Throughout history and up to the present, there have been people who practice quackery or some similar confidence trick in order to obtain money, fame, or power through some form of pretense or deception. Whether they are called charlatans, swindlers, or mountebanks, these people often depend on ignorance and desperation to convince well-meaning people to part with their money or independence of thought, and more often than not, they use religion and greed to control their acolytes. In America, conservative ideology is tantamount to a religion that appeals to the weak-minded and faint of heart, and it is little wonder that a distinctly American religion started by a charlatan intersects perfectly with Republican ideology, and that the current Republican standard bearer, Willard Romney, is closely following the charlatan Joseph Smith’s agenda to convince Americans he should be the president.
If one stops and considers that Smith said an angel appeared and told him secret knowledge that prompted him to seek out golden plates engraved with a secret message, they may think anyone who believed him was insane. And yet, they believed it when, in the 19th Century, he translated the message using 17th Century language, and after losing the golden plates, re-translated what became the Book of Mormon. The idea that 21st Century Mormons believe the information in Joseph Smith’s translation that flies in the face of archeological, scientific, and historical evidence is proof that a charlatan can hold sway over any people as long as they have novel information and repeat it over and over again until even seemingly intelligent human beings accept fantasy as gospel truth. Crucial to Smith’s confidence trick, was referencing just enough of another established myth, the Christian bible, to convince his followers there was validity to his Latter Day prophecies, and subsequently, the Mormon church achieved legitimacy to its adherents.
Willard Mitt Romney learned the confidence game from Joseph Smith well, and he parlayed it into a career convincing financiers to hand over their wealth in hopes of becoming wealthier beyond their wildest dreams. Romney also convinced struggling companies that if they took on crushing debt, under Bain Capital’s management, they too would emerge as leaders of their industries and prosper if they followed Romney’s “creative destruction” method of wealth creation. Subsequently, companies faced bankruptcy, employees lost their jobs and retirement, and Romney the confidence man laughed all the way to the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens.
Now that Romney is campaigning for the presidency of the United States, he is using Joseph Smith’s tactic of citing historically fallacious mythos with promises of American dominance in world affairs and unrealistic economic possibilities that play well to ignorant and desperate Americans looking for a great white savior to usher in an era of wealth and prosperity. The similarities between the charlatan Smith’s scheme of prophetic fantasies and Romney’s vision of America are stunning, but instead of harkening back two thousand years, Romney is content to parrot the words of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush in hopes he can convince enough Americans to fall for his confidence game.
Throughout his campaign, Romney has expounded a failed economic fantasy, 1980s cold war rhetoric, and Reagan-era anti-government oratory to con the American people into supporting him as the Republican candidate for president. One of the reasons Romney has had a modicum of success is because for three-and-a-half years, Republicans and their talking heads have portrayed President Obama as a raging Marxist intent on transforming America into a socialist state where government confiscates private enterprises and redistributes white people’s wealth to the poor, and dictates who succeeds and who loses. Romney has taken up the mantel of lies, misinformation, and distortions like every competent charlatan to portray himself as the man to right the ship and undo the damage he claims President Obama has done to America, and he uses many of Reagan’s talking points updated to fit 2012.
Ronald Reagan garnered support by portraying the government as the reason American’s were not wealthy and where he campaigned on the premise that “government is the problem,” Romney promises to “get government out of the way” to let businesses prosper and capitalism thrive. It worked for the charlatan Reagan, and Romney is counting on it working for him regardless that it has never worked to help anyone but corporations.
Reagan characterized welfare recipients as lazy African Americans who were draining government resources with tales of “welfare queens driving Cadillacs” and Romney has spent no small amount of time lying about President Obama eliminating the work requirement in welfare, that 47% of Americans were dependent on the government, and during an NAACP speech implied that they “want more free stuff.”
Where Romney parrots Ronald Reagan closely is claiming that “Russia is our number one geopolitical foe,” that prompted then-Russian President Medvedev to tell Romney to “look at his watch,” and that “regarding ideological clichés, this always alarms me, this smells of certain times in the past.”
Romney’s main problem is that he is devoid of ideas to solve the issues facing America, so he falls back on the only thing he knows; use some form of pretense or deception to trick Americans in order to obtain power, and since it worked so well as CEO of Bain Capital and for Joseph Smith in 19th Century America, it is his go-to tactic.
Joseph Smith was successful tricking a small group of true believers desperate for a savior, and his ability to garner sympathy with a captive audience. Romney is no less of a charlatan, but his main obstacle is the American people are not captive and they have little sympathy for a man born into wealth and a performance record he cannot escape. He also cannot escape the fact that just five years ago, Americans suffered through another charlatan in George W. Bush who imposed Reagan-era trickle down economic theory and deregulation that nearly destroyed the world’s economy and yet, he is resurrecting the exact same policies Americans know is the reason they are struggling in a sluggish economy. Americans also know that the President’s policies are working and it is showing in poll after poll.
Romney is a charlatan, but he is no Joseph Smith. He cannot claim any secret knowledge or that an angel visited him, so he is stuck reiterating Reagan and Bush lies hoping Americans will be tricked just one more time. Fortunately, there are still Americans who lived through both Reagan and Bush and no amount of trickery or deception will convince them that repeating their policies will do anything but drive America deeper in debt while corporations and banks get wealthier. That is where Romney is unwise, because primary to a charlatan’s success is coming up with a new trick or confidence game, and after 8 years Reagan and Bush, the quackery and deception of trickle-down economics, fear mongering of Russian aggression, and castigating welfare recipients has been proven as fallacious as the notion of Romney saving America. The American people have been fooled twice by Bush and Reagan, and unless Romney comes up with a new con game, they will not be fooled again, and even Joseph Smith understood that simple premise.