Recently there’s been a bit of confusion regarding capitalism. Texas Governor Rick Perry called former Gov. Mitt Romney a “vulture capitalist”, while former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich essentially convicted Romney of “looting” and making too much money when he was CEO of Bain Capital, a venture capital investment firm.
Even Gingrich’s supporters –who most likely have Gingrich’s blessing– produced a 30 minute video entitled “King of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came to Town”, making Perry’s analogy of a vulture look downright cute. The film’s melodramatic tone, maudlin music, mysterious sounding narrator and incomplete storytelling make it more of a smear than a fact-based documentary. It is replete with exaggeration and over-the-top writing, repeatedly using words like “greed”, “corporate raider”, “ruthless” and phrases like “the suffering began (dramatic pause) when Mitt Romney came to town.” (Cue the screaming townspeople.)
Thankfully, Gingrich is now calling for his supporters to correct the many mistakes in the film or pull the entire video altogether.
If the video isn’t pulled, one would think Mitt Romney was a twin of Gordon Gekko, the corporate raider portrayed by Michael Douglas in the Oliver Stone film, “Wall Street”.
But Mitt Romney seems to be more Linus Larrabee than Gordon Gekko. Who exactly is Linus Larrabee? Well, he’s the serious, somewhat boring millionaire businessman portrayed by Humphrey Bogart in the 1950s classic film, “Sabrina.” (Later remade with Harrison Ford in 1995.) In it, Audrey Hepburn plays Sabrina, the chauffeur’s daughter, who falls in love the older, less charismatic, but hugely successful and responsible, of the two Larrabee brothers.
Linus tries to explain to his younger, dashing brother, David, why he spends his time building the family business. Puzzled, David asks if he does it for the money:
LINUS LARRABEE: What’s money got to do with it? If making money were all there were to business it’s hardly worthwhile going to the office. Money is a by-product.
DAVID: What’s the main objective? Power?
LINUS: Agh! That’s become a dirty word.
DAVID: Well then, what’s the urge? You’re going into plastics now. What will that prove?
LINUS: Prove? Nothing much. A new product has been found, something of use to the world. So, a new industry moves into an undeveloped area. Factories go up, machines are brough in, a harbor is dug and you’re in business. It’s purely coincidental of course that people who’ve never seen a dime before suddenly have a dollar. And barefooted kids wear shoes and have their teeth fixed and their faces washed. What’s wrong with a kind of an urge that gives people libraries, hospitals, baseball diamonds and movies on a Saturday night?
Former Sen. Rick Santorum might agree with the Romney-Larrabee characterization—at least in one respect. In preparing for the next primary in South Carolina, Santorum is calling Romney “bland and boring.” It all seems a little silly, given the gravity of our $16-trillion debt (and counting), the shredding of our Constitution by Barack Obama’s regulatory appointments without Congressional consent, and so much more.
The need of the hour is for the GOP to explain, as Linus Larrabee did, all the good that capitalism, and a pro-business culture create. If Republicans and Conservatives are to beat Barack Obama, we must control the narrative, because we are in danger of losing it.
Former Gov. Palin reminded us of this after the 2010 midterm elections. In fact, setting the narrative was her #1 priority:
“The first lesson is simple: Set the narrative. This year it wasn’t too difficult to tell the story of the election: It was about stopping an out-of-control Congress and an out-of-touch White House. In races across the country, Republican candidates ran on the message that the Left was bankrupting America with budget-busting spending bills that mortgage our children’s future, burden the private sector with uncertainty, and cripple our much-needed job growth. The story of the next cycle, though, remains to be written. Its content depends on what Republicans do next. Just as in the 1980s, there are today millions of conservative-leaning Democrats and independents who are ready to join our cause. They gave us their votes, now we must earn their trust. And we do that by showing them that a vote for us will not be a vote for the big-spending, over-regulating status quo. The 2012 story should be about conservatives in Congress cutting government down to size and rolling back the spending, and the Left doing everything in its power to prevent these necessary reforms from happening.”
Andrew Breitbart, in his book Righteous Indignation, says that political narratives are shaped by pop culture. He points to how Tina Fey hurt Sarah Palin, and likewise Chevy Chase with Gerald Ford, and Will Ferrell with George Bush.
“The left does not win its battles in debate. It doesn’t have to. In the twenty-first century, media is everything. The left wins because it controls the narrative…Narrative is everything.”
The confusion has grown to the point where even pollster Frank Luntz says “capitalism” is a Karl Marx term, and that the GOP should quickly begin talking instead about “economic freedom” or “free markets.” Rush Limbaugh, however, squashes that advice and states plainly that we should not dumb down the definition of capitalism; capitalism is NOT what produced this economic mess.
The brouhaha over capitalism is an opportunity to intercept the class-warfare missiles Obama, Axelrod and Plouffe will most surely launch this summer. If conservatives grab the narrative now, they will be able to use this as a teachable moment for the masses, thereby extinguishing the flaming arrows of Obama and company. My guess is that they had hoped to use the Occupy Wall Street protests as a launching pad for their class warfare 2012 campaign. But they badly miscalculated how embarrassing the group of socialist protesters would become with their defecating-urinating-disease-crime-ridden behaviors.
Whether Romney is the GOP nominee or not, it is clear he is NOT Gordon Gekko or the “King of Bain” as depicted in the film by Gingrich supporters. Linus Larrabee and the good that capitalism creates must be the narrative that must go forward into South Carolina and beyond.