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Election 2012: Image World (11)

A. D. Coleman, 2010. Photograph copyright by Willie Chu.

Return of the Old Man and the Seat

Apparently Mitt Romney and the Republic Party have adopted a policy of doubling down on each foolish move they make and every untenable position they take in this campaign. How else explain getting Clint Eastwood to make “American Crossroads,” a 30-second spot endorsing Romney, and paying good money to air it widely in the last weeks of the campaign?

Clint Eastwood "Crossroads" ad, 2012, screenshot.

Clint Eastwood “American Crossroads” ad, 2012, screenshot.

Any political juice Eastwood may have had got used up during his embarrassing monologue at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, with him nattering away at an empty chair. Fresh in recent memory, that awkward, interminable visual moment gets evoked de facto rather than erased by this commercial. To what end would the Republicans remind us of that pathetic episode by making and distributing this ad? Does anyone believe that Dirty Harry thereby redeems himself and regains his credibility? To which undecided voters could this ad possibly appeal?

Whatever the outcome of this election, the Republicans’ skills at image management lag far behind those of the Democrats, as each new instance demonstrates.

Big Boss Man

National Federation of Independent Business logoIn These Times recently called attention to the audio of a June 6, 2012 conference call with Mitt Romney speaking to members of the right-wing National Federation of Independent Business. See Mike Elk’s October 17 report, “In Conference Call, Romney Urged Businesses To Tell Their Employees How to Vote.” Elk concludes, “The conference call raises troubling questions about what appears to be a growing wave of workplace political pressure unleashed by Citizens United.” (For another example of attempted employer intimidation of workers into campaigning and voting for Romney, click here.)

This advisory from Romney on bullyboy tactics for business owners to use in pushing workers to support him came just three weeks after his now-infamous May 17 “47 percent” talk to supperrich donors in Florida, secretly recorded and released last month. (See also Lisa Miller’s September 20 Washington Post article, “Mitt Romney’s hard-hearted twist on the Mormon work ethic.”) Time for the poor and the working class to put these oligarchs in their places. I’m reminded of the Jimmy Reed blues, “Big Boss Man,” with its refrain: “You ain’t so big — you just tall, that’s all.”

Republicans, Rape, and Abortion

Todd Akin, courtesy U.S. House of Representatives.

Todd Akin, courtesy U.S. House of Representatives.

Todd Akin, Republican member of the United States House of Representatives and candidate in the 2012 U.S. Senate elections in Missouri, has stated, “I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.” He therefore believes that in the case of conception resulting from rape, including incestuous rape, the government should compel the rape victim to bring that pregnancy to term — even if it kills her (because he rejects abortion even if necessary to save the life of the mother).

Richard Mourdock, official portrait.

Richard Mourdock, official portrait.

Richard Mourdock, Indiana Senate candidate, has claimed that pregnancies resulting from rape are “something that God intended to happen.” He therefore believes that in the case of conception resulting from rape, including incestuous rape, the government should compel the rape victim to bring that pregnancy to term — even if it kills her (because he rejects abortion even if necessary to save the life of the mother).

Paul Ryan, Republican Congressman from Wisconsin and Republican cadidate for the vice-presidency, considers rape “a method of conception.” He therefore believes that in the case of conception resulting from rape, including incestuous rape, the government should compel the rape victim to bring that pregnancy to term — even if it kills her (because he rejects abortion even if necessary to save the life of the mother).

Paul Ryan, official portrait.

Paul Ryan, official portrait.

Mitt Romney, who just days ago endorsed Mourdock, has energetically distanced himself from the positions of Akin and Mourdock, claiming that he supports abortion in the case of rape. But he has reiterated his support for Mourdock, and has embraced Ryan as his running mate while saying nothing about Ryan’s position on this subject. Expediency, thy nickname is Mittens. Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee stands by Mourdock.

These flag-waving, Bible-thumping madmen want to shrink government down to the size where they can fit it into every woman’s uterus. They insist women should accept their theology — that a child conceived via rape is “a gift from God” (Mourdock’s phrase) rather than, say, the spawn of Satan — because male sperm is holy and male potency, in any form, merits reverence. The recurrent visual image of middle-aged white male Republicans telling women that, if raped and impregnated by a man, they should grin and bear it (or, more precisely, thank God for that “gift” and bring it to term at the risk of their lives), can’t possibly help them woo the women voters they so desperately need.

