Copyright © by Len Holman, 6/28/12
As Orwell, Sapir, Whorf, Boroditsky, Confucius, and every politician and corporation have noted before this election, labels are important; language is key. What you call a thing impacts how you act toward it, and how you act toward it impacts what you call it. For example, a “new and improved” product is supposed to catch the customer’s eye and make him say, “Wow! I was gonna buy some other brand, but THIS one says it’s new AND improved…I’LL GET IT!” It may be that the “New and Improved” part of the product is just the label itself, but companies don’t put that stuff on their products just for fun. Those labels help sell their merchandise.
Or take the announcement on TV that your favorite show is coming up and it is “all new.” All new? Would it make sense to watch a show which is only partly new? And if it is partly new, which part is new and which is old? And there’s that interesting phrase Mitt Romney used during the primaries when he decreed that “the market should settle out” and then our economy would feel the might of the “market flow” and…what does that all mean? The most interesting thing about the Romney campaign (so far) is the name of his PAC. The Citizens United case opened the spillway and money poured into the election like peanuts pouring into an elephant, so “Super PACs” (they are not just PACs, they are “Super,” which gives you some idea of the amount of cash being funneled into what will be the most expensive Presidential campaign in history). Romney’s Super PAC is called “Restore Our Future.” This is an amazing name. It means….it represents…well. It’s unclear what is means or represents.
Obama has a “Priorities USA Action” Super Pac. Here we have a stark contrast between an attempt to SAY something about future policy and the direction of America and a vague, backward-causation label which is a code for “Our country is in the grip of socialist-Kenyan-foreign-minded, fascists.” Think about it: how can we “restore” something which hasn’t happened yet, unless we travel in time to get it done? This label is that “all new” type, one which makes no sense. It is a longing to go back to the good old days, when black people didn’t get to be President, when women wore heels in the kitchen while baking chocolate chip cookies, when gay people hung out at seedy bars and kept their heads down, when we could rely on the cops to make them KEEP their heads down, when corporations did as they pleased with little or no oversight, and when “the market” was considered God and e. coli was Latin for “who cares?”
Why isn’t this label “Restore our Past”? Because it’s supposed to imply that our Present is awful and that our future will LOOK like our past. Romney is busy tap dancing around the immigration/DREAM Act question and one would be hard-pressed to discover where, exactly, he stands on the issue. Perhaps he’s waiting for Sen. Rubio to tell him (but first, Sen. Rubio has to EXPLAIN it to him). If he wants to restore the future, he should probably have some idea of the past—not HIS past, but America’s past, when we had a middle class, for instance, when we cared about our sick and helpless, for instance. What’s even more surreal than Romney’s Super PAC label is that anyone even knows (or pretends to know…wink, wink, nudge, nudge) what it means in terms of practical policy issues. He has adopted, in principle, the Ryan Budget—although “in principle” may not be the correct phrase. Does the Ryan budget “restore the future?” Well, it DOES restore the Dickensian scenario of a dirty, smoky urban America, unregulated but for the self-serving view of social and economic elites (who will be one and the same class).
Under the Romney scenario, the future is not moving; it is static, it is regressive; it is the hoped-for present. Has anyone ever wondered why the people with the best health care, the finest perks, the chummiest ties and the juiciest stock tips are the ones who mourn for the rest of us? They publicly mourn our illnesses, our four-hour, no insurance waits in ERs, our broken roads and broken dreams—and purport to ‘fix” it all. Someday. After they finish fighting over America’s carcass and the few strands of meat left. I think it would be a wonderful idea for Romney and Friends to climb into an H.G. Wells machine and go into the future to see what it will look like after The Restoration. They think they know what it WILL look like; they know what they WANT it to look like, and the ones who mindlessly follow the label-carriers will be most of the ones who will suffer the result. Obama has Priorities. Romney has Restoring the Future. So Romney’s vision, if he actually has one, is to go Back To The Future. Except he’s driving his daddy’s Studebaker, not a DeLorean.
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