Letter from America: Community, Faith, Family and Romney

2nd September, 2012 1:19 pm

By Hannah McFaull and Cristina Barron

A few nights ago, Willard Mitt Romney accepted the Republican nomination to be their candidate for President of the United States. His speech, which at only 35 minutes was short for such an occasion, told us a lot about the GOP fears and inner-party splits which could prevent him from having any credible shot at the White House.

Media coverage of the primary elections would have you believe that Romney and his Cadillac driving family were out of touch with the American people and that his politics were out of step with his party and the Tea Party movement. Coming to the convention only months after toeing the party line on abortion and same sex marriage, plus having advocated reform to the Massachusetts health care system that Obamacare was literally modelled on, he needed to unite and ignite his key supporters.

We don’t envy his speech writersone bit (nor do we believe he wrote it himself, as Twitter would have you believe). The task of uniting the party beyond those in the ballroom, whilst simultaneously not alienating anyone on the extreme ideological edges, is a thankless one. For what it’s worth we think they did a good job in doing this in the half hour we heard from the Governor.

There were some obvious speechwriting tools deployed in this aim as well. He hit the GOP history geeks’ pressure points when he asked “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Word for word exactly what Reagan asked in 1980 a few days before the election against Jimmy Carter, invoking feelings of familiarity, comfort and historical context. Towards the end he employed a pantomimic call and response tactic, getting the delegates to boo in unison at mentions of Obama. These tools of the trade were evident to non-communications experts like us.

The Party needed a show of unity after the chaos of an eleven candidate primary election process. The role of the Convention in American politics is to unite the party behind a candidate of choosing, reignite the base and remind people of their socialized party loyalties. Political scientists advocating the Michigan model of vote choice tell us that the likelihood of anyone changing affiliation after watching such an event is rare, and this isn’t what they are designed for. They are to tell the American voters and the rest of the watching world a carefully constructed story.

From Marco Rubio’s introduction the scene was set. This story was about the one thing that unites both the fiscal conservatives who hold moderate views on social issues, and the extreme right of the party comprising the base of the GOP. It didn’t matter whose positions on gay marriage, gun control and freedom of religion you agreed with, the one thing all Republicans could agree on is the infringement of government into the lives of America’s families.

He said that what makes America, America is “Community, Faith and Family”. Government gets in the way of your relationship with God and your relationship with your family. The biggest cheer of the night from the crowd was when Romney spoke in opposition to Obamacare, which to many Republicans represents the ultimate infringement of individual rights by government.

The one part of the speech that had us wringing our hands and shouting at the TV was his careful mention of the position of women in Romney’s America, asking “why should women have any less say in decisions affecting the country?”. He went on to describe how the role his wife Ann played in their family was “harder than mine”, whilst seemingly on the verge of tears about it.

That’s all very well and good Mr. Romney, but when you and your party stop trying to remove the ability of women to make decisions about their own bodies and futures, then we’ll talk about the role of women in Romerica. He had to mention something about women, seeing as the Democrats definitely will next week and he didn’t want them to be able to say he’d said nothing. The Republicans continue to speak about how they love women and yet support a full platform to take our rights away- direct contradictions and lies, similar to those in VP candidate Paul Ryan’s speech.

Despite this and the listing of the female Republican leaders he has mentored and who spoke at the 2012 Convention, the media have got it wrong on focusing on the issue of deflection of the GOP attack on womens’ rights. This speech wasn’t about bringing women back into the fold or making amends for examples such as Todd Akin’s horrific statement and lack of biological knowledge or common sense.

It was about striking a balance between the economic and social arguments that voters care about. It is striking to note that the woman not mentioned by Mitt was Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona. One might posit that her exclusion has more to do with her controversial stance on immigration and the display of party disunity her inclusion would provoke.

The power of faith and family were invoked again and again. Interestingly Romney made only one direct mention to his own Mormon faith, using phrases such as ‘my Church’ instead. For all the talk of religious freedom, it still appears that the only religion that is allowed this freedom is Christianity within very strict perimeters.

“All the laws in the world will never heal this world. What we need is family and God’s love”. This quote for us encapsulates the main theme of the speech, and it made us wonder if the speech was so short because the GOP is so fractured and fragmented that a more complicated theme would have highlighted the severe internal divisions and discord?

