I heard Mitt Romney’s tepid and unremarkable foreign policy speech, which had a lot of posturing but no substance, on Tuesday. I was taken aback when he said, “I will leave Reno…
I heard Mitt Romney’s tepid and unremarkable foreign policy speech, which had a lot of posturing but no substance, on Tuesday. I was taken aback when he said, “I will leave Reno this evening on a trip abroad that will take me to England…”
Well, I thought, the other parts of the United Kingdom– Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland– are going to be miffed that he only came to see the English. People in the UK are still probably not entirely used to being called Britons, but most would prefer that to English where that is not what they are.
Well, I thought, despite his country club existence, Romney is not a man of the world, and it is a common error. But now I have to wonder whether he really intended to say he was going to visit the English, i.e. what his circles think of as the Anglo-Saxons.
John Swain of the Telegraph reports a discussion with “Romney advisers” about Romney’s visit to the United Kingdom.
“advisers told The Daily Telegraph that he would abandon Mr Obama’s “Left-wing” coolness towards London.”
Actually there is simply no coolness between the Obama administration and the Conservative government of David Cameron.
In fact, the two are so tight that the tabloid Daily Mail ran a headline, “Special relationship? That looks more like a bromance!” I think we actually would not want the two having more of a special relationship than that.
Because US high politics skews so far right, the British so-called ‘Conservatives’ are often to the left of the US Democratic Party. If there were tensions, it certainly would not be because Obama is to the left of Cameron on most issues! Cameron wanted, like Canada, to get out of Afghanistan much before the 2014 date proposed by Obama. Cameron is not happy about having to extradite British citizens to the US for things like copyright violations on the internet.
But simply inaccurately portraying the Obama-Cameron relationship and falsely asserting that Obama is a far leftist would only be par for the mendacious course of the GOP political campaign.
It was what came next that shocked the world on Tuesday. Swain writes:
In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.
“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”.
I really dislike Nazi references. They are for the most part a sign of sloppy thinking, and a form of banal hyperbole. But there just is no other way to characterize invoking the Anglo-Saxon race as a basis for a foreign policy relationship, and openly saying that those of a different race cannot understand the need for such ties. It is a Nazi sentiment.
If you would like some evidence for what I say, consider Adolf Hitler’s own point of view:
For a long time yet to come there will be only two Powers in Europe with which it may be possible for Germany to conclude an alliance. These Powers are Great Britain and Italy.”
Of the two possible allies, Hitler much preferred Britain because he considered it higher on his absurd and pernicious racial hierarchy. Indeed, Hitler held Mussolini a bit at arms length while hoping for a British change of heart, a hope only decisively dashed in September, 1939, when Britain declared war.
Hitler complained that colonialism was in danger of diluting Aryan European strength, weighing down the metropole powers. He contrasted this situation with that of the white United States, blessedly possessing its “own continent.” Indeed, it is, he argued (genocidal crackpot that he was), Britain’s special relationship with the Anglo-Saxon-dominated United states that kept it from being overwhelmed by its subhuman colonials:
“we we too easily forget the Anglo-Saxon world as such. The position of England, if only because of her linguistic and cultural bond with the American Union, can be compared to no other state in Europe.”
The argument of Romney’s advisers has exactly the same shape as Hitler’s, only it is being made from the American point of view rather than the European.
And, if we had a Jewish president at the moment, couldn’t the Romney camp make exactly the same argument, that the person didn’t appreciate the importance of the Anglo-Saxon heritage and ties? Is this really the discourse you want to engage in just before you arrive in Israel?
Romney has to find out who told Swain these things, and fire them. He has to publicly disavow these racist sentiments. They pose the danger for him of raising again the question of his own attitude to African-Americans as a young man in the 1970s before the Mormon church stopped discriminating against them on the grounds that they bore the mark of Cain.
Beyond the distasteful resemblances of this white supremacist discourse to the worst forms of rightwing extremism, the allegation astonishingly neglects to take account of who Barack Obama is.
Obama’s maternal grandfather, Stanley Armour Dunham, had English ancestry (among others), and some genealogists trace him back to the Earl of Norwich, who was a surety baron of the Magna Carta. Moreover, Stanley Dunham served in the US military in London and then on the continent during World War II, and was involved in saving Britain from Nazi Germany. You’d think that would be a basis for pretty warm feelings. And remember, it was Stanley Dunham who actually raised Barack Obama; he did not know his father.
In contrast, the Romney clan’s only practical relationship to Britain aside from ancestry was trying to convince Scots in Edinburgh in the 1920s to give up alcohol and caffeine and become Mormons. Aside from explosive mirth, I don’t know what other emotion that record might evoke among English Anglicans of the sort Romney appears to want to rub up against, but it certainly would not be warmth.
Finally, it is worth pointing out that the whole idea of “Anglo-Saxon” England is a myth. Historical geneticist Bryan Sykes has found in hisSaxons, Vikings and Celts that the genetic mix in England is not for the most part different from that in Wales and Scotland and Ireland. There are, here and there, signs of Norse or German (Angles and Saxons) settlement, but they are minor and have to be looked for and are mainly in the y chromosome markers, i.e. on the male side of inheritance. The women are virtually all “Celts.”
But even “Celts” are a historical construct as a matter of “race.” In his Seven Daughters of Eve, Sykes had found that almost all Europeans are descended from only seven women who lived sometime in the past 45,000 years, one of them from the Middle East. These seven haplotypes or genetic patterns show up in all European populations, including the Basque (in the mitochondria, the power plant of the cell, which is passed on through females and does not change in each generation).
There simply are no distinctive “races” in Europe.
England had a Celtic myth of origins, centered on the fable of Arthur Pendragon, for centuries. It was only with the rise of Aryan racial theory in the mid-nineteenth-century that significant numbers of English authors started locating their national genealogy in the Anglo-Saxons. Most people have been embarrassed enough by the Nazi experience and the Holocaust to stop ordering the world in the terms of racial affinities and hierarchies.
So too must the Romney circle.