Naomi Wolf saw something horrid in the Mitt Romney "behind closed doors" video - the last gasp of the American Dream.
...I find [Romney's] remarks fascinating and important to deconstruct because
they affirm – as insider discourse captured for the public often can –
the fact that a new kind of narrative for America has taken over from
one of our oldest and most cherished national myths. What Romney's
comments reveal is that the American Dream is dead, killed off by
skepticism from the bottom up – by the 99% of lower-income and
middle-class people who no longer believe in it – and by cynicism from
the top down – by the 1%, top-earning people who don't believe in it.
...now, the injunction to "work hard and play by the rules" is more likely
to elicit a cynical cough of derision than a rush to the polling
station. Post Tarp, post Libor scandal, post Madoff scheme, post justice department's pass for Chase, post HSBC money-laundering, post Occupy, post the ever-widening income gap in
this country, and post the evisceration of civil society and public
institutions that protect the middle class, the entire underpinning of
the American Dream has been uprooted. And everyone knows it.
...What Romney's remarks show is that the wealthy are handling the
corruption of a system that benefits them by assigning blame for the
destruction of the American Dream to the have-nots. In the Reagan years,
only "welfare queens"
and the small percentage of people actually on food stamps were
targeted as drains on the system – needing "government handouts" and
failing to "take responsibility for their lives". Now, as Romney admits,
the wealthy deem virtually half the voting public as irredeemably
shiftless moochers. Notable, too, is Romney's use of an Occupy-echoing
phrase, "the 47%", whom he feels free to objectify and dismiss.
...I have been noticing, with
sadness, that politicians do not even bother invoking the American Dream
anymore. They know that we know that everything is rigged against it
now, and that the language no longer persuades even the most naive and
idealistic; the best you'll get from a politician is a pledge, playing
to nostalgia, to restore its lost promise. But what is striking about
Romney's remarks is that they have replaced that commitment with a
willingness to blame a vast swath of striving, middle-class Americans
for their plight.
We thus see a turning-point in American
conservative philosophy. This was the moment when the wealthy elite
stopped believing its own PR, the self-affirming myth of that economic
success can always be had for those who want it and are willing to work.
Mitt Romney has told us that it's now simply class war: a struggle to
stop the other half getting what "we" have. Thank you for your candor,