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The election special.  A thick edition of the weekly newsmagazine featuring 100 photos that tell the story.  Okay, 50 of them are a two-page spread of campaign lapel buttons, something I rarely saw this year.  But after that, on page 87, two of the pictures, and the accompanying text, summarized for me the heart of the election.  Or at least the Republican side of it.  How they hoped to win, and how they lost, was right there.

A poncho, and a work shirt.

One picture was of a dirty plastic poncho.  The story was about Mitt Romney's visit to a NASCAR race.  He insulted a group of fans by joking about their raingear, their plastic ponchos.  Then he said that while he rarely attends NASCAR races, he has many friends who are team owners.

With hindsight, the implications of those remarks, taken together, are even stronger than they seemed then.  Romney's sense of superiority, of born to be superiority, stood out like a sore thumb.  He was insulting the fans because they were practical enough to wear ponchos that were not branded fashion accessories.  It was meant as a joke, but as an insulting joke, where the insult was aimed at the people to whom he was telling the joke.  Good insult humor (I accept that it is a real genre) doesn't even work that way; you don't try to actually make the audience feel inferior to you. Mitt's remark backfired because it showed how hard it was for him to relate to his voters.

And the remark about team owners cemented that distinction.  Mitt was reminding the fans that he thought himself better than them, and preferred to associate with his own kind, the very rich.  Mitt was entitled.  Shouldn't everyone accept that?  He knew his place, and others should know theirs.

Mitt never had to mix with "commoners".  He never had to make friends with them, live with them, work with them, attend school with them.  Daddy sent him to an expensive prep school.  He went to a difficult Harvard law/business program and passed it, but would he have even been considered for it were his father at that point not already a wealthy governor and presidential candidate?  To be sure, he did okay there, which put him a notch above W, who was remembered at Harvard Business School for so obviously not belonging there.  But being so high born certainly gave Mitt an advantage.

Then Mitt started Bain Capital and needed to find clients.  Bill Bain probably figured that Mitt's family name and political contacts would help, and they did.  Bain Capital's initial funding largely came from El Salvador, from the feudal ruling catorce and their adjutants.  This was during the civil war there, and the people who funded Bain were the sponsors of the notorious death squads.  Most people would have considered them poison.  Mitt saw them as friends.  They helped him become rich.

Contrast this with George Romney.  He started as a poor kid from Mexico who worked his way up.  He was a commoner before becoming a respected business leader and then a respected governor.  George did not need to insult the working class and middle class in order to remind himself of his own superiority.  George Romney spoiled his kids, or at least spoiled Mitt, and the two turned out very different.  That's the problem with choosing princelings for politicians:  They rarely have the same background as their parents.  And while some pick up their parents' values, others are just spoiled rich kids.  I do think this largely correlates to party affiliation...

And then I saw another picture.  It was a work shirt from Sollman Electric.  It accompanied the story of "you didn't build that".  As we here all recall, President Obama was talking about the national infrastructure that enabled business to succeed, but the Republicans edited down his text and lied about it, to say that he claimed that business people didn't build their own businesses.  Sollman was picked by the Republicans as an example of a businessman who stood up and said that he, not the federal government, built his business.

But that's old news.  What struck me about the picture was a subtle dogwhistle.  The employee's shirt said Sollman Electric on the left side and had a name embroidered on the right side.  The name was Forrest.

Now I don't meet a lot of people in New England named Forrest.  I don't want to seem to be insulting any Kogs who might have that name, but it's not a very common name in New York, California, or elsewhere in the north.  It is associated with the south.  Forrest as a forename often commemorates Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate general who went on to found the Ku Klux Klan.  (This is narrated by Tom Hanks at the beginning of the movie Forrest Gump.)  

I strongly suspect (or should I bet $10,000?) that if you surveyed voters by first name, you'd find that most Americans named Forrest voted Republican, while most Americans named Miguel or Juanita voted Democratic.  Republicans court the white southern vote, the ones who pine for the days when just being white brought privilege.

Several years ago, Jonathan Haidt write an excellent essay on What Makes People Vote Republican?  He noted that conservatives and liberals had different value systems.  Conservatives, but not liberals, value social rank, which can also be described as "knowing your place".  Upward mobility is a liberal value.  So to such a conservative, Romney's superior rank is accepted.  But equality for African-Americans is not accepted.  Their place is at the bottom, and the southern white working class -- NASCAR's base -- sits next up on the scale.  It is easier to "fight down", pick on those below you, than to fight those above you who are actually calling the shots and taking most of the profits.  So the people whose parents named them after the founder of the KKK are likely to accept the Republican line, essentially favoring the very rich while cultivating racism.

