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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Mitt Romney, governor of a state he hates.

Dan Wasserman, Boston Globe 3.2.05I've had it with Governor Romney, who badmouths the state that elected him whenever he's somewhere else. In his "I Wish Massachusetts Were More Like Utah" speech last week, Romney said: "America cannot continue to lead the family of nations around the world if we suffer the collapse of the family here at home." (It's an allusion to a popular bit of Mormon folk wisdom, incidentally: "No success compensates for failure in the home.") Aside from the silliness of thinking U.S. prestige has been weakened among the world's leading nations because a few thousand gay couples have married in Massachusetts, I have to ask the governor: Do you really believe Utah is better for families than Massachusetts?

A few salient bits of data: Which state has a lower divorce rate? Massachusetts. Which major city's educational opportunities were ranked even higher than Salt Lake City's second-place showing in a Forbes magazine study last year? Boston. Which state has a higher rate of children living in poverty? Utah, at 13.6%. (The rate in Massachusetts is 12.3%.) According to the same study, sexual and psychological abuse of children constitute much higher percentages of reported child abuse in Utah than in Massachusetts (where, sadly, neglect seems to be a bigger problem): In Utah, sexual abuse constitutes 21.7% of abuse cases, compared to 3.6% in Massachusetts.

And although neighboring New Hampshire and Vermont came in first and third in the 2004 Most Livable State rankings — oh my gosh, do they not know that gay people are legal in Vermont? how can they lead the family of states around the nation? — lowly Massachusetts (ranked 16) still beat Utah (at 19) and the other conservative states Romney's been wooing recently: Missouri (20) and South Carolina (48). Hey red states: Get your houses in order before you mock mine. We're doing very well, thank you.

How about crime? Romney's chomping at the bit for the death penalty. But which state has consistently had a lower murder rate? Massachusetts. Meanwhile, the state of Utah itself reports that the number of rapes in Utah has more than doubled in the last decade, and that it now ranks 15th in the nation. Finding statistics on is maddening, so the closest comparison I've found shows Massachusetts ranked 38th. (Utah cites the 2000 FBI Uniform Reports; the chart that ranks Massachusetts cites the 1999 reports. I haven't been able to find a comparison of both states from 2000.)

Wow. It sures look like things are going to hell here in Massachusetts, doesn't it? I could probably go on all day collecting statistics, but I'm sure none of it matters because we're talking about the collapse of the family, and when there are gay people to be afraid of, everything else just vanishes in the political fog.

Aside from indulging in a little polite gay-bashing with his friends, what exactly does Romney think Utah has that Massachusetts doesn't? Really, aside from a bunch of redundant and punitive anti-gay laws? I take him at his word that he loves living here in Massachusetts; I do, too. Like him, I prefer vacationing in Utah to living there. (Unlike him, I not only went to college in Utah, I grew up there.) He visits to burnish his right wing credentials and bask in the love of fellow Mormons who are proud that he's made it among crypto-socialist "Gentiles." But if there's one thing that really pisses me off, it's a conservative who has always lived in more liberal, cosmopolitan places but who claims he feels more at home among the conservatives. Prove it, Mitt. You want to run as a right-winger? Go ahead: Move to Utah.

When will Massachusetts Republicans finally give us a governor who actually wants to run this state rather than spending all his time preening for a national office? The one consolation I take is that no matter how much Romney panders to the right, Evangelicals just aren't ready for a Mormon president.

Update 2.27.05: The Globe says the governor is walking a political tightrope. He better have quite the balance pole. The Phoenix's Dan Kennedy interprets Mitt's newfound wingerdom as a sign that he won't run for re-election. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 27 February 2005 at 12:44 PM

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February 27, 2005 01:29 PM | Permalink for this comment

Wow, you sound exactly like Mrs. Fausto did when she picked up the paper this morning, but with more stats.

I wonder whether Romney will choose to remain in office as governor for much longer. I wonder what it takes to recall a sitting governor in Massachusetts. I wonder what happens to Romney's support inside the GOP if he resigns, or is recalled or defeated, before the 2008 campaign really begins. Would it help him or hurt him?

