As much attention as the Democratic race has been getting already, it seems the Republican race is picking up some steam too. Mitt Romney may be low in the polls but when it comes to the pocketbook he is flying high and we all know how important money is in the race for president.
So now he is starting to take incoming fire. In this case receiving it from Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and fellow presidential candidate, who proverbially removed his glove and gave Romney a gentlemanly slap across his face with it.
For some reason it’s important to ascertain, this of a candidate who famously flipped-flopped on his abortion stance, whether or not Mitt Romney can truly call himself a life-long hunter.
This is what baffles me about politics.
For some reason being a hunter is important.
“I think it was a major mistake,” said Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor. “It would be like me saying I’ve been a lifelong golfer because I played putt-putt when I was 9 years old and I rode in a golf cart a couple of times.”
Really I could care less if one Republican attacks another Republican, especially over so silly a topic as if Romney can be qualified as a “true hunter”. In this case, both gentlemen are fools; one for lying and the other for giving a shit.
But it’s politics. And for some reason every four years politicians feel the need to pull phantom guns out of their past and claim some sort of exalted status as a hunter.
We all remember Kerry in his orange vest getting blasted by the press for looking not “hunterly” enough. Conventional Wisdom states it hurt his campaign. Who knows if Kerry actually lost votes from the “botched” photo-op, but it’s possible. Especially in a state like Ohio.
So, what’s the deal with being a hunter?
Why did Kerry feel the need to portray himself as one? And Romney? And why does Huckabee see gain in tearing down Romney’s claim.
“I think American people are looking for authenticity,” Huckabee added. “Match their record with their rhetoric.”
Sure, Huckabee is disguising his assault, hiding it in terms of “authenticity”, but really he just wants to spread the word that Romney hasn’t killed enough innocent animals in his life to deserve the job as Commander-in-Chief. If he couldn’t protect us from a blood-thirsty, feral deer how could he possibly protect us against terrorists, Iran, and such?
It got me to thinking about the concept of hunting in politics and I decided to go back in time a little to figure out what is really at the bottom of this obsession with hunting.
Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, Jr., (October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919), also known as T.R. and to the public (but never to friends and intimates) as Teddy. According to Roosevelt himself, his last name is pronounced “Ro-sa-velt.” He was the 26th President of the United States, and a leader of the Republican Party and of the Progressive Movement. He served in many roles including Governor of New York, historian, naturalist, explorer, author, and soldier. Roosevelt is most famous for his personality: his energy, his vast range of interests and achievements, his model of masculinity, and his “cowboy” persona.
Teddy was the consummate tough guy president. He hunted. He was a soldier. He rode a horse. He had a mustache. But he was also a historian, a nature-lover, and a conservationist. He may have started out a Republican, but he was a progressive at heart, and if he was around today I’d be tempted to pull the lever for the Bull-Moose ticket.
100 years ago I could see the love affair with a man like Roosevelt. The country was still unsettled in parts of the West and the wild idea that politics was another form of adventure, instead of a pragmatic scheme for the benefit of the whole, might have seemed more apt back then, reasonable even. Teddy was a real-life cowboy, not like all-hat-and-no-cattle W. It was a vastly different time, we were still settling vast lands and many people probably hunted for survival back then. Needless to say, much, much more than now. To a young country that literally shot our way coast to coast to gain the lands we were now civilizing, a hunter-type personality symbolized the pioneering spirit, manifest-destiny wrapped up in a musket, and it’s reasonable to see why the country adopted that spirit.
But do we really still need Daniel Boone up in the White House? Why is that idea still stuck in our national conscious?
Maybe it has something to do with our history?
So I went a little further back in my time machine. To the beginning of Americanism. At least the critical analysis of such.
The uniquely American mores and opinions, Tocqueville argued, lay in the origins of American society and derived from the peculiar social conditions that had welcomed colonists in prior centuries. Unlike Europe, venturers to America found a vast expanse of open land. Any and all who arrived could own their own land and cultivate an independent life. Sparse elites and a number of landed aristocrats existed, but, according to Tocqueville, these few stood no chance against the rapidly developing values bred by such vast land ownership. With such an open society, layered with so much opportunity, men of all sorts began working their way up in the world: industriousness became a dominant ethic, and “middling” values began taking root.
Out West that sense of American Individualism still dominates politics. Ideas and concepts don’t breath without symbols, however, and thus the hunter theme is still alive and vibrant in American politics, even though the land has long been tamed and settled and some of that settling is now coming back to bite us in the butt in the form of Global Warming.
It’s a sad remnant of an antiquated mindstate.
Hunting represents the idea that nature is ours to subdue and do what we want and that this is an American right. Our presidents, therefore, must shoot animals for sport to prove this idea, and we also want our symbols to be genuine, thus Kerry came off as fake and Huckabee is calling out Romney, but we’re not stupid enough to elect a true wild-ass hunter like the “Nooge”, so it’s about image mostly.
Think about it: Reagan was a cowboy. Bush the first squeaked by on fighter pilot cred. Clinton was a sex star by birth. And Bush the second tried to imitate both jet pilot and cowboy.
What Hillary knows, and will seek to prove, is for her to win the top office she will have to convince America that she has bigger balls than the other candidates.
But back to hunting.
This sense of entitlement that the hunter meme represents is the albatross around our neck: the idea that the land is ours to plunder, the animals ours to kill, the streams ours to divert, pollute, destroy, and so and so on. It might have spurred the fastest economic expansion the world has ever seen but the long-term effects of that expansion are yet to be weighed, they’re, literally, at least in the form of carbon emissions and such, still up in the air.
But does it go even further back.
Is it more than an American anomaly?
Does it go back to our hunting and gathering roots? Is there a connection between John Kerry donning camouflage and early man, foraging and hunting animals for survival. Are we still, basically, electing the alpha male to lead our little tribe?
To be leader of the free world you have to display you’re the most proficient caveman of the bunch.
Okay, I can see why we followed the best hunters and they became chiefs of the tribe and shit like that 1000s of years ago, it’s what’s kept us alive, how one tribe survived over the other, the ability to hunt game and, if necessary, kill other humans.
In that day and age, it certainly made sense to follow the guy with the most accurate spear, the dude who could probably rip your head off with his bare hands. 6 ‘5, drinks blood, and beats his chest like a gorilla, yeah that’s the guy I’d probably vote for back when foreign policy meant how to stop a saber-tooth tiger from eating my child.
A little tidbit to chew on from Wikipedia: Hunting and gathering was presumably the only subsistence strategy employed by human societies for more than two million years, until the end of the Mesolithic period.
That’s a long time hunting was our major means of survival, it’s still in our bones. It’s hard to lose. But with a suburbanized, agri-business dependent, Wal-Mart society, hunting as a political meme is as obsolete as our tonsils, and should be considered outrageously silly to discuss among adults.
Yet it’s inevitable with the pundits.
They seem to think that Hunting still makes the cloth of the king. Subconsciously they favor the pissing contest, biggest ape takes the crown mindstate that led to the tarring of Kerry in 04. It’s simple and sexy.
I’ve got news for them.
The problems facing the planet are no longer solvable by outcompeting the other tribe.
We are in an age where reason is required over brawn. Where the major challenges are not overcoming nature, but repairing the damage we cause nature.
We should be following the guy with the smartest brain, not the biggest gun.
Which brings us to those two knuckleheads, Mitt and Mike.
Balls in your court, Mitt.
How many animals have you killed with a gun? Or you bare hands? What kind of man are you?
Someone out there, I think, gives a shit.