As you may or may not know, roughly 30 years ago, Willard Mitt Romney took his family on a road trip to Canada, bringing the family dog, Seamus, in a dog crate that he strapped to the roof of the car. Traveling at highway speeds, which at the time would have been 55mph, the Romneys traversed several hundred miles over the course of twelve hours, stopping only for fuel, snacks, and–at least once–to hose the dog shit from the back of the car that was emanating from the frightened animal’s kennel.
A lot has been said about this incident, and it’s clearly the fodder for late night comedians and pundits alike to mine for a good deal of humor, but in it I see something more significant: a metaphor.
I don’t think Mitt Romney is a bad man. Unlike most of the Republican candidates in this or the last election, I don’t find him to be malevolent, sinister, devious, or despicable. What I find him to be is clueless and insulated.
Mitt Romney tells the story of the road trip with Seamus sincerely and honestly, and to this day insists the dog had a great trip; he cannot associate the shit streaming from the kennel down the back of the car as the result of the animal’s terror and shock, he can’t imagine that he did anything wrong, he can’t fathom how he—decent family man, bastion of Mormon morality, husband, father, businessman, politician—could even be accused of wretchedness or cruelty. It is beyond him.
When Mitt Romney describes a “humorous anecdote” about his father’s gubernatorial campaign trying to gloss over the unemployment of several thousand Michigan autoworkers, he’s not chuckling because he’s an evil, heartless villain who enjoys the suffering of others, he’s merely an out-of-touch, simpleton plutocrat whose life has been one of such uninterrupted, sheltered privilege and wealth that it is simply beyond his capacity to realize what life is like for the 99% who don’t live in his cake-bread bubble.
And so it was, in a discussion about Romney with some friends on Facebook, that I quipped that should Romney become president, we are the dog. All of us. We who don’t send our kids to expensive prep schools and who worry about losing our jobs, we with mortgages and insufficient retirement funds, who are a serious accident or illness away from utter bankruptcy. Those of us who know the price of a gallon of milk and have watched its price climb precipitously in the past few years, who have to decide which cable channels we can afford if we can even afford the luxury of cable TV, who don’t vacation in our summer homes nor even have them, who fret and worry that our children are inheriting a world worse than that we were given, and are concerned at what that means for them and their well being. We are the dog.
I don’t believe Mitt Romney would be a horrible president out of choice, I just don’t think he would know any better. I think he would mean well, that his policies would reflect what he felt was genuinely best for America, I just don’t think he has the grasp, the circumspection, the perspective or the experience to make good decisions in that regard for the majority of Americans. I think, like poor Seamus, that he would hear our protestations and even—as much as he is so capable of—empathize, but that he would ultimately assume he knew best and that our concerns were no more significant than that of domesticated animals.
If Romney wins the 2012 election, we are the dog, And we aren’t going to be riding in the car, and it isn’t going to be fun, and it isn’t going to be pleasant, and there will be a huge cleanup required after the ride.
As I thought about it, I came to decide that I finally found the name for the blog my family and friends have been urging me to launch for years, because, ultimately, it’s not just Romney: It’s the whole damned political system. We are the dog. Whether its wars we don’t want, spending priorities we disagree with, foreign and domestic policies the vast majority of the population disagree with, or almost any other issue on the political agenda today, we, the people, are the dog, and we aren’t riding in the car, we’re riding on it if we’re lucky and under it if we aren’t. And so this blog was born, a site for the rants my family and friends are tired of listening to or reading on Facebook, a place where I can unload and it’s more or less acceptable.
Welcome to my blog. Buckle up, it will probably be a bumpy ride—but you’re welcome to sit in the car with me.