I was in Boston last week attending a journalism conference, when I heard that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, would be embarking on a six-state bus tour and stopping to host an ice cream social in nearby Milford, New Hampshire. Political junkie that I am, I borrowed a friend's car to take a mini-road trip there. An hour and a half later, I found myself in the quaint town square--well in this case, oval--the Milford Oval. Let's hope Romney's choice of forum is not foreboding of the presidential place of the same shape.
I knew I was headed in the right direction as I was greeted by Romney signs lining either side of the road, and a staggeringly long line of SUVs. As I approached the nexus of action, I met an older lady and Obama supporter, Nan Stearns, who, thinking I was playing for the other team, promptly gave me the stink eye. Upon engaging Nan about her political allegiance and helping her to cross the street, she learned that I was not the enemy. Nan founded a local grassroots political group called WMD, which stands for Women Making a Difference. She likes to call it a 'grass-seed' group, in a gesture of humility, but I think she is pretty heroic for taking civic action. Nan told me that WMD and other Obama activists would be marching around the oval when Romney took the stage, but that did not come to pass with traffic and security blockades.
Ticket in hand, I waited in the long line into the enclosed event. Shortly thereafter I was interviewed by a shtick reporter representing the Mr. 1% campaign for MoveOn.org. This crew would later be driving an SUV emblazoned with Mr. 1% signage and carrying a large fake dog tied to the roof. (The Seamus meme will never die!) The SUV followed a Romney campaign truck around the oval in tit-for-tat fashion.
Secret security was abundant, encircling the gated-off park. An old-timey horn band played and three different flavors of ice cream were served as the crowd of mostly Republican voters anxiously awaited the appearance of Mitt Romney. You could have one scoop of chocolate, vanilla, or chocolate chip, and it certainly was delicious in the midday heat. The crowd had already converged on the prime vantage points for the podium, but I was able to make my way to the speaker's entry, and thus could see all the action.
As we awaited the candidate's arrival, a plane flew by overhead with a banner reading "Romney's Every Millionaire Counts Tour." Sometime awhile later a counterpart aircraft advertised something like "Romney for America." The back and forth was certainly comical, but the event would go off without any noticeable hitch from rival activists.
Like any good celebrity, Romney showed up fashionably late, a half hour or so. U.S. Senator from New Hampshire Kelly Ayotte was there to greet the Romneys, and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty introduced them to the crowd. Ann Romney gave a ringing endorsement of her husband and exited the stage. Mitt's speech was his typical fare of pro-business, anti-"European welfare state" rhetoric, though he was very careful not to call President Obama a socialist. Apparently 'European' is the dirty word du jour.
Regardless, when Romney says 'European,' he means 'socialist.' This idea that progressives are socialists for wanting some semblance of regulatory reform on Wall Street and greater health coverage as a civil right is not only wrong, but dangerous to long-term political and social stability. The polarization of the political arena has stymied any hope for progress. I poke fun at him here as an "Ice Cream Socialist" for the sake of the pun, but in truth, Romney is a socialist, too... a corporate socialist.
Stay tuned for next week's post on corporate socialism...