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How the Mitt Romney video killed the American Dream

Once, everyone believed they could succeed by hard work and gumption. Republicans no longer pretend to believe the myth

Naomi Wolf
guardian.co.uk, Friday 21 September 2012

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US elections 2012
How the Mitt Romney video killed the American Dream

Once, everyone believed they could succeed by hard work and gumption. Republicans no longer pretend to believe the myth

• Is it time to rethink the American Dream? Tell us here

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Naomi Wolf
guardian.co.uk, Friday 21 September 2012 12.21 EDT
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Mitt Romney's historic gaffe caught on video – published, with great timing, by the left-leaning Mother Jones magazine – in which he said that his campaign was writing off 47% of American voters since they "depended on government" handouts, was committed in an equally significant manner, as he delivered the remarks to a closed group of potential major donors in Florida. GOP stalwart and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan is calling for an intervention in the campaign, and even some fellow Republicans are scampering to distance themselves from the inflammatory remarks.

But I find the remarks fascinating and important to deconstruct because they affirm – as insider discourse captured for the public often can – the fact that a new kind of narrative for America has taken over from one of our oldest and most cherished national myths. What Romney's comments reveal is that the American Dream is dead, killed off by skepticism from the bottom up – by the 99% of lower-income and middle-class people who no longer believe in it – and by cynicism from the top down – by the 1%, top-earning people who don't believe in it.

What, after all, is the narrative of "the American Dream"? It was a discourse formulated between the 1880s and the 1920s in the United States during the great waves of migration and expansion and reforms of the Progressive Era. Slogans, often used by political leaders who wished to court the aspirational, immigrant vote, invoked a promise that America was "the land of opportunity", where hard work, gumption and a bit of luck could make any poor kid a millionaire.

read more http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/21/mitt-rom...