The Parable of Mitt Romney's Dog, Seamus

Steve Russell

“We ain’t even two months into the election year, and the thing is already going to the dogs.”

Cousin Ray Sixkiller had been laying off politics since the Cherokee elections but I could sense that the wind was about to pick up.

“How’s that, Ray?”

“Well, Romney seems to have the Republican nomination sewn up, but there’s something in his background that spells trouble.”

“You mean that he was born with more money than we’ll earn in a lifetime?”

“Nah, we elect rich people all the time.”

“His time with Bain Capital, when he would waltz in and suck all the money out of some company that was the main employer in a small town and leave everybody broke and out of work?”

“Nah, that’s how the system works. It’s called ‘creative destruction.’ Your job gets destroyed and it creates a bonus for some dude in a pinstriped suit. What are you, Steve, a Communist?”

“No, I’m just trying to figure you out. Or figure Romney out. What’s the big deal? Everybody knows he was a Mormon missionary in France. Is it that he speaks French? That sure hurt John Kerry a couple of elections ago.”

“Don’t you pay any attention to the news? That’s ‘Freedom’ he speaks. You know, like ‘Freedom fries” and ‘Freedom toast’ they had in the Congressional cafeteria after France wouldn’t back us up in the second Iraq War?”

Sometimes I think Ray never opens a newspaper, and then he springs some ancient factoid like that.

“All right, Ray, you got me. Why is Romney in trouble?”

“Google ‘Romney.’”

“Why should I Google the guy? I know who he is. He’s the Republican Governor of Massachusetts who managed to come up with a health care plan that wasn’t stopped cold by the insurance lobby because he dealt them in. Same deal Obama had to do at the federal level. It ain’t pretty, but that’s how laws get written.”

“Well Steve, if you Google ‘Romney’ today, within two pages you get the word ‘Romney’ as a verb, ‘to defecate in terror.’”

“Shoot, Ray—that just means Romney got Google-bombed like Rick Santorum did. It was payback for that ‘man on dog’ comment about gay people. So now we can’t say what Santorum Googles in polite company. Santorum deserved it for making politics out of hate. Happens to Indians in some parts of the country. Happens to illegal immigrants. Some politicians think hating on somebody without a lot of power is the way to get ahead. Romney never did anything that bad.”

“That’s all in your point of view, Steve. Seamus, from the pictures I’ve seen, was a good-looking Irish Setter. Beautiful dog.”

“True. I heard that story. Romney had a big family, so he loaded up the car for a road trip and put Seamus in a kennel on top. For twelve hours.”

“That’s not all, Steve. When some reporter called him out for it, he said that the kennel was ‘airtight.’”

“Give the man a break, Ray. He was surprised or something. If the kennel was airtight the dog would be dead. Wouldn’t you get nervous with a microphone in your face?”

“I’m not running for President, Steve. And it gets worse. He claims Seamus enjoyed this fandango. After the dog crapped all over his bed. You know and I know if a dog messes his bed he’s either sick or scared to death.”

“I get your point, Ray, but we both keep dogs. Yes, it was kinda cold to hose the dog down and keep rolling, but you think this election is going to be turned by animal lovers?”

“Not exactly, but close. You know that remark Romney made about liking to fire people?”

“Yeah, but that was totally unfair, out of context. He was talking about firing health insurance corporations, not people.”

“Man, how many mistakes can you make all at once? First, Romney got caught on tape at the Iowa state fair reminding some kid that corporations are people. Second, he was lying about Obama’s health care plan. For what he was talking about, there was no difference between Obamacare and Romneycare. Third, it’s not so much what he said as how he said it.”

“Take it easy, Ray. Don’t chew my head off. Just tell me what you mean.”

“It’s his attitude. He’s never been fired, so he doesn’t feel what it’s like. He’s never been put in a cage on top of a car for twelve hours, so he doesn’t feel what it’s like. It’s not that he’s a rich guy. The Kennedy brothers were rich guys. It’s that he has about as much feeling for those of us who didn’t make ourselves rich as he had for the family dog. That’s why my vote is going to be Seamus’s revenge.”

Steve Russell, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is a Texas trial court judge by assignment and associate professor emeritus of criminal justice at Indiana University-Bloomington. He lives in Georgetown, Texas, and can be reached at swrussel@indiana.edu.

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beaver's picture
Steve Russell and other opinion editorial writers, our elders made one big blunder - they thought the White man was great - and that's why we're in such a mess today. Our elders used to call God "the One above the White man." You're making the same error putting America on such a pedestal and giving undue importance to America's elections. Get over it man! Why should Indians focus so much on Romney or his dog or any of the other clowns running for America's presidency? Since you claim to be Indian, get your nose out of America's gutters and focus on indigenous nations and indigenous issues.
swrussel's picture
I've written more about tribal politics than about US or state politics, but the lines you seek to draw don't exist. The question, as to each piece of government, is whether it makes decisions that affect Indians. By that standard, school board elections get really important. If you are satisfied with how Indians are treated by any particular government, I guess you don't need to have an opinion or to vote or to give money or to persuade others---you know, practice politics? There's a more sophisticated argument than the one you are making that says voting in the colonial elections amounts to recognizing the hegemony of the colonial government. Seems to me that not recognizing that hegemony as a fact---as distinguished from something you endorse---is like living with a sack over your head and claiming you don't have neighbors who are not Indians....or maybe that unlike all other human beings in the universe, Indians are not affected by the opinions and actions of their neighbors. Let me know how pretending you are exempt from politics works out.
beaver's picture
Here's what you need to read. The math is a bit involved but you'll get the general idea: "Why Did the Elites Extend the Suffrage? Democracy and the Scope of Government, With an Application to Britain’s ‘Age of Reform’," Quarterly Journal of Economics 119(2), May 2004, pp. 707 – 765 (by Persico and Lizzeri).
swrussel's picture
Without reading the economists' take, I think I'm familiar with the argument. Let me suggest for you the following with some comments by me. Interest convergence is a theory that has a lot of explanatory power, and it might indeed work on the phenomenon you point out. Like many theories emerging from the civil right movement, it requires a tweak as applied to Indians. When you notice the census numbers telling us that the fastest growing tribe is the Wanabi Nation, that might offer a clue that the dominant culture has a lot of interests to converge with ours that were never there to serve black people, the most obvious being romantic identification with us and the threat we represent to cherished parts of the national mythos if Indian abuse becomes too flagrantly contemporary as opposed to some vague unpleasantness out of the mists of time. Steve "The Thirteenth Amendment and Interest Convergence" Free Download Maryland Law Review, Fall 2011 Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-02 WILLIAM M. CARTER, Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law The Thirteenth Amendment was intended to eliminate the institution of slavery and to eliminate the legacy of slavery. Having accomplished the former, the Amendment has only rarely been extended to the latter. The Thirteenth Amendment’s great promise therefore remains unrealized. This Article explores the gap between the Thirteenth Amendment’s promise and its implementation. Drawing on Critical Race Theory, this Article argues that the relative underdevelopment of Thirteenth Amendment doctrine is due in part to a lack of perceived interest convergence in eliminating what the Amendment’s Framers called the “badges and incidents of slavery.” The theory of interest convergence, in its strongest form, suggests that civil rights gains seldom happen unless they are perceived as advancing, or at least not hindering, the material interests of dominant groups.