If nothing else, he certainly seems to be making himself an easy target for every opponent of every political orientation, who can easily ask, "If you vote for Romney, can you really trust him to represent you?"


February 27, 2005 03:24 PM | Permalink for this comment

"You want to run as a right-winger? Go ahead: Move to Utah."

Nooooooooooooo! We have enough like him here already!



February 28, 2005 02:05 AM | Permalink for this comment

I have been reading Mr. Romney's insults with a great deal of bile lately. I think we should brick him up inside the crypt of the Church of the Presidents with the entombed bodies of John Adams and John Quincy Adams and their wives Abigail and Louisa Catherine. He needs some quality time to meditate on the greatness that is Massachusetts.

Ben S:

March 1, 2005 12:13 PM | Permalink for this comment

I wonder how the marriage stats would stack up if it were done by % of marriages that end in divorce instead of divorces per 1000 people?

I suspect Mass. has significantly fewer marriages and more living-togethers than Utah does (I haven't looked for any data on it) and that this skews those statistics.

john fowles:

March 1, 2005 12:50 PM | Permalink for this comment

Well, Utah's not such a bad place to live either. And Latter-day Saints are good people.


March 1, 2005 01:01 PM | Permalink for this comment

John, agreed! I like Utah. I even like Mormons. But I love living in Massachusetts. How would Utahns feel if their governor headed off to three other states and proceeded to make fun of Utah's superconversatism just to amuse (and raise money and political support from) audiences of people who thought Utah was the worst state? I'm sure that would go over really well, just as Mitt Romney's speech is making a big ol' positive splash here in Massachusetts. A governor ought to be the biggest champion of his or her state possible.

Nate Oman:

March 1, 2005 01:51 PM | Permalink for this comment

Philo: I hope that spouting off made you feel a bit better. BTW, if I understand you correctly on the child abuse statistics you are comparing the over all composition of child abuse cases (what percentage are sexual, what percentage are neglect, etc.). I am not sure that this statistic tells us anything. It doesn't tell us anything about absolute levels of abuse. Indeed, the higher comparatice percentage of sexual abuse cases could actually be a sign of success, indicating that other kinds of abuse have been dealt with relatively effectively and that all that remains are the sexual perdators who for whatever reason are more difficult to deter. I've no idea what the relative absolute levels of abuse are between Utah and Massachusetts, nor am I claiming that the analysis I offered in the preceeding sentence is correct. My only point is that the sexual abuse statistic seems like a bit of cherry picking that really tells us very, very little.

BTW, I have lived in both Massachusetts and Utah and I loved them both.

Eric James Stone:

March 1, 2005 04:49 PM | Permalink for this comment

The reports contain the data to compare absolute levels of reported abuse/neglect, because it includes total child population and number of child victims.

MA: 2.2%
UT: 1.3%

Note: That does not mean UT has a lower rate of child abuse/neglect than MA, as there are other possible explanations. For example, if both states had identical rates, but a higher percentage were reported to authorities in MA, that could explain the discrepancy. Of course, if UT's reporting percentage were higher than MA's, that would mean the difference in actual rates was even greater than these numbers show.

The point is that you need to understand the limitations of statistics like this before you start making sweeping generalizations.


March 1, 2005 06:27 PM | Permalink for this comment

Ah, but when our elected leaders are marching around the country making sweeping generalizations — like, gay couples make terrible parents and deserve as few rights as possible, which is not a carefully grounded sociological judgment — it makes it hard to respond. I'd be the first to admit that I'm no statistician or sociologist — but as I point out above, my response isn't an attempt to rationally engage Mitt Romney's rational discussion of important policy issues. He's not engaging in rational discussion. He's making egregious claims about his own citizens, building political capital out of prejudice, and doing a disservice to the state he leads. I'd argue that his sweeping generalizations are an instance of bearing false witness against his neighbors — even if those neighbors are gay or their state is Massachusetts.

As long as conservatives continue to get away with making outrageous claims about Massachusetts, I think I'm justified in occasionally saying, "Hogwash." But for those of you who need a caveat, here it is: I am using these stats for rhetorical effect. (Liberals are such pushovers.) Nonetheless, here we all are hashing it out, which wouldn't have happened if I had avoided the sweeping generalizations that brought Times & Seasons readers a-running. (Thanks, Kaimi!)

