A Romney Presidency would change America but not only in the way we may think. Yes, Romney may change Medicare, attempt to overturn Obamacare and reintroduce tax cuts for which he cannot pay. But all of that pales in the light of the real issue America faces if Romney gets elected: the end of the relevance of facts.
We’ve already come a long ways toward eliminating facts as an integral part of public discourse, but a Romney presidency would prove that candidates have no obligation to the truth. By constantly shifting his positions and remaining vague when called to task, Romney has been rewarded by a boost in support. It is as if America is telling its future that facts no longer matter, that the character of an individual should be a reflection of popular opinion and that everything we consider politics to be is a total sham. Let’s be honest. Some of us have had our suspicions of the latter for some time. A Romney presidency would finally legitimize our fears.
The Fourth Estate used to be the custodians of fact. They’ve consistently fallen down on this job of late. Last night I watched Harry Smith on Rock Center interviewing the woman who outed Lance Armstrong. She indicted the media for allowing Armstrong to lie. Harry Smith came near to tears as he spoke to her, and to Brian Williams, about his inability to atone for helping promulgate Lance’s deceits. Why haven’t we seen any journalist do the same over something that matters? A biking doping scandal requires atonement from the press, but a litany of lies vomited forth by a candidate does not? That’s someone else’s problem. We live in an age when prime time news airs the lies of an athlete while still ignoring the lies of someone who might lead the most powerful nation on Earth.
Looking at it this way, it’s harder to blame Romney. Romney is the ultimate Silly-Putty for our day. Spread him over an image in the funny pages, and when you pull him off he is an exact copy of the image below. I used to do this with cartoons in the paper. Romney does it with public opinion.
In the final debate, Romney became a mirror of Obama. Where the President voiced a position, Romney became that position’s momentary proponent. Many likened Romney’s performance to the fighter in the ring who gloms onto the other boxer to prevent being knocked out, but tt’s more than that. It’s the tactic of a shrewd candidate who has no central beliefs, no lines he will not cross. Romney is whatever the voter wants him to be. Because he is so vague and ever-shifting, what we make of Romney is like seeing shapes in the clouds. By being that blank canvas, Romney allows the voter to create the candidate. In a spectrum of all possible opinions, Mr. Romney will somehow always share your own.
If you remember Romney holding a different position than the one he evokes now, it is you who are misremembering. This is deep Orwellian territory. We have always been at war with Eurasia. We have never not been at war with Eurasia. Romney has always been pro-life. He’s never been not pro-life. It’s ironic that the very medium Orwell predicted would foster the wholesale manufacturing of truth in a totalitarian state has seen his predictions come true in a democracy of choice.
Romney the president may not be as polarizing as the legacy he leaves for future campaigns. If he’s elected, there is never again a reason to be accountable to the public. A Romney administration proves everything the skeptics think of the American electorate. We are uninterested, gullible and ultimately malleable. If we elect a man who switches positions with the prevailing political winds, we eliminate the entire meaning of having elections. The totalitarian state Orwell predicted is anachronistic now. Instead, we have a world awash in sound-bytes and polymorphic opinions. Big Brother doesn’t have to loom in every screen because every viewer invites him in.
We’ve seen the beginnings of such apathy in the guise of the “undecided voter.” The undecided voter is categorized as low-information, so low, in fact, that they do not probe any further than the candidate’s own statements for the truth. About half of the electorate is now comfortable with a President Romney. By extension, they’re comfortable with a man who has no central core, no tenets. In the words of Jean-Paul Sartre, “We are our choices.” Romney does all he can to evade making those choices, to elude adhering to any ideal. In his way he is perhaps the candidate America’s been moving toward in the post-ubiquitous media age. The man himself is a cipher, and we bring meaning to him. He doesn’t require interiority. It would simply hamper him. Romney is responsible for only that which he wants to be responsible. The other candidate, the one heard during the GOP primaries, is our misapprehension. He’s sorry that we are wrong, but he’ll be glad to explain what he really meant so long as you wait until after the election.
Even now, his campaign continues to peddle the false notion that Obama somehow has caused Jeep manufacturing to be moved to China. None of that is true. Chrysler has rejected it. The news has rejected it. A fellow Republican has rejected it. And yet, this kind of lie is perhaps the only thing for which Romney will take a stand.
He will stand fast behind his untruths. He rejects “fact-checkers.” Because he does not stand for anything, he can conversely stand for anything. Fiction and truth break down in his world view. What is expedient is best. In much the way other CEOs track quarterly reports and make necessary adjustments, Romney does the same with his notion of self.
If Romney is elected, we are saying as a nation that facts no longer matter. We are rejecting climate change in favor of mythology and science in favor of dogma. Is this shocking? Perhaps. Perhaps, at the end of his identity-free journey, Mitt Romney is merely the fiction the majority agrees upon. If so, we’ve settled on content-free politics and a president who merely facilitates the mercurial states of the mass unconscious.