Saturday, September 22, 2012

Naomi Wolf's Eulogy for the American Dream

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., 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, Mr Romney.


Owen Gray said...

If anything good comes out of Romney's gaffe, Mound, it will be the public's revulsion for the elite which Romney personifies.

One hopes that revulsion shows up at the ballot box and in the courts -- which made Citizens United the law of the land.

John Prince said...

Excellent post. Have shared!

Romney is the epitome of GREED and what is wrong with America today. These are the fellows who have hollowed out America (Naomi Klein 'No Logo'), thrown millions out of work, decimating the economy while having the audacity to blame the poor and downtrodden for America's ills. Now that's Chutzpah!!

From Reagan on they have rigged the system to exploit the people and now want to hold onto their ill-gotten gains while the rest of us starve. I don't think so! America's fascist surveillance security state is only the beginning of the extremes these people will go to in order to maintain today's status quo. Hopefully, like the Berlin Wall this will soon come crashing down on their collective heads and/or Lady Guillotine will come back in vogue. Either way, something has to give, if they ever hope to revisit the American Dream instead of the current American Nightmare, we're all living through now because of these unconsciousable greedy bastards.