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September 20, 2012 2:44 PM Romney’s Indecent Exposure

By Mark Kleiman

Watching people such as Kristol and Brooks run away in horror from the secret Romney speech that Kristol called “stupid and arrogant talk” puts me in mind of the classic story of why the stripper quit.

Before the story, here’s the puzzle:

Kristol and Brooks and the rest of them have been backing Romney all along, in full knowledge of what his embrace of the Ryan plan would mean for truly poor people and those hoping for social mobility and what his union-busting would mean for the working stiffs. They’ve been pounding the table for “entitlement reform,” in full knowledge how many people would get very badly hurt. Neither of them has had a word of complaint about the 47% lie as it’s been told before.

So what so squicked them about Romney’s explicit embrace of the contempt and hatred for the lower half of the income distribution that the whole Red team, had implicitly embraced?

Which brings me back to the stripper.

In the story, a highly successful exotic dancer retires at the peak of her popularity, and someone asks her why. She replies:

Saturday night I gave the performance of my life. The place was jammed, the crowd was cheerful, I was dancing my best. I gave them a nice, long tease, and at last I was down to the G-string. And they started to chant, the way the men do, “Take it OFF! Take it OFF! Take it OFF!”

And they were so friendly, and I was so into the dance, that I thought to myself, “Why not? Give them what they want, for once, instead of leaving them hungry.” So I took it off.
At first, a huge cheer went up.
But then they started chanting again: “Put it back ON! Put it back ON!”
So I quit.

In that (Romney thought) secret speech, in an audience entirely of (he thought) friends, Romney made the stripper’s mistake. He revealed his political pundendum. And most of the c\rowd found that they didn’t want to see it.


The fans of right-wing burlesque were happy to be teased with the implication that people who don’t earn enough to get by on deserve – even desire – their misery, and that the best policy toward them is “Root, hog, or die.”

But once Romney went politically bottomless as well as topless, their desire turned to disgust: disgust, of course, mostly at themselves, but projected on to the man who confronted them with the loathsomeness of their own desires.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the University of California Los Angeles.