If you'd like me to stop with the not quite useful comparisons, I have a handful of requests: Help your politically conservative friends stop peddling gross overgeneralizations and mischaracterizations of Massachusetts. Respect is a two-way street, something I've never found to be true listening to Doug Wright on KSL-1160 with my dad as Wright bloviates about the evils of liberalism generally and Massachusetts especially. I've spent a lot of time in non-Mormon settings trying to help non-Mormons understand rather than fear or recoil from Mormonism; it would be wonderful if my Mormon friends could find it in their hearts to tamp down some of the ridiculous rhetoric about gay Massachusetts. Maybe in the Millennium...

Having said all that, yeah, I do understand that the statistics I've picked about child abuse in particular are not exactly comparable. (I believe I even called some attention to that fact.) If we were having a rational discussion about what makes a place good for families — a conversation I'd love to have — we would start from a very different place, though. So long as the conversation is about building a political movement on anger at gay people and gay parents, I'm not going to pretend that we're all civic-minded folks working together to make the country better.

The day that Gov. Huntsman visits political audiences in Cambridge, Ann Arbor, and Berkeley to crack fundraising jokes about the polygamists and extremists in arch-conversative Utah, perhaps you'll see how offensive Romney's behavior is to people in Massachusetts.


March 1, 2005 08:54 PM | Permalink for this comment

((( I've spent a lot of time in non-Mormon settings trying to help non-Mormons understand rather than fear or recoil from Mormons)))

I think it is the nature of being both liberal and reasonably mormon-sympathetic (if not necessarily mormonISM sympathetic) to find oneself in this position.

who has defended Mormonism herself quite a bit in the past year and suspects she will be doing so for life at this point as her Mormon bosses have proved to be really good people.


March 1, 2005 11:35 PM | Permalink for this comment

Why, CC, if you're not careful we'll soon have figured out who you work for! Very cool, by the way, to post a comment earlier today from the business room of the National Republican Club. You are the insider's insider around here. Think of it: You may be the UU closest to power in the whole U S of A. Aside from Nancy Johnson, of course.


March 2, 2005 07:40 AM | Permalink for this comment

A bit of Boston Globe commentary today, from the editorial cartoonist Dan Wasserman and from columnist Scott Lehigh, who explains that David Landes isn't thrilled by the way Gov. Romney is cleverly linking Landes's book, "The Wealth of Nations," to the governor's anti-gay parents grandstanding:

Now, Romney didn't directly assert that Landes considers gay marriage a threat to the family or the culture that has made the United States an economic success. Still, he did use Landes's book to undergird his arguments, moving in short order from Landes's conclusions about culture influencing economics to discussing a possible collapse of the family to decrying gay marriage.

It came as a surprise to Landes to find his work discussed in that context.

''The book doesn't deal with that at all," Landes said in an interview Monday. ''It does not argue against any particular institution like gay marriage." . . .

Landes was clear about one more thing: His book shouldn't be used or interpreted to lend credence to an anti-gay-marriage argument.

''I don't think he should appropriate it in such a way as to imply that it takes a position on an issue that it doesn't even touch," Landes said. ''I would certainly not want to be used as backup for his political judgment in this matter."

("Romney's Sleight of Mouth," Scott Lehigh, Boston Globe 3.2.05)


March 5, 2005 02:11 PM | Permalink for this comment

As conservative critics of the liberal rhetorical uses of divorce statistics have pointed out, the number of divorces per thousand people in the population is a very different thing than the number of divorces per marriage. And yet, either way Massachusetts comes out ahead of any of the states Gov. Romney has been visiting lately.

According to an analysis of divorces per marriage over at the conservative Free Republic site, Massachusetts had a divorce rate of 33% in 1999, whereas Utah came in at 45%. The Freeper offers an intriguing thesis about why Massachusetts would have a low divorce rate: "College havens in New England also are high on the list, perhaps in part due to the number of young adults who live there at the time they get married, but who depart soon after, before potentially divorcing." That's right: Hitched at Harvard, they move to Utah — and divorce?

