A Bee in the GOP Bonnet

By on January 14, 2012

Newt Gingrich has put a bee in the bonnet of the Republican party. His PAC ads in South Carolina attacking front-runner Mitt Romney are directed at what CEO Romney did at Bain Capital LLC. I was tempted to ignore the overheated rhetoric as yet more campaign melodrama, until I heard a parade of Republican movers and shakers decrying Gingrich and Rick Perry for speaking their minds. The parade of party spokesmen on the defense was impressive; their message carbon copied; their tone notably strident. ‘Questioning what Romney had done was tantamount to taking issue with all the Republican Party stands for,’ they argue. ‘If Gingrich and Perry do not stop, they will face grave consequences from the powers that be in the GOP.’

The rationale is that capitalism is the backbone of the American Experience. Capitalism is essential to our economy.  The marketplace must be allowed to prevail if Capitalism is to be successful. The only measure that matters is profitability. Money. Does the undertaking produce dollars? To challenge Capitalism in any way is to cripple the American economy and threaten the American way of life. Ethics have no place in this discussion. Humanitarian concerns are trivialized. The dollar must precedence over all other considerations.

Romney is being attacked only because he was a successful businessman, a successful capitalist, they claim. We need the successful businessmen at the helm of the American economy in 2013. Questioning methodology is pure envy. The voices of ‘envy’ must be silenced immediately.

It is the ferocity of the delivery as much as the content that makes this listener sit up and take notice. Much of this is the kind of purple rhetoric you expect in national elections, but it is rhetoric with a familiar ring. Students of history will recall it as the message of those in power after the Civil War during the Era of Industrialization and Age of the Robber Barons. What was good for business was good for America. Fortunately at that time no Captains of Industry decided to run for the presidency. The country never saw a public brawl of the kind now playing out.

We do know that the Jay Gould’s and J. P. Morgan’s and other capitalists were active behind the scenes with their dollars and influence, looking after their interests. It was the Gilded Age of America when the gap between the very rich and working poor was as wide as it is now. Conspicuous consumption ran amok. The very wealthy built themselves palaces while their employees scrimped to get by. Public Health standards were deplorable. The poor depended on the charity of their religion.

Dirty deals were commonplace. Ironically it was Republican Presidents who finally reigned in runaway capitalism and set standards for business conduct in this country. It was Chester Arthur who signed the Pendleton Bill ending the spoils system in government, a once powerful tool for the wealthy. And it was Teddy Roosevelt who busted trusts and monopolies and made business accountable for the way they made their money.

It is has been suggested we are living in a second gilded age. The indifference of those who speak for the very rich has a similar ring. The level of philanthropy shown by the Robbers Barons like Carnegie is not as apparent. I have never suspected that Romney is guilty of any law-breaking but that said, I don’t think that someone who got rich taking millions of dollars out of US companies, slashing employee benefits and putting some people out of work to maximize his own revenue stream  is temperamentally what this country needs in the next President.

One of the functions of an organized society and government is to protect its citizens from the schemes and machinations of the rich and powerful. There is a social contract at work in the United States. Romney is a man who has told us he likes firing people, whatever the circumstance. He regards corporations as the same as people. He sees any criticism of capitalism as ‘pure envy’. You cannot sweep these statements under the rug. He does not convince as another Mr. Rogers when he dresses up in sweaters and jeans. And he does not persuade us to make him the next guardian of the economy in the US.

I think the voters have cause to want to let this debate play out. We are always about setting priorities. That is what elections do. And I think that the flacks who are out beating the political bushes with their heavy-handed threats should re-examine what they are doing and how it reflects on them personally. Voters should be taking names and kicking. This is a fundamental discourse that is long overdue and should be occurring in public forums across the nation this year.

Tom Godfrey

About Tom Godfrey

2 comments on “A Bee in the GOP Bonnet

  1. Caroline Stewart on said:

    Penn Square Press has it right about the election cycle. Hope people read more and watch less. Too much star seeking power on TV and not enough impartial analysis. The public food fight over politics has placed governance in peril as fewer and fewer people vote.

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