Congrats, Mitt, on another job well done


Congrats to Mitt Romney, whose victory in Florida’s primary was hard earned. To me, it seems pretty clear that, for Republicans, Romney is the sensible choice. The man has been successful at virtually everything he has ever touched, and both this country and this world need a problem solver now more than ever.

When I heard Romney speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s candidates’ forum in Washington DC last month, I was struck by how much more passionate and personable he comes across in person (as opposed to on TV). Meeting him (albeit very briefly) at another forum last March, I had the impression that the smooth quality that at times makes him seem – at least on TV – a tad plastic is actually an extreme, authentic, and sincere clean-cut wholesomeness.

In some ways Romney seems like a throwback to the 1950’s. He’s a faithful husband and devoted father, a company man, a churchgoer, and a patriot.

Of course,  these days it is popular to dismiss the 1950’s as an aberration, a decade in which familial and societal dysfunction as well as racial, religious and ethnic diversity and identity were suppressed in deference to a white bread culture of soul-crushing conformity. I don’t doubt that, like all tropes, that one expresses some truth about some people’s experience. On the other hand, it seems like an oversimplification and a distortion. Surely lots of people were happy in the 1950’s. A more clean cut and more prosperous time, is it possible perhaps that in some ways, our society was indeed healthier then? Or, more probably, is the truth that the 1950’s were better in some ways, worse in others, depending on who one was and what circumstances were?

Life may have been more stifling for anyone who was “different” (at least that’s what I’ve heard). And one can’t put a value on society’s evolution to be more open and accepting of individual rights, and respectful of differences–in many ways the legacy of the 1960’s and the 1970’s – and a great one at that.

But institutions–whether the family, schools, or government–seemed to function more harmoniously, efficiently, and better in the 1950’s. That’s what I hear anyway (I wasn’t around till the 70’s but I have my sources). For instance, my mother recalls that when I was born, my father paid the doctor a few hundred bucks to deliver me. He just paid cash. No elaborate forms to fill out, no mountains of paperwork, no exorbitant insurance policies. Exchanges were more direct, bureaucracy less overwhelming. I have a forceps mark, a slight indentation on the left cheekbone, to show from the induced labor and delivery. I guess if that happened now, there might be talk of a lawsuit, but in those days, human error and, sometimes, no fault error (as opposed to gross negligence) was understood to be a part of life. Ironically, it seems that greater acceptance of life’s imperfections, its inequities, and its variability allowed for more efficiency and control in the management of those things that individuals and groups can manage. Government did less and did it better. Teachers were paid less, but test scores were higher. No one had health insurance, but the cost of medical care was lower. Social programs were fewer, but crime was lower. People were accustomed to less assistance from government, and they did a better job of helping themselves and each other through tighter communities and ties of kinship. And so on.

If Ralph Waldo Emerson lamented in the 19th century that “Our lives are frittered away by detail” and urged simplicity, what would he make of our modern existence, so cluttered with paperwork, taxes, and insurance in all its forms? On the one hand, technology has liberated us from much drudgery. On the other hand, we’ve traded it in for other forms of drudgery. If liberals justifiably fear the soul-crushing effects of cultural conformity, conservatives fear the soul-crushing effects of bureaucracy and too much government. It seems to me, though, that many conservatives–or at least some–have come a ways toward understanding and valuing more racial, religious, and lifestyle diversity. If only liberals could better understand what conservatives justifiably fear about a system that would reduce initiative and, in the name of equality, reduce freedom, efficiency, and autonomy, weakening the institutions that best nurture individuality: the family, the church, the voluntary organization. To paraphrase former RNC head Michael Steele, who said, when quoting his mother, once you rely on the government to help you raise your children financially, you must expect they will try to “help” you raise your children in other ways. His Mom, who worked as a laundress, perceived over-dependency on government as character-weakening. Maybe we could all due with a return to simplicity.

Romney’s clean-cut wholesomeness should not be held against him. Nor should, in my opinion, the fact that Newt, for instance, has been twice divorced. As even conservative commentator Dennis Prager has pointed out, romantic relationships are far too intensely individual and complicated an arena for success or failure at them to be a clear-cut indicator of character (unless, of course, someone does something criminal or deeply dishonorable, which some say Newt has. But if his second wife’s TV interview was an indicator, she’s no picnic in relationships either).

On the other hand, the fact that Mitt Romney has a long-term marriage that is seemingly successful, despite his wife’s illness and the stresses of public life, does suggest something positive about his character.

This entry was written by and posted on February 3, 2012 at 2:10 am and filed under Blog. permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Keywords: , . Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. */?>