Recognizing Republican Candidates as Retro Replicas: Part 1, Perry and Romney

Candidates Huntsman, Cain, Bachman, Romney, Perry, Paul, Gingrich, Santorum

If you include the two still-not-running candidates, there’s eleven Republicans vying for their party’s 2012 presidential nomination and making their case on unemployment, economic instability, banking reform, trade, terrorism, wars, foreign affairs, abortion, infrastructure, education, global warning, gay equality, immigration – to name the top dozen topics. With barely a minute to make their case in debates and even their soundbites reduced to a Twitter feed, it’s no wonder the media presents them as Personas.  Judging them as pageant personalities shortchanges the public, but this “American Idol” with consequence also engages  popular imagination long enough to draw primary voters to the polls. As John F. Kennedy once said of voters, “Emotions move people more than facts.”  Of course, ever since the 19th Century’s born-in-a-log-cabin myth proved an appealing vote-getter, Candidates have cast themselves into familiar political archetypes, be it working-class Joe Sixpack, brash Cowboy, measured Attorney,  bright Aristocrat, war-wise Military Hero and every amalgam in between. They convey their image not just by what they say and do, but how they sound and look when they say and do it.  A moving tale of their mythologized selves or a gesture making the day’s lead photo-op across the Internet grabs supporters and critics  faster than a budget. At first, Democratic and Republican candidates sold themselves as the “new” Jackson and Lincoln, then it was  Franklin Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt.  More recently, its been JFK and Reagan. Here instead is an off-script match of the  Republican Presidential Candidates and the not-always-monumental Presidents and candidates whose Personas that seem to more naturally fit:

Texas Governor Rick Perry and Democratic candidate Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964

Lone Star Cowboy

Do Mess With Texas An Anti-LBJ Pro-Goldwater Greeting Card from the 1964 campaign season

This year’s Lone Star Cowboy model got a big ole grin, expansive arm movements, and some rising questions about a troubling little land deal here and there, not unlike those asked about LBJ’s media holdings. And more than a touch of bravado –  like Perry brandishing a rifle or LBJ lifting his beagles by the ear, backfires into buffoonery. Perhaps rather than implicit proof of his attitude towards minorities, the revelation of a racial epitaph having long been left uncovered for all to read on Perry’s family property may be more a matter of the viral nature of online media coverage.  Back in the day of LBJ, the very same President who fought Southerners and insisted on passage of the Civil Rights Act used the same “N” word without it leaking out – until the recent release of its use in one of his recorded private phone calls.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Republican Party Tom Dewey, 1948

Efficiently Cautious Northeast Governor

Dewey parsed such vague views he was hit like Mitt with the flip-flop label.

Neither rising nor falling among the pack, Romney’s failure to win the ’08 nomination  fuels his ’12 caution much like nominee Dewey’s election loss in ’44 led to his excessive modulation, and thus loss in ’48. Mitt warning: Dewey’s  honorable refusal to mudsling soured right-wing enthusiasm for him. In a sense, it comes down to a matter of being too Presidential before being elected President. Striving to maintain a balance between extremes, Dewey managed to attack Communists and promise to ferret them out, while also protecting their right to exist, drawing the support of nobody except perhaps the most doggedly pro-contradiction:

Next: Michele Bachman, Ron Paul and Herman Cain

Categories: Presidents

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5 replies »

  1. You know Carl, I like the way you juxterpose the past with the present, Republicans of today with Democrats with yesterday. It works. It really does kind of make the whole process seem like “the same old, same old” while at the same time making it all seem a bit funny. Thanks for brightening my day.

    • As always Lisa, your responses give me the brightened day – thank you for reading these closely. Actually, as you might know, I am an Independent and don’t always perceive the candidates as political party tools – as hard as they all try to be that – but rather to seek to uncover the elements of their human nature, their personal experiences and background which shape their view of themselves and what they’re trying to do for the country. I may not agree or even intensely disagree and dislike what they say they want to do, but I do always try to understand why political figures – and all people – think, behave, say what they do, and the choices they make. And that said, I honestly had no intention of pairing Democrats with the Republicans, although as you’ll see with the three forthcoming parts of this series, it seems to balance out that way.

  2. I’d be interested in your opinion of the comparison (or differences) between Romneys, father and son.

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