Political Animal


December 12, 2011 4:30 PM Romney wants to ‘keep America American’

By Steve Benen

Maybe it’s just me, but I find phrases like “keep America American” kind of creepy. Take Mitt Romney’s stump-speech rhetoric, for example.

“There are people in this room who are informed and who care about this election, who recognize that this is a defining time for America,” he said. “We have on one side a president who wants to transform America into a European-style nation, and you have on other hand someone like myself that wants to turn around America and keep America American….”

I understand the context, but as Seth Masket noted, “keep America American” sounds an awful lot like a line we might expect from Bill the Butcher. (It also, of course, reinforces the not-so-subtle attack on President Obama’s patriotism, which has long been a favorite ploy for Romney.)

I’m also struck by this preoccupation with trying to “transform America into a European-style nation.” I suspect much of the political world has forgotten about this, but four years ago, the Romney campaign had adopted a nearly-identical tack — strategy documents from within the campaign showed that Romney and his team intended to use Europe as the centerpiece of an anti-Democratic attack.

The European Union, [the Romney ‘08 campaign document] says at one point, wants to “drag America down to Europe’s standards,” adding: “That’s where Hillary and Dems would take us. Hillary = France.” The plan even envisions “First, not France” bumper stickers.

I guess they dusted off the playbook from four years ago?

It seems hard to believe any voters would seriously be persuaded by such nonsense, but for anyone tempted, it’s worth noting how backwards it is.

Europe, in case Romney hasn’t noticed, has been Austerity Central. European countries have slashed public investments to reduce their debts, and the results haven’t been pretty, with austerity failing badly to produce the intended results. But therein lies the more salient domestic point: President Obama doesn’t want to follow the European model; Mitt Romney does.

For that matter, it was Romney, not the president, who said over the summer that the U.S. should be following Europe’s lead on energy efficiency.

And while we’re at it, Romney is also the only presidential candidate who actually moved to Europe, living in France for nearly three years doing missionary work.

Taken together, it’s hard not to wonder what in the world Mitt Romney is talking about.

* Update: Steve M. takes this a step further, noting that the phrase “keep America American” originated with the KKK.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • T2 on December 12, 2011 4:42 PM:

    Mitt's running for office, for christ's sake. He's gotta blow the dogwhistle to get some TeaBaggers on board before the disgraced former congressman Newt the Magnificent kicks his ass. I expect Mitt to get pretty desperate from now on. Should be fun.

  • Bob on December 12, 2011 4:43 PM:

    I wonder if any of these goofballs realized that concentration of wealth and relying on the wealthy to dictate social change is a rather European concept - it's called feudalism.

  • Sidwell on December 12, 2011 4:56 PM:

    "I wonder if any of these goofballs realized that concentration of wealth and relying on the wealthy to dictate social change is a rather European concept - it's called feudalism."

    They probably never will. Sigh...

  • Michael W on December 12, 2011 4:57 PM:

    As a former Mormon, I do have to object to one point. When a young adult chooses to be a missionary, he/she doesn't have the choice of where to go. That is determined by the church hierarchy and where they decide the need is greatest. Mittens didn't have any choice about France or Europe, it was decided for him.

  • Danp on December 12, 2011 5:02 PM:

    Mittens didn't have any choice about France or Europe, it was decided for him.

    He probably put Monaco as his first choice?

  • Another Steve on December 12, 2011 5:09 PM:

    Well, what, do you liberals want us to emulate that socialist hellhole Solenda?

  • Arlington BigFish on December 12, 2011 5:09 PM:

    Michael W: a conspiracy theorist might guess that Mitt got his cushy cheese-eating assignment because his Dad was prominent in the church. But I certainly wouldn't propound that theory.

  • iyoumeweus on December 12, 2011 5:14 PM:

    It actually sort of appears to me to be the other way around. The European Unions is composed of 26 nations in a weak system much like the 13 states were under the Articles of Confederation. I see the teapublicians waiting 50 states loosely tied together much like Europe is now. The democrats want a strong union with a strong central federalist government which protects all Americans, and is able to provide security, health and happiness plus a safety net for those who are unable or disable to care for themselves. Yes, it takes money, but we have found ways to pay for this in the past, and we will do so again in the future.

  • T2 on December 12, 2011 5:16 PM:

    yeah BigFish, most people, or at least most slightly smart people, know Romney's a Mormon, and Huntsman too. But these guys aren't just run of the mill Mormon's...they are both topline BigWigs in the LDS. For what that's worth.

  • June on December 12, 2011 5:19 PM:

    Wake me when one of these "Republican hopefuls" has something constructive and inspiring to say.

  • Art Hackett on December 12, 2011 5:21 PM:

    Maybe they sent him to France because he was a French speaker?

  • SYSPROG on December 12, 2011 5:23 PM:

    Oh c'mon. It's the GOP dogwhistle to 'the other'...jerks. Of course, Newt as a historian KNOWS that the founding fathers rejected European Government as a model and de Tocqueville wrote a whole BOOK on it. If we want to keep 'America American' then I guess we're gonna have to go back embracing this whole separation of church and state, religious freedom, equality and all that garbage, huh?