So a shirt with the name Forrest on it that commemorates a misquote is a great metaphor for the whole Republican strategy.  Racism and lying.  That it still gets 47% of the vote is still scary.  We should be happy that those are not quite majority values across the country as a whole.

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Comment Preferences

  •  All this crap about Republicans (5+ / 0-)

    and Democrats being different.  Not just this single diary.

    I was a hardcore Republican many years back.  Now I'm a raving loon Democrat.  I can say I've never been very respectful of authority, even when I was a Republican.  And I doubt that the Teabaggers respect Obama's authority.

    There may be differences in the demographics of geography and class and age, but I don't think there's anything inherent about personality types or personal values that makes people chose one political party over another.  

    Oversimplifying things this way wrongly suggests it will be difficult or impossible to woo people over to the Democratic Party without changing their personalities and/or value systems.  Not so.

    •  Whose authority? (6+ / 0-)

      Teabaggers are generally authoritarian at heart, but they demand that authority come from somebody who they think deserves it.  Obama is not to them a valid source of authority.  In part it's because he has African ancestry; in part it's because he's a Democrat, and they've so demonized the party that they simply can't accept a Democratic leader.

      •  And liberals aren't authoritarian at heart? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mayfly

        Do you live in California?  There was an article recently about how in recent years there has been an alarming trend towards very intrusive personal laws to control and limit personal behavior.

        The one in New York (not California) about 32-ouncers is a great example of this.  There have been diaries on DailyKos defending Bloomberg on this on the basis that people are better off not drinking so much sugar-laced drinks.  The fact that laws like these ARE authoritarian AND intrusive and they too thoughtlessly demean the people that they affect seems to go unnoticed.  

        I remember Armando's fierce defense of the right of eminent domain a few years ago when the Supreme Court had a ruling limiting its usage.  (Local city councils were using eminent domain to force people to move out of their homes and sell their homes to developers.)  The intrusive and meddling aspect of this gets lost on some progressives.

        So I don't think that's a valid argument to make.  I don't like people telling me that I have to bring my own bags to the supermarket, that I can't drink a 32 ounce soda if I'm on a long trip, that I can't be sure that I can leave my house to my children, etc.

        •  Liberality is the opposite of authoritarianism (6+ / 0-)

          There are leftist authoritarians, to be sure, but that's not mainstream liberalism.  Nanny-statism is not liberalism.  New York's soft drink move was led by Bloomberg, a sometimes Republican who is no liberal by any standard.

          •  I agree. I'm opposed to it. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mayfly, debedb

            However, there is still that authoritarian nanny-state impulse in many liberals.  Which puts the lie to the assertion that conservatives are the ones with authoritarian impulses.  I've read more than enough diaries on DailyKos of that type over the years to remind me of that.

            There's also a certain type of class elitism in the nanny-state authoritarianism.  It is the well-meaning impulse of those who want to improve the life of those who are beneath them and can't manage their own lives correctly.  That is authoritarian, and it is elitist, and (we ignore this at our peril) and the conservatives know how to use that against Democrats.

            •  Anyone who uses (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              vcmvo2, terrybuck

              that phrase "nanny-state authoritarian" has shown themselves to be an unthinking reactionary, as far as I'm concerned.

              Just because your mind is stuck in that rut doesn't make it true.

              I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

              by trumpeter on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 12:17:49 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well, between you calling me a reactionary, (0+ / 0-)

                and other people on here calling me a Leninist, I suppose I'm doing okay.

                And nanny-state was the phrase used in the parent post above mine.  It's probably apt.  I'm sure even you, if I really nailed you down on it, would admit that there are certain kinds of government intrusion "for your own benefit" that, well-intentioned or not, would piss you off tremendously.

                And that's why I'm a liberal, but I'm always a little leary about other liberals with great brainstorm ideas.

            •  Dumbo, I remember when liberalism was in full (5+ / 0-)

              flower and some liberals were exceptionally annoying. At that time I thought of the Republican Party as a kind of sea anchor that slowed the ship of state down a bit so we had more time to consider our circumstances.

