By Lee Cole–
According to some quantum physicists, there is not just one universe governed by one set of physical laws and constants, but rather an infinite number, in which all possibilities and all possible configurations of physical laws are realized, which they’ve termed the “omniverse.” So for instance, if you were to buy a bagel instead of a muffin this morning, there is an alternate universe in which you chose to buy the muffin. There is yet another universe in which you bought a blueberry muffin instead of chocolate chip. And there is yet another in which you decided you couldn’t afford either a muffin or a bagel, and because you were distracted and fatigued as a result of your hunger, you stepped out in front of a bus on 4th street. If all that is true, then it holds that there is also a universe in which Mitt Romney becomes the next president. I’m becoming increasingly concerned that I might reside in that universe. Let’s call it the “Romneyverse.”
What might the Romneyverse look like, you ask? What is it like to see the world through Mitt Romney’s eyes? Well, like the omniverse, Mitt Romney’s subjective world is one in which any and all possibilities could be realized. Mitt has been both a ruthless Bain Capital investor and a champion of social liberalism in Massachusetts. He has been both pro-choice and pro-life. He was for universal healthcare before he was against it. He was against coal as an energy source and now he isn’t. The set of moral and personal laws which have governed Mitt’s choices have shifted so many times that charges of waffling no longer hold any sway. He doesn’t try to conceal his shifting views; any attempt to point out the contradictions results in obfuscation by the Romney team and insistence that he never really meant what he said before, even if it was just a few weeks ago.
In any other time, Romney wouldn’t have been a viable candidate because of his inconsistent beliefs. There is a degree of quantum uncertainty involved here, as it is nearly impossible to determine his position at the rate he moves. If an observer attempts to put her finger on Mitt’s position, the wave function collapses and we capture something of Mitt’s viewpoint in that observer-determined instant on a transcript or a secret video at a fundraising event. But the Romneyverse defies these rules; as soon as one tries to pin anything on him, based on something he actually said or supported in a captured slice of time, Mitt has already moved beyond it, abandoning the position like a frontier outpost to delve deeper into the unknown.
The truth is that Mitt Romney will be whatever gets him elected. He will say whatever scores political points in the moment, without regard for future consequences. He’s been running for president for 6 years, and by sheer force of will and the influence of contributions made possible by Citizens United, he’s come this far, and that fact should be astounding and deeply troubling. He isn’t likeable, even for Republicans, and he represents the lifestyle and trickle-down philosophy that crippled our economy under Bush.
Is our collective memory span that short, that we’ve forgotten how the great recession happened? Are we that fickle, and frankly that thoughtless, that we could possibly vote for Mitt Romney, of all people, the epitome of Wall Street, deregulation and religious commitment to soul-crushing consumerism and product fetishism? It’s a bad cosmic joke that just four years after super-rich, irresponsible corporate-types who care nothing for the poor or the middle class screwed over our economy, the man propped up by the Republican Party to lead our country is a super-rich, irresponsible corporate-type who doesn’t care about 47 percent of the country.
The race is very close, and at this point, it’s anybody’s game. For all intents and purposes, it’s a tie, but like the New York Times, if I had to bet, I’d bet on Obama. The incumbent always has an advantage, but to really secure victory, President Obama has to change his debate strategy. Because of what we might call the Romney Uncertainty Principle – that at any given moment, the more precisely we describe his position, the less we are able to describe his momentum, and vice versa – the president cannot refute Romney on a point by point basis. He cannot quote Romney or use facts and figures. He can’t even really point to Romney’s platform, either, as it’s about as vague and generalizable as a horoscope. What President Obama has to do is express what many Americans feel and suspect about Romney. He has to start speaking in the broadest of terms, not just pointing to policy differences, but instead focusing on less tangible philosophical differences.
In the second presidential debate, Romney did a lot of that for him. His tone and demeanor belied the tenuous façade he’s been maintaining. He came across as smarmy, disrespectful and misogynistic. President Obama was forceful but dignified, even when Romney behaved as though the president was beneath him – like he was scolding a child. Since Obama first entered the race in 2008, commentators and journalists outside of Fox News have underscored the particular vitriol with which mostly white, older people, often from very particular geographic locales and fundamentalist religious backgrounds, criticize and seem to hate Barack Obama. The hatred and racism continues to this day, and it will be what leads many Republicans to hold their noses and vote for Romney. Romney’s worldview – that 47 percent of Americans are lazy and don’t take responsibility for their lives – won’t be shocking to those who hate Obama, because they share his opinion, even if in their case it’s blatantly self-loathing as many would be considered a part of that 47 percent themselves.
The position of the woman outside the VP debate in Danville – that Obama is a socialist – is not unusual among southern, conservative Christians, even though neither she nor the rest of her cohorts could ever explain what socialism actually is. For them, socialism is just a word Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity say every day which translates as a threat to the pristine, White, Christian, suburban, consumer capitalist fantasy that they now consider normal – a threat in the form of people of color and the impoverished organizing and taking part in the system
It is inherently racist and xenophobic, just like the Mormon Church until 1978, when they finally decided that Black people were not an inferior species. As Christopher Hitchens pointed out, Mitt Romney was an adult in 1978, and this has to be reconciled. No one will bring up Romney’s faith, of course, because it’s seen as off limits. But what liberals who are so concerned with religious tolerance don’t realize is that for many conservatives, racism, homophobia and xenophobia are deeply ingrained in not just their social and political views but their religious views as well. It’s the elephant in the room that can no longer be ignored. It can’t be said that all, or even most, conservative Christians are racists, sexists and homophobes, but it would be a safe bet to say that most White, Christian, racist, sexist homophobes vote Republican.
So what would the Romneyverse look like? It would be a place where abortion is outlawed in the U.S. and a woman’s reproductive choices are handed over to men. It would be a place where we put women in binders. It would be a place in which millions of LGBT persons would be denied the rights they deserve and children brought to this country through no choice of their own would be subjected to “self-deportation.” It would be a place where Blacks and Latinos are threatened with force if they attempt to vote, where unions no longer exist and the wall between church and state is demolished. It would be a place where the super-rich can continue to exploit and manipulate those less fortunate. It would be a place where students, including many at U of L, would struggle even more than they already do to pay for college. It would be a place where we continue to deny global warming, poisoning the air we breathe and cutting the earth out from under our feet. It would be a place where people who are sick and cannot help themselves die so that a CEO can have one more private jet.
I truly believe that this is the most important election in American history. We have a choice as to which America we want to live in, and I hope that we will choose the one that Barack Obama envisioned four years ago, an America worthy of its founding principles. I hope that the Romneyverse – that place where all of our worst patriarchal and chauvinistic impulses as human beings are realized – is destined for some other distant, parallel time. I hope the people living there, when the American morning dawns the day after the election, will realize what they’ve done.
Photo courtesy of Jeffwinbushfiles.com