Rick Santorum has been accusing his Republican rival Mitt Romney of being “out of touch” with the folks, unlike Santorum, whose class origins are claimed to connect with the working class, though Santorum has been either an attorney or a politician all his life; moreover his parents were middle class (a clinical psychologist and a nurse; the only claim he has to throbbing in time with coal miners is a brief residence in West Virginia and in Butler County, Pennsylvania, plus a blood connection to his grandfather; i.e., this is blood and soil talk)*.
Count on the Obama re-election campaign to reiterate Santorum’s constant critique of the ostensibly patrician Mitt, contrasting their humble populist candidate with the silver-spoon Romney. The latter’s class origins will make him an enemy to the People. (Indeed, Romney père’s name was dropped on last night’s episode of Mad Men.)
This blog is about the propaganda value of the phrase “out of touch.” Its opposite, being “in touch” is a feel good phrase that rhymes with “connecting” with the [irrational] electorate, a quality that Romney’s enemies will claim he also lacks.
Apart from the focus on the class background of the candidate (a consideration that is irrelevant to the policies proposed by either the Democratic or Republican platforms in 2012), the notion that there is an animal known as “the people” that longs to be petted by its owner is worth considering, especially as the tactic reminds us of the most shameless demagogues in history.
With whom or with what is our next President to be “in touch”? Do we have a Volk, a people’s community in the US? Should El Jefe strive for the appeal of our loving, touching mothers and other objects of desire? Shall we wilt without the ministrations of a parental surrogate, perhaps one who strokes our prejudices, no matter how distorted?
“When you shall see flowers that lie on the plain,
Lying there sighing for one touch of rain;
Then you may borrow,
Some glimpse of my sorrow,
And you’ll understand
How I long for the touch of your hand.”
[Lyrics, Otto Harbach, Music, Jerome Kern (Roberta, 1933). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roberta. Irene Dunne starred in the movie version, 1935]
*[From ABC News, 2-17-12:] “…Both Santorum and Ann Romney began their speeches at the Oakland Park Lincoln Day Dinner here talking about how the hard work of their grandfathers has shaped their lives.
“I talked about my grandfather a lot because he came here to this country and I talk about he worked in the coalmines until he was 72 years old and sort of coal mined his way to freedom,” Santorum said of his grandfather, Pietro Santorum, who came here from Italy during Mussolini’s rise. “But what I didn’t mention, what I failed to mention was when my grandfather first came he actually came to Detroit and worked in the auto factories for two years.”
Santorum then said his grandfather lost his job, returned to Italy and then came back to southwest Pennsylvania to work in the mines.
“And it’s those roots, those roots growing up the grandson of a coalminer, growing up in a steel town in Butler, Pennsylvania, that have forged me as someone who understands the greatness of our country and the importance of the industrial heartland of America,” Santorum said.
Although this was a Party event, Santorum is pushing a working class message he’s hoping will connect with struggling Michiganders — a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country– and has been hit hard by the economic downturn.” [end newspaper excerpt. For a related blog on manipulating an audience see http://clarespark.com/2010/11/18/harvards-alpha-dogs/.)