The inevitability of Mitt Romney’s seizure of the Republican nomination has been central to the often comic and sometimes tragic drama of the GOP’s identity crisis. Some people on the right, such as the always controversial and seldom contemplative Rush Limbaugh, see it in simple terms: the “conservatives” couldn’t choose from a crowded field and effectively counter the “moderate” Romney.
The truth as to why Romney seemed a foregone conclusion as the nominee may be that he is more directly a product of the true core of his party. Say what you will about social conservatives. You can disagree with them and still recognize that they are attached to an ideology. They have effectively organized and created power for themselves in past election cycles. Those “values voters” seemed able to wield great influence within the GOP, moving it further to the right than ever. One would assume that any nominee would be singing from their hymnal almost by default.
The success of Mitt Romney suggests that the market economy has become far more central to the Republican Party than social issues. This could mean that corporate interests can rest assured that their agenda trumps any other. Social issues seem to constitute a set of weapons of distraction that seem (thankfully) blunted by overuse in past election cycles. The influence of money is wide and corrosive in our national politics, but to the GOP it seems to have become their core. Yes, the Republicans will continue to deny science and climate change, but this becomes framed as an attack on regulation. Indeed, the entire manipulation of the Tea Party element suggests an attempt to reconfigure the working class sector of the Republican voting block into converts to issues far more helpful those with deep pockets and hurtful to those with deep convictions of any sort.
Much is made of Romney’s shallow and flexible opinions. But this is a symptom of a corporate mentality more than anything else. Corporate communications, especially anything that is shared with the public, is a language unto itself: a dialect that aims for opacity and seeks to maintain an immunity from specifics and definition. Propaganda once seemed a powerful mode of imparting a controlled message. But it has nothing on Public Relations. By embracing corporate language Romney betrays his origin and purpose. Corporations aspire to a benevolent public image, but recognize that such a thing is costly and vulnerable. When Romney says “… of course corporations are people…” he’s really saying they’re HIS people. He’s correct in one aspect: he knows how the economy works. It works for corporations. He’s the son of a public servant, but the spawn of an industry whose goal is simple and stark: the protection of its own interests. This makes genuine broad appeal a difficult task. One can almost sympathize with some Republicans who cast about for an alternative. It must have been sobering, like waking up in bed with a corporate lobbyist who looked more like a nice church lady in the dark intoxication of the night before.
Does being a vehicle for corporate influence make Romney a “moderate”? Hardly. One could see within the complicated identity of faith-based conservatives more contradictions and opportunities for evolution of thought. The goal of corporate interests is distinctly different: to nullify moderating influences. One can engage in conflict with those in opposition and gain something. For one thing, conflicts can be resolved in many ways. But in opposing a strategy that eschews conflict it’s easy to imagine how taxing it can be to engage in a meaningful way.
The language of corporate public relations is again instructive. It seeks to deny debate through absorption. Certainly constituents that crave conviction find this mode of discourse a bitter pill. Whether the discipline of corporate messaging can withstand a tense Presidential election is an open question. One should realize that the means by which corporate interests exercise influence reach beyond its ability to buy it. By employing language that obscures it creates a communications environment that tends to exhaust the audience. That’s where inevitability comes in. It seems a solid component of the corporate approach: a respect for the large and impersonal. To aim is to engender surrender. Rather than indoctrinate it chooses to assimilate. Often our exhaustion at attempts to resist the corporate influence in society result in many making peace with it. Yes, you are a part of it, a very unimportant part.
It’s difficult to find people willing to defend corporations, but don’t allow that to create false hope in those of us who favor the president’s re-election. Corporate interests don’t rely on sympathy. They create a form of shock absorption. Everything that Mitt Romney has projected in the primary season has demonstrated the profile in discouragement contained in approaching a corporate entity. Most of his primary opponents had defined personalities and constituencies and imagined that as an asset. Each time they were proven wrong.
But Romney’s inevitability offers a new and exciting opportunity. Though Republicans seemed unable to resist him, Romney will face a different environment in the general election. The population may be learning to see beyond a wounded economy and trying to see the assailant who brought it about. By assuming the mantle of representative for the ideals of the marketplace and the corporate agenda Romney offers us the ability to soundly reject more than merely him. If he is defeated there could be an added dimension to his failure. It could signal a welcome immunity to many methods and objectives behind his approach.