J ust

as

R omney

argued

A mericans blindly sup port the D emocratic P ar ty , R eagan inappropriately incited white A merica to condemn A frican A meri cans on welfare .” that

government…and believe that they are victims.” He went on to say that these Americans “believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.” To make sure that his audience fully understood, he concluded, “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” On the contrary, in front of the NAACP, Governor Romney sought to assure his audience that his “policies and leadership would help families of color.” On this subject, though, he could not avoid that “while the overall unemployment rate remained stuck at 8.2% in June, the unemployment rate for African-Americans actually went up, from 13.6% to 14.2%.” At the NAACP, Romney spoke in front of a large crowd and a half dozen cameras; later that day in Montana he spoke at a much smaller event, with a small contingent of reporters present. At the now infamous fundraiser two months earlier, he spoke under the assumption that his words to a group of wealthy contributors would go unrecorded. It is no coincidence that it was there, outside the public eye, where Romney felt comfortable giving his “47%” comments. His idea that these Americans view government through a victimized lens racially echoes Reagan’s comments from the 1976 presidential campaign trail regarding welfare fraud. Just as Romney

argued that 150 million Americans are lazy citizens that blindly support the Democratic Party, Reagan inappropriately used the story of one woman from the South Side of Chicago to incite white America to condemn African Americans on welfare. In both cases, the presidential candidates employed racially coded language to gently relay more controversial opinions regarding the intersection of race and class from an elite white perspective. Mitt Romney promised supporters in Montana in July that he intended to give the same speech to different audiences, one that highlights the enduring promise of the middle class for all Americans. But in May he offered a different vision— a pessimistic, disdainful, and exclusive America. Does Governor Romney genuinely believe that half the country does not take personal responsibility for their lives? I’m not sure. His campaign has walked a tight rope, with ultra conservative demands on one side and moderate independents on the other. Appeasing the far right, and particularly wealthy donors, has resulted in a struggle for Mr. Romney to establish himself as one candidate in front of a wide range of supporters that perceive America in very different terms.TKO

“A politician will do anything to keep his job - even become a patriot.” William Randolph


Illustration by Nick Nazmi


TKO 10.10.2012