One leftist meme that I first heard this election year, but apparently goes back at least to 2008, is the racism inherent in observing — or merely “dog-whistling” — that Barack Obama is not like most Americans. Obama may have been raised in Indonesia and mentored by radicals upon his return to the United States, but none of that is a legitimate subject for discussion.
On the other hand, “otherizing” (not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s not really a word) is central to Obama’s campaign against Mitt Romney. The centerpiece is Romney’s Mormonism of course, but it’s dangerous to be too overt about that, so they use his vocabulary as stand-in.
The vocabulary line of attack was one of the very first that Obama adopted when Romney became his presumptive opponent:
President Obama is not only starting to cite Mitt Romney by name, he is seeking to link his likely Republican opponent to at least two things. One, the Republican budget developed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Two, the word “marvelous.” . . .
Obama said Romney is “very supportive of this new budget, and he even called it ‘marvelous’ — which is a word you don’t often hear when it comes to describing a budget.”
“It’s a word you don’t often hear generally.”
The New York Times is chiming in with a piece on Romney’s quaint, clean vocabulary. A sample:
At a campaign stop in Rockford, Ill., not long ago, Mitt Romney sought to convey his feelings for his wife, Ann. “Smitten,” he said. . .
It was a classic Mittism, as friends and advisers call the verbal quirks of the Republican presidential candidate. In Romneyspeak, passengers do not get off airplanes, they “disembark.” People do not laugh, they “guffaw.” Criminals do not go to jail, they land in the “big house.” Insults are not hurled, “brickbats” are.
But is his vocabulary really so unusual? Byron York looked into it and found that the New York Times itself likes those same words:
Anyone check frequency with which those words appear in NYT? ‘Smitten’? 707 times in past five years. ‘Guffaw’ 109 times. ‘Brickbat,’ 63.
So all that stuff about vocabulary is really just cover. They’re really just talking about his odd refusal to use profanity, which points directly back to Mormonism.
Now, the left is always fabricating racist connotations out of whole cloth. But we can be sure I’m committing the same error here — drawing a connection to Romney’s religion that isn’t there — because they make it explicit:
His Mormon faith frowns on salty language, and so does he. A man of relentless self-discipline, he made clear to lawmakers in Boston and colleagues in business that even in matters of vocabulary, he “held himself to a high standard of behavior.”
In the end, it’s a strange line of attack. There’s a lot wrong with Mormonism, theologically speaking, but attacking Mormons’ commitment to personal morality is fundamentally wrong-headed. More than that, it’s telling. The Democratic ticket has lately been flaunting their vulgarity, and clearly they think America is with them.