Column: Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up?
By Hamza Khan
Sen. Mitt Romney’s criticism of Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s colorful commentary regarding her intention to see Donald Trump impeached is wrong. The entire matter smacks of the typical hallmarks of a privileged white man seeking to apply a double standard to a woman from a lower economic and social background. Romney applies this double standard while reserving the privilege of criticizing a fellow privileged and elitist man, Donald Trump, for himself and others of his background of family-inherited money. That is not the American way.
Let us first examine Mr. Romney’s hypocrisy. In 2016, Romney decried in Donald Trump to be a charlatan on national television in a widely-panned public speech. Then, as if all were forgotten, Romney eagerly met with Trump after the general election when he thought he might be tapped a for a cabinet-level position. Trump used the resulting photo-op to temporarily neuter Romney from publicly criticizing Trump further. A brilliant, if vicious, act of political gamesmanship. Moreover, only four years earlier in 2012, Romney praised on-the-record Trump’s business acumen. Now again, in 2019, Romney began the year by declaring that Donald Trump had not honored the office he holds with his behavior. Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up? In this matter, Romney is a political opportunist using his bully pulpit to further his own agenda at the cost of the standing of a fellow member of Congress. This too, is not presidential.
The year I was born, the presidential campaign of Gary Hart was sabotaged by GOP operatives hell-bent on securing the executive branch for their party. They accomplished this by portraying Hart as a serial womanizer with issues when it came to treating women with dignity. Now 29 years later, in 2016, the same Republican Party that so obliterated Gary Hart’s political reputation would choose as their nominee a man who proudly spoke on record about grabbing women by their genitals. In 2012, the Republicans nominated a man who made his fortune destroying the lives of working class families through corporate raiding in the 1980s — when “greed is good” was on everyone’s lips thanks to the film Wall Street. That is the America to which Romney proudly belongs.
Enter Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the daughter of blue collar immigrants from the much-troubled Levant region of the world. One of the first Palestinian Americans in Congress (Justin Amash recently tweeted that considers himself Palestinian as well), she brings with her the hopes, dreams and hard-fought struggles of her southwest Detroit constituency, and her own family’s harrowing story of fighting to make it in a country that has increasingly criminalized and demonized blue collar jobs and the working poor. Her comments about Trump last week, while unrefined, represent the fighting spirit and unvarnished rhetoric that helped catapult a man who has proudly cursed in front of rallies with thousands of people to the presidency.
What then, is the difference between Rashid and Mitt? One is white, and comes from a wealthy family dynasty that came to dominate Michigan. The other is an Arab American — an outsider to those circles of power in Motown, who worked hard to have all that she does have today. One was born into wealth, who was the ringleader of bullying a gay student at private school over bleaching his hair. The other fought to be taken seriously because her race, gender, parentage and economic circumstances, with no record of doing anything more than standing up to power. That is what drove Romney’s commentary: a fear that Rep. Tlaib has finally found what has been denied to so many Americans who are women and minorities: the courage to challenge a corrupt and insular status quo.
I believe that Romney is a decent man. His record reflects his personal commitment — if not always the political will — to be moral and just. He too knows of prejudice — as a Mormon he has faced the bitter cold of discrimination his entire life, and many in the Republican Party admit that religion is why his father was not nominated to be president by their party in his day. But, Romney must adjust to the reality that his voice carries with it the prejudices and privileges of generations of inequity when he chooses to criticize a woman whose religion, race, and gender has been far more scrutinized and marginalized in today’s America than his identity will ever be. Let us join in prayer that Sen. Romney and Rep Tlaib will come together as friends and allies, who while on the opposite sides of the aisle, will help bring our country’s nations and tribes together to form a more perfect union.
(Hamza Khan is a political activist and consultant based in Maryland. He has advised congressional and senatorial candidates on outreach to minority voters, and has spoken widely to the American and international press about the US politics, elections and other issues. He is a columnist for The American Bazaar. You can follow him on Twitter: @HamzaSKhan)
READ MORE FROM HAMZA KHAN:
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Gov. Hogan, we are better than what you purport us to be (November 19, 2015)