              A kind of crowd mentality--"we're the majority and we're always right"--can sprout up in any soil. That being said, the annoying liberals I knew never advocated killing or imprisoning those they disagreed with, as some tea-baggers do.

              Save the Home Planet

              by Mayfly on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 12:19:54 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  That's the "sore loser chorus". Yes, they scream (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ichibon

        the loudest, but when people get out the vote, as they did this time, they're marginalized.

        In 4 years, if the economy keeps improving, 70% of Americans will be saying they voted for Obama.

        You can't make this stuff up.

        by David54 on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 05:28:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  The Value Systems Couldn't be More Different (5+ / 0-)

      Conservatives regard government as passive rules of the game, while liberals regard it as a tool for promoting the general welfare. (The fact that the Constitution speaks to this question twice is rejected out of hand by American conservatives these days.)

      Liberals see concentrated wealth and private powers as posing serious threats to society, so they prefer broad and deep regulation and constraints on them. Conservatives see little but benefits coming from concentrated wealth and private powers, so they seek to liberate them as much as possible.

      Conservatives insist on the maximum imbalance of power favoring the freedom to pursue happiness, and against the ability to measure and regulate harm caused by that pursuit. Liberals favor a far more equitable balance so that we can protect society and individuals from injuries our ancestors could never have seen or anticipated.

      I haven't had a conversation with a conservative in probably 30 years that didn't run into the wall of their core belief that government shouldn't be promoting the general welfare and shouldn't interfere much in the economy. That doesn't leave much room for compromise nor opportunity to move people left of the philosophical centerline.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 10:42:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  See, I'm not on the same page as you. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mayfly, debedb

        And yet I'm a liberal.  These blanket statements about what liberals want are a bit misleading.

        When you say liberals want government rules as tools to promote the general welfare, I wince a little, because I think, "Oh here we go, they wanna fuck with my life again."  

        I see a big difference between laws that prevent the rich from oppressing the poor and laws that tell me how I have to live my life.  And the feeling created by the latter is especially galling when new laws are instituted that hamper my freedom.  It's a feeling of not being in control of your life.  Although the supporters of such laws have good intentions, they overlook how much laws like that piss people off to little effect.

        I'll give you an example of the difference between the two views of government.  On the one hand, I despise the tobacco companies and what they do.  They deliberately sell an addictive product that makes their customers their slaves.  That should be regulated (and I have good ideas on that subject for some other time).

        On the other hand, there's the approach, especially here in California, of terrorizing the poor damned smokers by turning them into a pariah class.  "Oh, but that's not the intention.  We want them to stop smoking because it's better for their health and it reduces health costs for everybody, worker productivity increases, etc., etc."  Those are all worthy goals, but the means taken to do so, by imposing the absurdly intrusive laws that we have while allowing the tobacco companies to continue to sell an addictive product, that's obscene to me.

        The average smoker, by the way, is of a lower economic class than the average non-smoker.  High taxes on cigarettes are thus and extremely regressive form of taxation, disproportionately affecting the poor.  And state governments become addicted to the revenue stream.  Anything that banned cigarettes (I would just ban the nicotine IN the cigarettes, let people smoke all the way) becomes a non-starter because they need the revenue.  It's a crooked little game.

      •  Yes, It's All About Deconcentrating Power (0+ / 0-)

        Too much power concentrated in the hands of large corporations, as happened in the Gilded Age of 1890-1910 or so, did not work out.  On the other hand, excessive bureaucracy leads down the path of authoritarianism that doomed the Communist systems in the Soviet Union and China (yes, I know China is still communist...in name, but try to tell me the China of 2012 is the same as the China of 1962, and I will not let contention that stand as it is not rooted in reality.)

        Liberalism, like libertarianism, hews to a fallback position (or should do so if it's working correctly) of having the government NOT take action, and only jumping into action when the general welfare of the populace is endangered.

        If the forces of government and private industry balance each other properly, one cannot become too intrusive and powerful over the other, and each sector can do what it is supposed to effectively and helpfully.

    •  I disagree. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ichibon

      You said,
      "I don't think there's anything inherent about personality types or personal values that makes people chose one political party over another."

      I say,
      The single personality trait of a Democrat is the feeling and deep embrace for justice. The all of the Democratic party is dedicated to the righteous respect of any single human anywere on the planet.

      I do not think the rank and file of the GOP has a similar identification with people as we do.