Meanwhile, the Boston Globe editorial page swings at Romney: "Not Fair, Governor" (3.3.05). And Scott S. Greenburger reports that Romney is hemming and hawing about whether he intends to run again for governor: "Romney Won't Discuss Electoral Plans" (Boston Globe 3.4.05). Poor guy: He's stuck:

Some political observers believe that Romney will forfeit the corner office so he can accentuate his conservatism for GOP primary voters without fear of a backlash from more moderate voters at home.

Others say he needs a second term to burnish his resume.

If only moderate-to-liberal Republicans existed as a meaningful political movement, Romney wouldn't have to make this choice.


March 9, 2005 03:47 PM | Permalink for this comment

Which state is number 1 in households filing for bankruptcy? Conservative Utah. Which is number 49? Liberal Massachusetts.


March 9, 2005 05:29 PM | Permalink for this comment

Well, duh! That's why Orrin Hatch is for the new bankruptcy bill and Ted Kennedy is against it! Orrin's people know how much moral fibre they ought to have, but they also know they need some governmental help sustaining it at such a high level. (Large families and easy credit are a poor recipe for financial probity.) Ted's people, in contrast, have been listening to pompous harangues from self-important Unitarians about "self-culture" and "salvation by character" and "the eternal progress of mankind onward and upward forever" for the better part of 200 years now, and it's become so ingrained in the communal unconscious that they no longer need the help, or even think of it in moral terms.


June 8, 2005 07:30 PM | Permalink for this comment

After living in liberal Massachusetts for 2 years,very ,very long years, I pity poor Mr. Romney. There can be no state that is quite so in lockstep,I think, anywhere else in this nation. One mind, one brain but not much real liberalism. The people there, one and all liberals, mostly destest gays and for that matter anyone not living forever in Massachusetts. Again,poor Mitt,he could do much better then being the token Republican for the people of Mass. to blame for anything the liberals do wrong.


September 30, 2005 09:48 PM | Permalink for this comment

I was born in massachusettes, and lived in utah for 9 years. I don't agree with Mitt's strategy of slandering his homestate to gain political capital. But, he hasn't compared the state of Utah to Massachusettes, which makes your counter-comparison, as a way of attacking him, seem unnecessary. You might have stereotypically linked his values to those of Utah, because he's mormon. But, Mitt "has always lived in more liberal, cosmopolitan places." To attack him vicariously by frontloading your paper with uncited statistics about Utah is provincial and not persuasive.


October 1, 2005 12:45 PM | Permalink for this comment

Oh, nonsense, filo: Politics is about the impressions that voters pick up listening to soundbites, not about explicit policy proposals and careful sociological studies. Romney's getting all manly and strutting his anti-gay stuff so conservatives can get that tingly feeling that comes from Defending Our Values. Of course it doesn't have anything to do with statistics.

Romney wants extremely conservative voters and donors -- the people who will dominate Republican presidential primaries -- to gather the impression that he shares their right-wing views; he doesn't want them to pay attention to the fact that he's more cosmopolitan and may in fact be personally more moderate than they are. That's why he travels to very conservative places like Utah (where he can find donors) and South Carolina (where he hopes to find voters) to say alarmist things about gay marriage (i.e., Massachusetts).

Next time, though, I'll be sure to attack Romney without making any comparisons that involve statistics. It would be a terrible thing indeed if people bothered to compare conservative places to liberal ones. And you're right: It's silly of me to think that Romney larded up his Utah speech with lots of conservative talk in order to convince his overwhelmingly conservative Republican (and, um, Mormon) audience that he shares their values. What was I thinking?


October 7, 2005 11:05 AM | Permalink for this comment

I enjoy a thougthful debate. I respect you, and your values, and your right to defend them. It's easy to get caught up in the neo-political world based solely on the portrayed black and white battle between liberalism and conservatism. I don't want to spend time counting, but the number of times you used words like "conservative", "republican", and "right wing" was overwhelming. You're response was to the statement "Mitt isn't selling out his homestate for political capital", which I didn't make. I was suggesting that an attack on Mitt that is more than the political labels he's ridden on flipped around, would focus on his political record, rather than rely on uncited statistics about a state he's never served in.

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