Thursday, October 25, 2012
Thoughts on the election and “Romnesia”
So it probably won’t surprise too many people that I will be voting for Obama in this year’s election. Like a lot of progressives, there are certainly a number of things the Obama administration has done (or not done) in the last four years that have disappointed me. He is certainly more politically moderate than I would like, but then again, I am registered as Green, so basically any president who gets elected will inevitably be to the political right of me.
Having said that, I am not naive enough to buy into the whole “there’s no difference between the two major parties” line. Actually, there is a huge whopping difference - all you have to do is compare the previous 8 years of Bush to those of Clinton (another moderate Democrat like Obama). The difference between the two parties has become even more pronounced since the Bush years, now that the Tea Party is pushing Republicans to become even more socially conservative, regressive with regards to taxation, and ignorant with regards to education, science (e.g., evolution, climate change, reproduction), and “facts.” The next president will get to choose one, maybe several, Supreme Court justices. If Romney wins, you can kiss Roe vs Wade (as well as other liberal precedents and policies) goodbye...
Speaking of Romney, let me say this: I have paid close attention to every election since 1988 (first Bush vs Dukakis). And I can say that, hands down, I have *never* seen a candidate so blatantly lie and massively change positions as Romney has. Granted, obscuring the truth, spinning the facts, and flip-flopping on positions occurs with all politicians. But typically, politicians at least have a few core beliefs, and will admit to, and usually stand by, their previous positions. Romney has been utterly shameless in his blatant lying, and in pretending that he never said anything that he has previously said.
Even more frustrating is how the media (or much of the media) is letting him get away with it. This whole charade is being described by pundits as simply an “abrupt shift toward the center” or a “bold change in strategy.” They’ll call Romney a flip-flopper, or an obfuscator, but they won’t call him a liar, even when he pretends that he didn’t say the things he’s previously said, and pretends that he does not have the policies he’s been touting all along. It’s like “liar” is somehow deemed beyond the pale—a word too profane to use in polite company.
The profanitization (yes, I have coined another word!) of “liar” has made it difficult for Obama and his supporters to actually call out Romney’s lies (aka, his suddenly pretending that he hasn’t been running as a “severe conservative” the last two years). So they have had to invent their own word to describe the situation: “Romnesia.” It is catchy sounding. It is politically expedient, in that it portrays Romney as a severe conservative who has forgotten his previous ultra-conservative positions (rather than as a pragmatic moderate flip-flopper). And it allows Obama to get in a funny “zinger” about pre-existing conditions being covered under “Obamacare” (yes, Obama himself is calling it that now).
But the whole “Romnesia” thing seems to me to be built on an underlying premise of ableism. Sure, it’s a joke - Obama is not actually trying to diagnose Romney with “Romnesia,” nor is it slated to be in the next DSM (unless Zucker and Blanchard sneak that one in there when no one’s looking). But when we laugh at “Romnesia,” we’re laughing in part because we’ve been socialized to laugh at people that we see as mentally ill or mentally incompetent. That’s built into the joke. And the sad thing is that somehow, the media has decided that calling a liar a “liar” is out of bounds, but it’s OK (funny even!) if the liar is portrayed as having a make-believe mental condition.
Like I said, Romney scares the hell out of me. And I will definitely be voting for Obama. But I reserve the right to cringe every time I hear that “Romnesia” joke. And I look forward to a day when we can call liars “liars,” and not have to resort to the trope of mental illness to make our case...
p.s., can we also please stop using the word “zingers”? it makes it sound as if we’re all in one giant Vaudeville act or something...