‘Mommies and Daddies’: US Republican Politics

With the US election in a matter of weeks, Mitt Romney’s tornado of spin doctors seem ever more desperate to churn out the housewife’s favourite of political metaphors: the family analogy.

Eagle-eyed viewers of the most recent presidential debate may have noticed Romney’s attempt to make it into sound-bite history; ‘an economic crisis at the kitchen table’. An image that disappointingly failed to extend to say, ‘a fiscal deficit on the front lawn’ or ‘inflation in the ensuite shower room’. Of course, this is simply to remind us that even a man who earned $21.7 million dollars in 2010 has a kitchen table, just like us!

It’s a device well-used by politicians the world-over. After all, who wasn’t sick in their mouth the eighteenth time George Osborne carted out the ‘families don’t spend more than they earn, so why should the government’ argument? But that’s for another day.

More serious political observers – okay, anyone who’s watched an episode of the West Wing – might point to a better homespun metaphor in this election: Mommies and Daddies (incidentally, anyone with a low tolerance of gross generalisation and wanton disregard for gender politics should look away now).

George W. Bush’s reign serves as a classic example of the Republicans’ claim to being ‘Daddy’. Crudely put, it was something of a balls-out administration, a potent mix of righteous indignation and armed-to-the-teethedness. Four years on, and Romney is helpfully describing Iranians as ‘crazy people’ and doesn’t know the difference between nuclear weapons and dirty bombs. Daddy’s got hallucinogens and a hand grenade.

Meanwhile, Mommy wants to give you things, like free education and healthcare (especially healthcare). And she wants herself and your dad and your elder brother to pay for this because they have jobs and you don’t. It’s all rather lovely, really.

Admittedly, this is not the most balanced way of putting things. Republican daddies would gladly point out that they advocate sensible management of federal funds. And by sensible, I of course mean spending less. Mommy, would you believe it, has invited the local arsonist society round to have fun with the pile of money that Daddy worked so hard to bring home. And she’s also turned the burglar alarm off and left the front door open because she doesn’t like spending on national defence.

These objections to Mommyism (as I have now coined it) or being-a-Democrat (as the whole of America calls it) are in some ways valid. Yes, running a federal deficit of more than a trillion dollars undermines confidence in the economy. True, Iran and others may pose a threat to America and apple pie.

The problem with Mitt Romney is that he’s not equipped to deal with either of those. Take the federal budget deficit. A key tenet of his fiscal policy is to cut income tax by 20% across the board. Even someone with George Osborne’s understanding of economics knows that tax cuts are not the best way to close a spending gap. Romney knows this too, but unfortunately the only solution he can muster is to ‘close loopholes’ in the current tax system. The independent Tax Policy Center has confirmed that this simply will not add up.

Indeed, the expected cost to the US government of such a move – combined with some other, less far-reaching but equally absurd bright ideas – will be five trillion dollars. If we’re to believe Governor Romney that there are currently enough loopholes in the US tax system to lose five trillion dollars, then clearly the world’s major superpower has been operating under some obscure, sieve-based economic model for the past few decades.

And finally we get to Daddy’s other ‘strong point’: defence. You only need look to the aforementioned Iran-goading of Romney’s enlightened speechwriters to realise Mitt could easily become a threat to national security himself.

It seems then, that of all the crude caricatures Republicans and Democrats would draw of each other, mommies and daddies make the case – in this election at least – for a triumphant Obama in November. After all, Daddy’s forgotten all the things he was supposed to be good at, while Mommy’s holding the purse strings. Let’s just hope the kids have noticed.

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