Aaahhh, the 1950s and early 1960s…those halcyon days when America stood almost unchallenged as the most powerful and richest nation on earth. When the nation’s Republican Party stood for common sense and moderation, and served as the LOYAL opposion to a solid Democratic Party majority in Congress. When the Democtatic Party itself was truly progressive, and fought hard for its union members and for fairer wages and better working conditions for all. When men ruled the roost (or thought they did) and most women stayed home, raising the kids, cooking meals, doing the laundry and darning socks as needed. When TV shows like Father Knows Best were wildly popular, and provided solid role models for their viewers to emulate. Such were the idyllic and mythical times many of us middle class whites grew up in. We were blind to many of the civil rights and economic abuses then prevalent, as this was an era of steadily rising incomes for most and the nation was definitely moving upward. Our aspirations then were simply to make good money, buy a home, and repeat the cycle by eventually having our own families and amply providing for them. The future looked rosy and secure.
We found out later in the decade of the 1960s that this image of the country was very flawed – that most families didn’t live the perfect suburban lives as were portrayed by the Andersons on Father Knows Best or the Cleavers on Leave It To Beaver. We found out that there was massive racial and cultural discrimination which permeated this country; that womens’ rights were being abused and they were being economically exploited at the few jobs they did hold. We found that our prosperity was largely dependent on and resulted from the exploitation of poorer peoples all across the globe. And so we liberals, progressives, and moderates alike, all rose to the occasion and passed laws to benefit the oppressed and to forbid foreign intrigues and proxy wars of aggression. This great era of liberal politics in America wrought many needed and beneficial changes, especially in individual and civil rights, and permanently altered tthe political landscape here for the better.
George Romney, the father of de facto 2012 Republican nominee for President, Mitt Romney, fit the 1950s image of the successful American father figure. As president of American Motors and later as Republican governor of Michigan, he was wealthy and a strong leader. He boldly supported major civil rights legislation in the 1960s. While periodically critical of labor unions, he nonetheless supported their right to exist and even spoke out against anti-union laws, saying in 1962 “I am opposed to right-to-work laws…” While CEO at American Motors, he led 24 other corporate executives there to cut their own salaries by as much as 35%! As governor, he even raised taxes to help balance his state’s budget, sponsored a minimum wage law, and pushed for expanded unemployment compensation. These were, of course, actions no modern day reactionary Republican or Tea Party extremist would condone.
George Romney even marched in solidarity with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on one occasion, and fought for open housing legislation. He was truly a man who stood up for and fought for his convictions; who clearly and unequivocally stated his real beliefs and stances on issues; and who straightforwardly did what he believed was right for all people, without regard for strict ideology. He rarely, if ever, contradicted himself, and certainly didn’t fish for votes by offering pandering and multiple choice stands on topics, as his son Mitt has constantly done his entire political life.
For 1968, there was talk of having Ceorge Romney run for President on the Republican Party ticket. But the straight-talking moderate Romney’s campaign was derailed by the cynically-conceived and deftly execured “Southern Strategy” of the eventual winner, Dick Nixon. By talking tough and conservative to anxious white southern voters who had formerly voted solidly Democratic but were by then angered at the Democrats’ solid push for civil rights, and especially in using the acid-tongued conservative-sounding running mate Spiro Agnew as an attack dog, Nixon was able to appear conservative to southern whites while posing as a gentler, more reasoned centrist to the rest of the country. It was a shrewd gamble, but one that worked. It not only deprived rivals Romney and Nelson Rockefeller of the GOP nomination, it also narrowly propelled Nixon into the White House. Now it appears that Mitt Romney is attempting to copy that Nixonian strategy of starting far to the right, talking in their current lingo about “free market” economics and tax cuts for “jobs creators”, and then gradually and sneakily moving more to the center. In the process, Mitt is proving he has abandoned his father’s solid vision and principles, and has absolutely nothing new or valid to offer this country in 2012 or beyond.
Yes, when it came to the Romney family, at least, it is clear that Father Knew Best. He knew that labor and minorities were both more than deserving of a seat at the American economic and cultural table. Mitt Romney: we knew your father George, and he was a sincere and principled man who was a true and reliable friend to millions. You, sir, are no George Romney!