Mitt Romney’s awkward attempt at humor about his birth certificate yesterday falls into the category of juvenile. I don’t really think he’s a birther; he just pals around with them. And after a week of distraction about abortion and what constitutes “legitimate rape,” why would he want to go off-topic yet again?
Based on how he’s run his campaign so far, he can’t help himself. He makes these stupid little remarks with almost programmed frequency: “Corporations are people, my friend,” “I like firing people,” “I know plenty of NASCAR team owners,” “Ann has a couple of Cadillacs,” and on and on. He wants everyone to know that he’s the entitled rich guy who’s running for president, and he wants to put as much distance as he can between himself and “the other guy.”
Adam Serwer at Mother Jones makes a good point about why Mr. Romney continues to point out his whiteness.
That’s the problem with Romney’s “joke,” too. It falls into a long list of remarks that suggest an emotional myopia based on an extremely sheltered life experience. It comes across as gloating about the fact that, as a rich white man born into a wealthy and powerful family, Romney has rarely been subject to the kind of racist or sexist assumptions that clog the daily lives of millions of Americans. Romney might as well joke that he’s never been mistaken for a waiter in a restaurant or a clerk in a retail store, or that he’s never been selected for extra screening at an airport or randomly told to empty his pockets by the NYPD. The reason Romney doesn’t have to show the country his papers isn’t because everyone knows he was born in Michigan. It’s because whiteness remains unquestionably “American” for some people in a way blackness does not. That should not be a point of pride for Romney; it should be a matter of anger and disappointment.
To give him the benefit of the doubt, I don’t think Mr. Romney does this consciously. It’s not as if he is a card-carrying member of the Klan. But it is symptomatic of how some members of the white upper class see their role in the scheme of things: no one has ever questioned their manifest destiny of being the ruling class. They are endowed by God and The Wall Street Journal to be the ones to make the rules and the money and determine the social order. It’s all well and good to talk about equality and liberty and justice for all, but let’s not get carried away, shall we?
It makes the choice rather clear. Do we want a country that is ruled by the mindset of entitled superiority that believes only the right people should be in charge and that would grudgingly allow those of us who are not as white, not as straight, and not as rich to live in their world; after all, someone has to clean up after the horses. Or do we want to have a country that makes an effort to support all of the people, including those who have been powerless for generations, and gives them the opportunity to be a voice in the nation? That’s not a joke, awkward or otherwise.