Bully for You

[Content Note: Bullying; violence; self-harm.]

image of Mitt Romney looking mean to which I have added text reading 'Don't Question Me'

Mitt Romney is a bully.

He tried to bully President Obama and moderator Candy Crowley during the last debate; he successfully bullied President Obama and moderator Jim Lehrer during the first debate; he bullied other Republican candidates during the primary debates; he torched anti-bullying measures when he was a governor; he made his fortune bullying and destroying financially troubled companies; he bullied classmates as a kid.

This morning, I read about more leaked audio of Romney, this time trying to bully business owners into telling their employees to vote for him.

And last night, I read about his son, Tagg Romney, saying he wanted to "take a swing" at President Obama.

Mitt Romney is the patriarch bully of a family of bullies.

Conservatives sure like them some bullies. George W. Bush is a terrible bully. John McCain is a terrible bully. And Mitt Romney is the terriblest of them all.

The US is a bully even under the best of circumstances; when it's run by a bully, our foreign policy is a comprehensive garbage disaster. We pick fights and start wars of choice. It's not good for the world when we elect a bully. And it's not good for us.

We say we want to put a stop to the bullying that plagues schools and drives bullied children to self-harm and suicide. We say we want to put a stop to domestic violence and sexual assault. We say we want to put an end to institutional marginalizations. But then we elect bullies. We ask to lead our nation the very sorts of people who perpetrate those abuses. Unrepentant bullies.

It feels sometimes, a lot of the time, that, ideological details aside, the real divide in this country is between bullies and not-bullies. On one side: Warmongers. On the other side: Diplomats. On one side: People who say things like "Bipartisanship is another name for date rape." On the other: Bipartisanship. On one side: Obstructionism. On the other: Compromise. On one side: Fierce defense of privilege. On the other: Social justice. On one side: Marginalization. On the other: Inclusion.

These lines are not strictly drawn along party lines, nor am I suggesting that every conservative is a bully and every progressive not a bully. These are broad strokes. But they are broad strokes that define two competing visions for what the nature of this country should be. And those visions are strongly correlated with conservatism and progressivism.

Movement conservatives disguise their affinity for bullying behind words like "strength" and "leadership" and "robust defense" and "refusal to capitulate" and "Real America" and "tradition," but it's bullying. All of it. It's a vision of a country that rewards aggression and force and cheating and privilege and noogies.

We can be better than that. We can be a place where cooperation is valued more than might, where kindness is valued more than wealth. We can be a place where rights are not treated like a zero-sum game. We can be a place where those who have a lot maybe have a little less, so that everyone has something. There's so much capacity for goodness in this nation, if only we'd all stop trying to fucking win.

It's the fear of losing, the fear of weakness, that creates this love of bullies. Bullies don't lose! Bullies aren't weak! Republicans play to the basest fears of people whose lives are insecure because of conservative policy (and religious exploitation), and then, having created the terrified, desperate, angry need for a bullying savior, serves one up for election like clockwork, once every four years.

So here we sit, on the precipice of another election, biting our nails and hoping Republican efforts to bully voters don't work, waiting to see if the next four years will be spent under the stewardship of a bully who cares less about the potential of the presidency than the title, who will happily hand over the real business of running the country to whatever cadre of plutocratic bullies he'll drag along with him, while he kicks back and basks in the glow of having won.

We can be better than noogies. We can be better than Mitt Romney.

I hope.

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