  • ericfree on December 12, 2011 5:28 PM:

    Simple equation here. He did Mormon missionary work in France for three years, neither the most rewarding experience nor the best way to see the country. No wonder he hates it.

    And, there are no "former Mormons." Not according to the church anyway.

  • Proud Liberal Dem on December 12, 2011 5:31 PM:

    Sounds sort of like Sarah Palin's "real Americans" line from 2008. Anyway, given the higher standard of living that Europeans enjoy(ed) in a lot of important respects (i.e. healthcare), I don't understand people who DON'T want us to be more like Europe but whom would rather have us continue to suffer needlessly.

  • hells littlest angel on December 12, 2011 5:33 PM:

    Yes indeed, exterminate the Tutsi cockroaches -- er, I mean, America for Americans!

  • Rick Massimo on December 12, 2011 5:34 PM:

    Mitt's trying to appeal to the only voters the GOP attracts anymore: People who haven't learned a new fact in 20 years.

    They are seriously underestimating the number of people who would look at Europe - even the made-up Europe of the GOP imagination - and say "Sign me up!"

  • Kathryn on December 12, 2011 5:46 PM:

    Nothing Mittens says is going to save his bacon short of becoming a birther in a three legged race with Trump, which I wouldn't put past him. The press doesn't call him on his serial lying, but doubt he would get a pass on that one. So instead of flat out calling Pres. Obama a Kenyan socialist, he uses the dog whistle approach, wink, wink. He's a revolting person, desperation should bring out even more character flaws for all to see.

  • meander on December 12, 2011 6:04 PM:

    But when it comes to nuclear energy, France is always the model mentioned by the GOP: "Look a France! They get gobs of electricity from nuclear power and even manage to export some of that electricity." Of course, those nuclear Francophiles never mention details about the French program like the partial state ownership, all workers covered by national health care, etc.

  • massappeal on December 12, 2011 6:04 PM:

    Steve, it's probably worth pointing out, as Steve M. does here http://nomoremister.blogspot.com/2011/12/romney-using-kkk-slogan-steve-benen.html and here http://www.boomantribune.com/story/2011/12/12/173022/49 that "Keep America American" is an old KKK slogan---and by "old" I mean "within Mitt Romney's lifetime".

    I don't think Romney's a KKKer, but I do think that there are enough remnants of Klanism floating around the Republican pool that it's probable that some of it just "stuck" to Romney and his speechwriters.

  • Eeyore on December 12, 2011 6:25 PM:

    This is old style Dogwhistle politics. Back in the runup to the Iraq war, the Bushies were very annoyed that the French didn't agree with his desire to blow Saddam off the face of the earth. So they started characterizing anything French as effete, sissy, unmanly, unAmerican, etc. Remember "Freedom Fries?" Anyway, in 2004 they started sneering that John Kerry "looked FRENCH!", and called him Jean Francois Kerry with a French accent to his last name. Very effective, as I recall.

    So... Mittie isn't even creative enough to come up with his own dogwhistle. He copied it from the Bushies.

  • Cha on December 12, 2011 6:55 PM:

    Yeah, mitt didn't have "a choice" where he was going but he has a choice now..not to lie or gamble. I see his choices.

  • arkie on December 12, 2011 8:26 PM:

    Mitt could of put his French speaking ability to work by serving in Vietnam but he chose to put his church ahead of his country.

  • Jenny on December 12, 2011 8:41 PM:


    Let's keep it real.

    "keep America American" is not a "not-so-subtle attack on President Obama’s patriotism", rather it's a dog whistle to the birthers and bigots who think Obama wasn't born in the US.

  • emmy on December 12, 2011 10:16 PM:

    I am a 29 years old lady,mature and beautiful. and now i am seeking a good man who can give me real love, so i got a username josedvilla on --- Agelover.§³¨°M ---, a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men, to interact with each other.Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends.

  • smintheus on December 12, 2011 11:07 PM:

    In May I was joking around on FB that I was focus testing possible campaign slogans for a leading presidential candidate, adding that we need one that’ll distract voters from the candidate's flagrant weaknesses. Said we'd come up with: “Choose America, America…OK?!!”

    The GOP field has all but surpassed satire.

  • RalfW on December 13, 2011 1:06 AM:

    Maybe Romney was riffing on Langston Hughes' poem Let America Be America Again:

    O, let my land be a land where Liberty
    Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
    But opportunity is real, and life is free,
    Equality is in the air we breathe.

    Hmmm. Maybe not.

    Oh, and Huges was gay and black. Yeah, pretty sure that's not the source of Romney's "keep America America" crap.

  • Russell B in LA on December 14, 2011 7:35 PM:

    Here's a link for a Ku Klux Klan newsletter from the 1920s (warning: it is to a Klan website) entitled, "America for Americans"