Saturday October 20, 2012
Absent Fathers, Powerful Fathers
Our two most recent Democratic presidents never knew their fathers. Clinton's father died before he was born while Obama met his father for one extended two-week meeting when he was 10. That was it. Both men were raised by single mothers, grandparents, and stepfathers. Neither came from wealth or power but they raised themselves up to positions of wealth and power. They represent the Horatio Alger aspects of the American dream, which, for most Americans, is just that (a dream), but which they, as leaders, have tried to keep open for as many as possible.
Our most recent Republican president and the current Republican nominee are the scions of wealthy, powerful men. George Romney was the CEO of General Motors, the governor of Michigan and a presidential candidate; George H.W. Bush was a U.S. Representative, director of the CIA, ambassador to China, Vice President of the United States, and then the 41st President of the United States. Both scions had/have father issues. W. probably resented his father too much and Romney probably loved his father too much. Both tried to do what their fathers couldn't or didn't: topple Saddam; become president of the United States.
In other words, the rhetoric that the right tends to use about success in America, bootstraps and all, is best represented by Democrats. The reality, that money and connections help immensely, is best represented by Republicans.
I suppose Obama and Clinton, bootstraps guys, never bought bootstraps rhetoric because, in part, they saw the inequities of the world and knew the pain of absent fathers. That's why they are men of the people. Mitt Romney is a man of the LDS Church and the boardroom. He knew the pain of being the son of a man who might not be reelected governor of Michigan. From Nicholas Lemann's profile in the Oct. 1 New Yorker:
[Romney] recalled watching his father on Election Night in 1964, when George was running for reëlection as governor of Michigan. Lyndon Johnson had won the Presidency by a landslide. “The numbers had come in, and in Michigan Johnson was way ahead of what our pollster, Walter DeVries, had estimated. And Walter DeVries came in. Our family was in a hotel room. He said, ‘George, you probably can’t win. Most likely you’ve lost tonight.’ And I, as a seventeen-year-old, was thinking about how embarrassing it would be to go to school and have your dad having lost as governor...