The Song Remains The Same
May 14th, 2012
“I know many gay couples that are able to adopt children. That’s fine. But my preference is that we … continue to define marriage as the relationship between a man and a woman”
On Friday,he was asked, in an interview with CBS affiliate WBTV in Charlotte, N.C., how his opposition to gay marriage “squared” with his support for gay adoptions. Romney told anchor Paul Cameron, “Well, actually I think all states but one allow gay adoption, so that’s a position which has been decided by most of the state legislatures, including the one in my state some time ago. So I simply acknowledge the fact that gay adoption is legal in all states but one.”
The video of that interview is here. This kind of reminds me of when I was in college and there was a group called the Romantics who had a hit with “What I Like About You.” Another Romantics tune had the line, “I hear the secrets that you keep when you’re talking in your sleep.” I came home from college one weekend and had my seven-year-old brother in the car with me when the song came on the radio and he began to sing along. “I hear the secrets that you keep when you’re talking to your sheep.” I corrected him, we laughed, and he kept right on singing.
I think this is as good an explanation for Romney’s constant flip-flops as anything. He’s singing the songs that he knows his audience wants to hear, but sometimes he gets the words wrong. He also has trouble pulling them off in a way that his audience finds convincing. Sort of like that fifth-tier Vegas lounge singer with the gig at the Airport Rodeway who gamely takes on every song that’s popular regardless of whether it’s a good stylistic fit for him — it could be “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Straight Outa Compton” or the Star Wars Theme. It all depends on what he thinks his audience wants to hear.
And Romney, to his credit, has tried all of them. Back in 1994 when he ran a quixotic campaign to unseat Sen. Ted Kennedy, Romney sang that he’d be better on gay issues than Kennedy. I like to imagine that it came off sounding something like Donny Osmond-meets-Gloria Gaynor. But it was a good enough rendition that he left the local Log Cabin Republicans with the impression that he was more or less on their side. As Patrick Guerrero later recalled, “If you go down his list, (Romney’s support was) pretty much a check-off of the real hot-button concerns for gays and lesbians.” That included everything but marriage itself. “Just don’t use the M-word,” he reportedly said. He liked the idea of civil unions though, and he left the Log Cabiners with the impression that he supported them on other issues of gay equality.
That changed once Romney got into office and was confronted with the Massachussetts Supreme Judicial Court decision that opened the gates to same-sex marriage. He withdrew his reluctant support for a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage but allowed civil unions. Instead, he supported an alternate proposal that would have banned both marriage equality and civil unions altogether.
By 2005, when Romney looked out his window and decided that there was a larger world to conquer beyond the Charles River, he switched from a little bit rock and roll to a little bit country. That switch has proved somewhat acceptable to his new audience’s ears, despite its pained awkwardness. He may be singing “God, Family and Country,” but it comes off more like a John Tesh cover than the original. Most of his audience would clearly prefer the original, but over the past few months they’ve decided to settle for the cover and pretend that it’s just as good.
This latest flip-flop is a pretty good example of that. The right barely reacted to his Thursday statement that he was “fine” with gays adopting. I think it’s because they saw that as a flubbed throw-away line in a song whose chorus was about gay marriage. It was only those among us who were actually paying attention to the lyrics who thought we might have heard something new. We made a big deal over it, but his supporters appear to have largely not noticed. And as it turns out, his audience, who knew the song by heart, knew better after all.
Yeah, sometimes he flubs the lyrics. That mattered when there were others trying out for the same Republican Idol position. But now that the contest is over, they’re not paying such close attention to his lyrics now. As long as he’s singing to their tune, it’ll be good enough. But if he strays too far from the songbook, they will definitely let him know it.