      Enagaged activism wins elections. 100 million words on liberal/progressive websites gets beat by one new GOP voter casting their vote.

      by Nebraska68847Dem on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 05:43:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Some people give votes for the same reason they (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mayfly, ichibon

    give money. Somebody asked them for it.  Some people vote for the underdog 'cause they think everyone should have a chance. Since Republicans are used to figure heads of state, they're not too particular about whom they select.
    I think it is a mistake to assume that Republicans will always vote as they are told.

    We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 10:07:58 AM PST

  •  Hmmm... (3+ / 0-)

    I know two people named Forrest.  One is an engineer and the other a biologist.  They both live in the north; about as far north as you can get without crossing over into Canada, and north, by the way, of Bangor, Maine.  

    Although I haven't asked them, I know from their personalities that in all likelihood they voted for the president.

    I think you're reaching a bit here with the "It's associated with the south" thing.  Perhaps you just need to get out and about more.

    •  Others have noted the association (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mayfly

      From wiki.name.com, a web site about the origin of names:

      Additionally, a certain individual, hero, public figure or other person with some level of fame can influence the popularity of a name. In the case of Forrest, it rose significantly after the United States Civil War, possibly after the Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821-1877) [1]
      The popularity of the name has fallenoff markedly over the past 20 years.  The same site notes Social Security Administration data wherein Forrest was the 290th most common forename in 1993, peaking in 1994 at 217.  That was the year Forrest Gump came out.  It fell to 492 in 1996 and 877 in 2003.  

      It does show up in Canada and Australia, but I suspect the origins are different.

    •  Yeah, my family has never ventured out (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, a2nite

      of the West, and we have a couple "Forrests." I was a bit stumped by that.

      I also knew two kids by that name growing up in Western Idaho.

      Weird.

      P.S. I am not a crackpot.

      by BoiseBlue on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 10:34:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That was the original meaning (0+ / 0-)

        The name began as a cognate of "forest", as someone from the forest.  So ignoring other famous Forrests, it could be attractive to someone proudly living in a forested area.

        My point is that if you wanted a dogwhistle name to say "white southerner", and not as obvious as "Beauregard", then Forrest is a perfect choice.  Not exclusively so but nonetheless associated.

  •  Dumbo, I had forgotten those trust-fund lefties in (0+ / 0-)

    NYC, I think it was, who were building bombs in their town house until they accidently blew up the place.

    And in the late '60s  I was in a meeting where I was 10 years older than the average age of everyone else in the room, and they were all saying, "We've got to tear everything down and just start over."

    "No, no!"  I kept saying.  "We've got a good basic framework. You don't know how bad things can be after a revolution."

    Save the Home Planet

    by Mayfly on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 01:15:42 PM PST

  •  What about Forrest Whittaker? (0+ / 0-)

    You can't make this stuff up.

    by David54 on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 05:29:14 PM PST

    •  Sometimes a name is just a name (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      David54

      There are many Forrests.  My point is that when I saw Forrest on the shirt, it stood out as alluding to the Forrests named for N. B. Forrest.

      Winston Groom named his book, and its lead character, Forrest Gump for a stated reason.  The movie popularized it and probably led to a decline in its popularity as a name.  More people now get the negative association, even though there have been many good people named Forrest too.  So it's just the association that struck me, not that every Forrest in the world is a Klansman.

      Names get spoiled that way.  The most obvious case, and I'm not meaning to go Godwin here, is Adolph.  For example, the New York Times was once owned by a Jew named Adolph Ochs, whose descendants remained long-time owners.  But no Jew uses any form of that name any more.  I suspect Katrina is not such a popular baby name nowadays either.

  •  Romney was given enough rope and guess what! (0+ / 0-)

    Not only in the instances mentioned above but also throughout the whole campaign season, Mittsy managed to alienate his base with ignorantly snide and off-putting comments. When the election results were made final, my brother, along with countless other intellectuals across the nation, got a big charge out of watching the rethugs scratch their heads and ask, "Gee, what went wrong?" My brother summed it up this way: America didn't want to put a lying racist in the White House. Who knew?

  •  How was George Romney eligible for the presidency? (0+ / 0-)

    Since he was born in Mexico?

    I have never been able to figure out if Fox is the propaganda arm of the Republican party or is the Republican Party the political subsidiary of Fox.

    by Dave from Oregon on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 07:39:16 PM PST

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