Hannah McFaull and Cristina Barron are both graduate students at San Francisco State University. They are currently pursuing an MA in Political Science, specialising in American politics, gender and election campaigns. Both worked in politics before reentering higher education; Hannah as a member of the Policy and Communications Team at The Howard League for Penal Reform and Cristina through internships in Washington on the Hill and in the district for her Member of Congress. Both feminists, Hannah grew up in East London and is a member of the Labour Party, Cristina was raised in the Central Valley of California and is a Democrat.

  • Brumanuensis

    I watched Romney’s speech – insomnia again – and thought that Rubio overshadowed it, although ironically, given the endless Republican attacks on Obama for (not) saying ‘you didn’t build that’, his passage on the importance of community and family made exactly the same point Obama made. Nonetheless, Rubio’s speech was a good effort from a rhetorical point of view and I’d say he’ll be standing in 2016 if Romney doesn’t win this year. Romney’s speech was solid, but not exactly overwhelming and contained the usual cheap shots and distortions – ‘apology tour’? Really? – but at least it wasn’t as annoyingly self-righteous as Ryan’s.

    Here’s two fun facts about Romney’s speech, just to add to what Hannah and Cristina have written:

    1). His five-point plan to create 12 million jobs is specific only because 12 million is what forecasters have estimated that the US economy will create over the next four years regardless of political action. So he hasn’t exactly set himself a mountain to climb.

    2). The five-point plan is identical to what John McCain and George W Bush proposed in 2008 and 2004. Literally identical: http://www.nextnewdeal.net/rortybomb/romney-will-solve-crisis-exact-same-gop-plan-2008-2006-2004

    Oh and bonus link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DGl-4gByV4


  • Europe Featured News The full list of Labour MPs signed up to pro-EU campaign

    The full list of Labour MPs signed up to pro-EU campaign

      213 MPs have signed up to Labour’s pro-EU group ‘Labour In’, including Jeremy Corbyn and the entire Shadow Cabinet. Today, Phil Wilson MP has outlined the group’s stance in an article on LabourList, saying the party is united in its “belief that Britain should remain part of the European Union”. “Our campaign will be distinctive from the cross-party campaign, because we will focus on the issues important to Labour supporters and voters, in particular economic growth, jobs and rights […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Europe Featured Labour is united in its belief that Britain should remain part of the EU

    Labour is united in its belief that Britain should remain part of the EU

    Over 210 Labour MPs have joined the Labour In PLP group, including the Leader of the Labour Party, and the entire Shadow Cabinet. The Parliamentary Labour Party is united in its belief that Britain should remain part of the European Union. The EU referendum poses the most important question to face the UK, not just in this Parliament, but for decades to come. If we believe Britain is a force for good in the world, we must be optimistic, outward-looking […]

    Read more →
  • News Chuka Umunna says he’d defy a Labour whip on Syria vote

    Chuka Umunna says he’d defy a Labour whip on Syria vote

    Chuka Umunna, former shadow Business Secretary, has said that he would defy a Labour whip on Syria if there were one. .@ChukaUmunna tells #Murnaghan he’d defy whip & vote for Syria airstrikes: “You have to do what you think is right” https://t.co/74KBke7kxP — Murnaghan (@SkyMurnaghan) November 29, 2015 Jeremy Corbyn this morning said that he hasn’t decided whether there will be a free vote on Britain joining the bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria but reiterated his opposition to these plans. […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Corbyn appeals to Labour MPs before Syria vote

    Corbyn appeals to Labour MPs before Syria vote

    Jeremy Corbyn has this morning maintained his opposition to bombing ISIS in Syria and asked Labour MPs to “look carefully” at the whole situation in Syria before voting on the issue. This morning on the Andrew Marr Show, Labour’s leader revealed that 70,000 people have responded to the e-mail he sent out on Friday, asking them their views on airstrikes in Syria. A number of shadow cabinet members, who are thought to be in favour of airstrikes in Syria, were […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Unions A fair sharing economy?

    A fair sharing economy?

    Despite the clunky delivery, it is good to see Labour talking about what challenges we will face as the world of work changes dramatically. For many people that change is pretty daunting: it isn’t just accelerating, it’s spinning off in new directions. The digital revolution is connecting people in ways we could never have imagined five years ago. There are robots seemingly waiting to take just about every manual job and algorithms eyeing up a lot of the white collar middle management […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends