So as I was walking to my office through my older, close-to-campus (and therefore thoroughly Democratic-leaning) neighborhood in my otherwise Republican-leaning town, I was struck by the occasional pro-Romney signs in people’s yards. They stood out like sore thumbs—just as pro-Obama signs stand out in the newer, east side neighborhoods filled with State Farm employees and their families. (State Farm is headquartered here.)
One Romney sign hit me in particular: “Mitt Romney,” it said. “Believe in America.”
So, apparently, if I vote for Romney I “believe in America.” By extension, then, were I to vote for Obama, I apparently would not “believe in America.”
Of course, America isn’t really a mythic concept. One doesn’t have to “believe” in it. It exists. And I have proof! I have gotten on airplanes in foreign countries and landed in some place calling itself the “United States” into which I was allowed entrance only after showing a blue passport stamped “United States of America.” I pay taxes and display an “American” flag on the appropriate holidays (or whenever the hell I want to, like Bastille Day). I have an American accent with a Southern tinge and am a sucker for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s A Wonderful Life and Star Trek. London and the UK began to annoy me with their damned nanny state … I’ve never so felt the pull of being “American” as I did living elsewhere for an extended period. “Just leave me alone!,” I wanted to scream. America is real.
I know, of course, that that’s not what the Romney sign is about. Romney is trying to evoke the notion that to vote Romney is to reinvigorate a once-great America now being eroded by Obama’s statist repression. To vote Romney is to imagine a future better than the now … to believe in the mythical America where Congress, and the filibuster, and interest groups, and political and social divisions don’t really exist and everyone cooperates to “do the right thing.”
Then again, maybe Romney just means what he once said: ”I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.” Belief is the alpha and the omega.
Who knows? It could work. All ya gotta do is believe.