This deranged belief is in fact embedded deep in the official platform of the Republic Party (see p. 14). Despite that, Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s senior campaign adviser, described issues related to women’s reproductive rights (abortion and contraception) as “shiny objects” used by Democrats to distract voters from the “real” issues in 2012. “This is not a social issue election,” Fehrnstrom claims. Yet the election of Romney would put a man who shares the rigid convictions of Akin and Mourdock a heartbeat away from the presidency. Women, take note — and vote accordingly.

Come to the YMCA

The imagery emerging from the Republican side of this 2012 presidential election just gets more and more weird. I perceive a consistent, indeed pervasive ineptitude at image management, resulting from a fundamental unawareness of how images get read, and disseminated, and critiqued, in the digital environment.

Consider the Paul Ryan workout photos made by Gregg Segal for TIME magazine. Produced at a gym in Janesville, WI in December 2011 — long before his nomination as the Republican vice-presidential candidate — they show Ryan demonstrating his strenuous P90X workout technique against a backdrop of seamless paper, with studio lighting added. One of them is featured in the Oct. 22, 2012, issue of TIME. Click here for a portfolio of five of these at TIME‘s website.

Paul Ryan pumping iron, December 2011. Photo by Gregg Segal. Screenshot 10-20-12.
Paul Ryan pumping iron, December 2011. Photo by Gregg Segal. Screenshot 10-20-12.

I’ve yet to see anything remotely resembling the much-ballyhooed “rock star” aspect of Ryan. But this image does demonstrate that he’s got that aging fratboy-jock look down cold. Perhaps I’m not alone in finding this recent image of a man who could end up in the Oval Office vaguely unnerving.

They All Look Alike

My mother came from a small West Virginia town called Elkins, so I’m just one generation away from the farm. Which gives a certain personal edge to the news that the National Republican Senatorial Committee did its casting call for an ad aimed at West Virginians and called “Stop Obama” in Philadelphia, where it also shot the ad, which began airing on October 7.

"Stop Obama" ad, 2012, screenshot.

“Stop Obama” ad, 2012, screenshot.

The ad attacks incumbent West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, by associating him with Obama. For this purpose its mini-scenario involves a conversation among three middle-aged men at a restaurant counter. The casting call read, “We are going for a ‘Hicky’ Blue Collar look. These characters are from West Virginia so think coal miner/trucker looks.”

Politico.com logoAccording to Mike Allen’s report at Politico.com, “‘Clothing Suggestions’ included jeans, work boots, flannel shirt, denim shirt, ‘Dickie’s type jacket with t-shirt underneath,’ down-filled vest, ‘John Deer [sic] hats (not brand new, preferably beat up),’ ‘trucker hats (not brand new, preferably beat up).’” In short, nothing that could be construed as trafficking in blatant stereotypes.

National Republican Senatorial Committee logoThe 30-second ad was shot at the Oregon Diner in Philadelphia. Apparently the National Republican Senatorial Committee believes that West Virginia has no actors, directors, or camera crew qualified to make such an ad, or competent to do so. Moreover, apparently West Virginia has no actors who can convincingly play the roles of working-class West Virginians in a diner, requiring the substitution of Philadelphians (noted for their thespian range) to imitate old-timers from Pennsylvania’s southern neighbor.

Asked about the peculiarity of outsourcing the work involved in producing an ad aimed at West Virginians, West Virginia state GOP Chairman Mike Stuart said, “At the end of the day I’m just real proud of that ad . . . I’ve got to say, those folks sitting in that diner, they look like West Virginians to me.” Be that as it may, the ensuing uproar forced the NRSC to pull the ad while wiping egg off their faces at the same time.

There’s an historic line connecting West Virginia’s seceding from Virginia during the Civil War to the election of the nation’s first Black president. The Republic Party, there when that line began, now rejects its logical destination.

For an index of links to all posts related to this story, click here.

This post supported by a donation from the Estate of Lyle Bongé.

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