By Nick Desideri, Columnist
Not even the 2008 election offered as many inane quips, fanciful policies, or fact-free stump speeches as the 2012 election season.
Among the things we’ve been told in 2012: college is “snobbish,” Mexicans should be tracked the same way FedEx tracks packages, and women’s bodies are futuristic rape-thwarting machines.
But among all the surrealism, one person emerges as the Salvador Dali, the one person who can tie all the crazy together in one skillfully crafted masterpiece. And that person is Ann Romney.
Romney seems like an incredibly likable person. Her speech at the Republican National Convention came off as warm, inviting, and certainly more genuine than Rick Santorum’s crocodile tears. Her struggles with Multiple Sclerosis and breast cancer deserve nothing but admiration.
But on a political level, Romney personifies the worst tendencies of today’s GOP.
Romney’s first trial by fire occurred back in April, when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen asserted “Ann Romney has never worked a day in her life.” Immediately accused of inciting more “mommy wars” and demeaning stay-at-home moms, Rosen apologized.
While Rosen should have chosen her words more carefully, the spirit behind them remains true. If her husband wins the White House, Ann Romney will be the only first lady since Mamie Eisenhower to stay at home in an age when 70 percent of moms find professional employment.
But the real problem arises when the Romney campaign, as the Christian Science Monitor states, is “…presenting Ann Romney as an expert on the economic concerns of women” despite the fact she has no such experience.
Perhaps Romney does believe that she can sympathize with middle-class working mothers. She did famously note that despite immense financial assets, she has felt “poor in spirit.” But I doubt Romney’s upper-class melancholia will take the sting out of living paycheck to paycheck for thousands of families juggling work, debt, and home life.
The condescension continues into the healthcare debate. Since her MS diagnosis in 1998, Romney has championed charities to help fight the disease.
One small problem: the GOP’s plan to repeal Obama’s national healthcare law would be a major blow to those who suffer from MS.
“To do a wholesale repeal would be a real setback,” the MS Society’s vice president of federal government relations Ted Thompson said to the Huffington Post. “[It] is a very expensive disease to have, unlike cancer, where you either get cured or pass away.”
He notes that the average MS sufferer spends roughly $70,000 per year on treatment.
Since her husband’s net worth is probably equivalent to the GDP of a small country, Romney’s treatment was a drop in the bucket. Yet, Romney pretends that she lives in the average American’s financial world.
Does she understand the horror of MS? Yes. But while she holds charity balls and fundraisers to pretend like she’s doing something, she’s actually helping further her husband’s campaign to implicitly throw thousands of MS sufferers into poverty.
Romney represents an inability to live in the common reality. She acknowledges the importance of her work in her gilded house, but still feels the need to dispense economic advice to mothers who don’t work at home. She pushes for policies that would destroy the people with whom she supposedly empathizes.
How is her position different from men who want to legislate women’s bodies when they aren’t quite sure how a uterus works?
The validity of such willfully-ignorant opinions is called into question when one refuses to understand a reality other than his or her own. The modern GOP has constructed an alternate reality where ideology trumps facts and experience.
In the Republican reality, for example, MS suffers don’t need government help to pay their exorbitant bills. In fact, if they’re whining about needing government help, the logic goes, they probably just need a speech about picking themselves up by their bootstraps.
Romney personifies the idea that those suffering are the least qualified to find solutions to their own problems. And that individuals who have no experience are the most qualified to prescribe them.