The Narrative of the Privileged American Male
Why are Republicans having such a hard time coming to grips with the electoral defeat?
November 20, 2012
As documented in Christopher Lasch’s 1979 book The Culture of Narcissism, the tenor of American society in recent decades has been about the almighty and irrepressible “me” — one that is strictly operating in an adolescent and narcissistic society.
Several decades onward, things are finally changing, and it’s clear the boys don’t like it. While reflexively raising the national flag at every turn, they don’t realize that the more global the United States becomes, the more it changes — for the good.
But what is even less tolerable to them is that the rules are changing for everyone and for the historic, distinctly patrician conception of American government as well.
After a bruising presidential campaign that was deep in lies and shallow on substance, Mitt Romney was anything but what his mommy surely taught him — gracious. Telling his campaign’s donors that President Obama won by giving “gifts” to minorities, young people and women not only insulted the president, but the American people who, in their collective wisdom, re-elected him.
Still, Romney’s remark was a fitting capstone to a campaign that Sheldon Adelson and Karl Rove thought could be bought. Poor little Mitt, the rich heir and Republican who has never before heard the word “No.”
Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan turned whiny, too. He argued that they lost because of the “urban” vote (a veiled way of intimating that it was minorities who voted for Obama, if not outright voter fraud perpetrated by those big urban party machines).
But how is it that Paul Ryan’s own hometown of Janesville, in rural southern Wisconsin, population 63,500, with a constituency that is 2.3% African American, 1.3% Asian and 92% white, went for President Obama? As did the entire state of Wisconsin and the state of Michigan, Romney’s original home?
But it wasn’t just the R&R crew (Romney and Ryan). Congressional Republicans were not far behind in uttering their disgust at the changing face of America. Just looking for the first chance to play “gotcha” with the president, sore-losing Republicans John McCain and Lindsay Graham went after his assumed nominee to lead the State Department, Susan Rice.
Now, there seem to be legitimate questions about the qualifications of Ms. Rice for that position, particularly for someone who would follow on the very competent Hillary Clinton and also given the availability of the highly-qualified John Kerry.
It would have been adult to wait for the actual nomination! But no, the point the boys wanted to make was to kick up dust in the president’s face right away. One suspects that seeing their party walloped by a black man for president twice was too much for the good senators.
McCain has long suffered from anger and apparently will never get over his defeat. Why Graham? He comes from South Carolina, the state that only knows how to say “No” — at least to anything that resembles sanity and justice. (I should know, I grew up there.)
Though it ironically doesn’t really seem to be Graham’s nature, for the purpose of voter appeasement, he nevertheless has to muster up some mucho macho moments to pick a fight. That is in keeping with the traditions of the boys at the Citadel who started the Civil War by firing the first shots on Fort Sumter. South Carolina’s boys seem hardwired for that behavior.
Which brings us to David Petraeus, the retired Army general and CIA director. Oh my, the opinions are going back and forth. It’s no longer just about his affair, but also his perks! And the perks of many a general in the U.S. military. Apparently, they live the life of Riley.
Robert Gates, the bipartisan, highly-esteemed former secretary of defense, provided a vivid testimony to the Washington Post noting the 1%-class perks — chefs, drivers, gardeners — of the military brass.
Petraeus was not shy in availing himself of such perks. In fact, he went all in, including tootling around Tampa with a 28-motorcycle police escort to visit socialite Jill Kelley.
Such, apparently, are the stringent requirements of providing homeland security. Not surprisingly, many retired generals rushed to Petraeus’s defense by pointing out that active-duty generals often work “18-hour days, six to seven days a week”!
Poor things! They work long days, just like the doctors and lawyers of the hard-earned upper and upper-middle classes. And just like so many working and lower class people who hold down two to three jobs per family — none of whom have such perks!
But the real problem goes deeper. As Lucian K. Truscott IV wrote in the New York Times, Petraeus, unlike those generals of yesteryear who actually won wars because that’s how they rightly understood their orders, mainly excelled by being “very, very clever,” not least in stoking his image.
As Truscott explained: “The problem was that he hadn’t led his own Army to win anything even approximating a victory in either Iraq or Afghanistan,” leaving him as one of the “imitation generals who pretend to greatness on talk shows and photo spreads, jetting around the world in military-spec business jets.”
Perhaps Move On was prescient long ago in calling him “BetrayUS.” It’s not just that he had an affair. Rather, he excelled in representing the military-industrial complex gone awry, just as President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a general himself, had warned would happen.
For that self-revelation, though, Move On might award Petraeus its newly created “Inadvertent, But Potent Truth Teller of the Year” award.
Regarding those hard-working people of all classes, especially those minority groups and women, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. Political cartoonist Clay Bennett of the Chattanooga Times Free Press pictured a rich man in his easy chair watching the election returns, his eyes popping and his mouth bent in a big frown.
Surrounding him were his maid dusting the furniture and his butler pouring him wine. Another maid was carrying clothes up the stairs, and a chef stuck his head out of the kitchen door to check on the results — all of them with big smiles on their faces, in sharp contrast to their boss’s, um, job creator’s.
A week later, the Washington Post, which had also featured the cartoon, ran a reader comment box titled “A cartoon hits a nerve.” Indeed, two men from the Washington metro area took umbrage at the drawing as evidence of “class-warfare” and repeated the “he’s providing jobs” mantra.
The only answer to these two gentlemen is that, to paraphrase New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Obama got the most votes — it’s called majority rule. A democracy is not a game where everyone will have a smile on their face after an election, as one of the two readers postulated.
He certainly wouldn’t expect that from a football game. There, invariably one team is going to be victorious and the other defeated. Time to grow up, boys. As a first step, at least be as mature about elections as about football.
Just last week, the nation’s newspapers reported on the president’s reception in the White House for the U.S. Olympic team’s women gymnasts. The Washington Post carried a huge photo of two of the young women on its front page, above the fold.
One woman was black, the other white, their clothes and hair blown by the president’s helicopter as they watched him take off after meeting with them. “Balanced and beaming,” the caption read. Their smiles — not so much for the president as for the country — are worth gold.
Further down on the paper’s front page was a picture of Paula Broadwell — tough, determined, misguidedly ambitious — watching a hearing on the nomination of General Petraeus as CIA director.
As an American woman well beyond the age of the gymnasts and also past Broadwell’s, I am weary of the latter. And I am excited about the former: the diversity and the joy of true, earned accomplishment.
That is what the minorities, women and youth of America want. The boys will not be able to stand in their way.
While reflexively raising the national flag at every turn, they don't realize that the more global the United States becomes, the more it changes — for the good.
The rules are changing for everyone and for the historic, distinctly patrician conception of American government as well.
How is it that Paul Ryan's own hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, with a constituency that is 92% white, went for President Obama?
Obama got the most votes — it's called majority rule. A democracy is not a game where everyone will have a smile on their face after an election.