Romney’s indecent exposure

How can people who like the Ryan budget dislike the Romney speech? It’s a question of making the implicit explicit. And that’s why the stripper had to quit.

Watching people such as Kristol and Brooks run away in horror from the secret Romney speech that Kristol called “stupid and arrogant talk” puts me in mind of the classic story of why the stripper quit.

Before the story, here’s the puzzle:

Kristol and Brooks and the rest of them have been backing Romney all along, in full knowledge of what his embrace of the Ryan plan would mean for truly poor people and those hoping for social mobility and what his union-busting would mean for the working stiffs. They’ve been pounding the table for “entitlement reform,” in full knowledge how many people would get very badly hurt. Neither of them has had a word of complaint about the 47% lie as it’s been told before.

So what so squicked them about Romney’s explicit embrace of the contempt and hatred for the lower half of the income distribution that the whole Red team, had implicitly embraced?

Which brings me back to the stripper.

In the story, a highly successful exotic dancer retires at the peak of her popularity, and someone asks her why. She replies:

Saturday night I gave the performance of my life. The place was jammed, the crowd was cheerful, I was dancing my best. I gave them a nice, long tease, and at last I was down to the G-string. And they started to chant, the way the men do, “Take it OFF! Take it OFF! Take it OFF!”

And they were so friendly, and I was so into the dance, that I thought to myself, “Why not? Give them what they want, for once, instead of leaving them hungry.” So I took it off.

At first, a huge cheer went up.

But then they started chanting again: “Put it back ON! Put it back ON!”

So I quit.

In that (Romney thought) secret speech, in an audience entirely of (he thought) friends, Romney made the stripper’s mistake. He revealed his political pundendum. And most of the c\rowd found that they didn’t want to see it.

The fans of right-wing burlesque were happy to be teased with the implication that people who don’t earn enough to get by on deserve – even desire – their misery, and that the best policy toward them is “Root, hog, or die.”

But once Romney went politically bottomless as well as topless, their desire turned to disgust: disgust, of course, mostly at themselves, but projected on to the man who confronted them with the loathsomeness of their own desires.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

10 thoughts on “Romney’s indecent exposure”

  1. You think _Kristol_ was disgusted to hear this? Come off it. He and Brooks are rats deserting a sinking ship, nothing else. They may as well toss the walking dead Romney under a bus in hopes of accruing some credibility they can blow on some other boy-king sometime.

  2. Two other lines come to mind.

    First, the ubiquitous, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

    But also, “Yes, I know what is is! But I am using it!”

  3. “the loathesomeness of their desires”.

    I like this. It’s the dirty feeling afterwards. My liberalism almost makes me feel pity.

  4. Republicans are abandoning Mitt not because of his message (which they largely agree with), but because he gave away the secret Republican agenda. Mitt’s downfall was that he spoke so clearly about a belief system that is usually hidden in doublespeak.

    Many (most?) Republicans agree fundamentally with Mitt about restructuring society so that it abandons the poor, the parasites, the 47%. Me. You. But they know their core views are sickening to most Americans, so they dress these views up in soft, false language. Mitt removed the cloth–and left their ugly views completely exposed.

    Republicans KNOW they have hateful policies. They just don’t care, unless it affects their electoral chances.

    1. Incidentally, a libertarian tea party friend of mine (I have a few) posted on Facebook just after the secret video came out: “I am the 53%.”

      He was promptly torn to shreds by many of his friends for his callousness. But it shows that a depressingly substantial segment of the population actually believes that half of America are worthless parasites. This is a new kind of Civil-Cold-War. Low key, in the cultural background, but pitting American against American.

  5. Mark is wrong; Allen K. and Matt are right. The proper story is Tallulah Bankhead’s (IIRC), when some Lord Chinless that she had previously screwed pretended not to recognize her. “What’s wrong, dear? You don’t recognize me with my clothes on?”

  6. VERY optimistic of you to believe that Romney can’t win – let’s face it, the folks who are paying attention to his idiocy on the 47% weren’t going to vote for him anyway, and the right-wing folks who are now deploring his remarks (or his candor) will nevertheless vote for him and probably be back on the campaign trail in a week or two. Show me the polls showing him tanking. He’s still really close, and with the vote deprivation that’s going on in so many states (has no one challenged that in the courts, not that a decision before November would be likely), he could win. Disaster for anyone decent, but he could win. Don’t take it for granted that because he’s insensitive and a liar that people won’t vote for him. 60 million Americans voted for Bush after seeing him in office for 4 years. Go figure – and go vote.

    1. I’m very afraid you’re right. I told people not to be so sanguine about Dubya’s “assured” loss, and I’m not convinced Romney’s done either, though in a sane America he would be. All the Rs I know believe it’s the left-wing media, dontcha know, that is either making stuff up or taking it out of context and they’re not bothering to notice that some right-wing pundits are also denouncing some of Mitt’s statements. And as far as the “out of context” business, they believe that every R’s statement that sounds bad has been spun or “taken out of context” and every D’s statement which HAS been made up is absolutely true and complete! And believe me, they’re not going to go look for the exact quote or video or speech on either side. They’re just going to believe what Fox and their right-wing blogs and pundits say is true.

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