Decoding the GOP convention


So it’s official: Mitt Romney is the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, certified by the delegates to the national convention at Tampa, the 36 Arkansas delegates joining in, a few of them — Ron Paul supporters — with reservations.

He’s a decent man, Romney, a better man than his campaign and his party, and occasionally his rhetoric, make him out to be. But that’s true of most major party candidates, Democrats included. The twisted, toxic state of our national dialogue has pushed any trace of joy from our politics, replacing it with constant snarling and caustic semi-truths and outright lies, appeals to fear and ignorance and nostalgia for a world, a time, which too many people only imagine they remember.

With that happy preface, some observations on the first hours of the GOP’s quadrennial soiree:

— I confess to a wincing annoyance with politicians of both parties who insist on telling me that one or more grandparent was an immigrant. So I winced, annoyed, when Rick Santorum reminded us, for the umpteenth time, that his granddad came from Italy; when Ann Romney informed us that one of hers came from a tiny town in Wales; and when Chris Christie boasted of his dad from Ireland and his late mother from Sicily.

Interesting, that so many people recoil in fear of Barack Obama because his father was Kenyan. I absolutely love the ethnic diversity of my country and my state; in fact I love it more, a lot more, than I think most of the delegates to the Republican convention do. I rejoice as well in celebrations of ancestral heritage, be it Mexican or French or Italian or German or Chinese or Kenyan.

But I’m a lot less interested in where a candidate’s antecedents were born, and whether they worked with their hands or at a desk, than what he or she plans to do about today’s problems. And tomorrow’s, which we can usually see but normally choose to ignore. Again, interesting — that so many politicians, mostly Republican but a heck of a lot of Democrats, are opposed to any realistic resolution of our immigration problem (which isn’t now, nor ever was, the “crisis” it is made out to be), which, interestingly, was advocated by the last Republican president. A Texan, I believe.

— A dominant theme of the Republican platform, an ethos shared by quite a few Democrats and self-described independents and, of course, the Tea Party, is the malevolent influence of government in our lives. It is a mindset that insists that only less state and federal regulation, a smaller bureaucracy and, naturally, lower taxes will about a great national economic revival. Government, as Ronald Reagan described it, was “not the solution, government is the problem.” No longer — in today’s conservative world, government is not merely a problem but America’s central evil. Government prohibits success.

So Christie talks about his immigrant father, who used the (government) G.I. bill to become the first of his family to attend (a government) college. And his mother, who rode a (government) bus to her job. And Santorum toasts farmers, ranchers, hospital workers, bank tellers and service personnel — all of them subsidized or funded entirely by — government. — As expected, the convention on Tuesday ignored its nominees position and adopted the proposed party platform, including its plank that demands an end to all abortion, with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother. So Christie orates that health care reform would put “bureaucrats between an American citizen and her doctor. Santorum reminds us again of his developmentally disabled daughter, hinting that Democrats would have ordered her executed. (Four years ago Sarah Palin, with a Downs baby, was even more emphatic). And Ann Romney, the nominee’s wife, tells the delegates, without a trade of irony, “I’m not sure if men really understand this, but I don’t think there’s a woman in America who really expects her life to be easy.”

— Mrs. Romney is attractive, vivacious, a polished speaker and has a self-described “real marriage.” The phrase brings the guaranteed cheers. It refers to — who? The Obamas? The Clintons? Or could it be same-sex couples?

— And, finally, why does stupendous applause always follow a mention of the number of children a politician has (provided it’s more than two)? Why is fecundity a recommendation for high office? If it was a baseline consideration, Arkansas’s Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar would be president and first lady for life. Of course, they don’t like government, either.

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Steve Barnes is host of Arkansas Week on AETN.