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September 3, 2012

Romney Crowds Start to Eerily Reflect Norman Rockwell


With the white shirt and skinny tie with the shiny clasp, the crew cuts, the rosy-faced kids, the citizens lined up in a row with their eyes gazing upward, even the Romney’s audiences, now, are starting to look straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

For months, we’ve been talking about Romney and his campaign reflecting the look, the trappings and the mindset of a guy living in the 1950s or earlier. Now Obama — playing the “forward” theme against retro-Mitt and a campaign hinged more on generalities and nostalgia — has picked up on it yesterday, saying you might as well have watched [the GOP Convention] on a black-and-white TV.

Here’s a couple more, replete with flag and baseball:



In campaigns past, it was easy for left and right to engage in ideological battles over the blurring of church and state, women’s rights and abortion, or the blind application of American exceptionalism because the GOP and conservative candidates generally spoke to them directly, just like Mr. Akin did the other day. I’m not sure if it’s because Romney’s Mormon faith causes him to cloak his personal beliefs, his good works and his personality more specifically from the public at large but the obsequiousness of his campaign and the adherence to abstract value statements and generalities seems to be prompting a presidential race in which those conservative values, which would otherwise be articulated more directly, seems instead to be coming out, like we see in these pictures, almost impressionistically. Valuable for picking up tonal quality, it seems photojournalism is also starting to get a better fix on Romney and his campaign and the primary theme of nostalgia.

From photo story: Mitt Romney Attends Victory Rally In Cincinnati (Getty via Zimbio). More on Cincinnati’s Union Terminal.

(Note: modified ending. Removed one photo.)

(photos: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images caption: Supporters of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney look on during a campaign rally at Union Terminal on September 1, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Mitt Romney will hold campaign events in Ohio and Florida.)

  • BooksAlive

    Union Terminal – yes, it’s Retro, too! Esp. the cafe. Science and civil
    war history exhibits and lectures, presidential visits from FDR in 1936..The museum opened late due to this Romney event.

  • black_dog_barking

    Ah, the 50’s, the good olde days when war in Asia was a police action, before the pesky activist Warren and their Brown v Board of Education meddling in the good life. Those were the days.

  • Cactus

    I think the irony of a campaign like Mitt’s is that the more
    others see it as a plunge backward, the more he is impelled to take that step
    backwards. In doing so, he sees no irony in the self-fulfilling of the
    inevitable. It’s as if, in hearing Pres. Obama quip that the RNC could have
    been watched on black & white TV, Mitt wonders what’s wrong with

    I went back and looked at an array of Rockwell images (he
    frequently photographed his subjects before turning them into an illustration)
    and the similarities of these photos and his work is amazing. In the top photo,
    the expression of the little (black?) boy in foreground is as if taken right out
    of Rockwell’s work. Although Rockwell seldom put black people in his work, at
    least not until the ’60’s.

    A thought occurred to me — is it possible that the
    photographers who are assigned to cover Mitt’s campaign are unintentionally
    imitating Rockwell? Maybe they’ve been imbedded too long.

    And those school boys holding the placards, who’ve obviously
    been told to do so, their expressions tell us they are thinking the thoughts of
    normal boys, who may not yet have learned to hate ‘the other.’ Or so I would
    like to think.

  • Elsie Elaine Connelly

    Not sure where all you haters are coming from, apparently I am the only one who thinks that a return to a Norman Rockwell sort of living is a good thing. All the comments I have read so far, just make me dislike democrats more.

    • stormkite

      Nothing wrong with Rockwell so long as you’re an affluent pink protestant male conservative. If you’re not, there’s absolutely no sane argument for going backwards.

    • LanceThruster

      What Rockwell glossed over were the invisible portions of America that were specifically excluded from the lifestyle he depicted. Imagine a “Rockwell” of the Little Rock school desegregation, complete with National Guard escort and the faces of the white students contorted with hate.
      That would not have the same appeal on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

      Dislike Dems all you want. A multi-ethnic nation and world is a juggernaut you have as much chance of stopping as King Canute yelling at the tides.

    • Cactus

      I don’t think the posters here ‘hate’ Rockwell, so much as
      they see him as typical of a time gone by. I grew up with Rockwell on the
      covers of the magazines my family had. Even as a child, I knew them as
      sentimental, even quaint. That is not to say that he was not a very good
      illustrator, he was. He just saw things through the lens of Iowa or Nebraska.
      I lived on the west coast and went to schools with mixed race populations, so it
      wasn’t my world. (Although I didn’t think of it in those terms then.) It must
      have been a willful ‘blindness’ that produced those happy, cozy, sentimental
      illustrations. To give him credit, when the civil rights movement got started,
      he did take note of it in his work, very dramatically.

      I take it from your comments that you are a conservative. I
      have appreciated your comments before, but you are off the mark on this one.
      Liberals tend to see things more nuanced. We can appreciate Rockwell’s work as
      art and reflective of a time gone by, while still being able to criticize it for
      what it lacks. Or in some cases for what it reflects of what we were and are no
      longer. Perhaps he saw himself as a chronicler of an America he wanted to live
      in, surrounded as he was by the uber-patriotism of two world wars and a great

  • Pingback: Romney Crowds of People Begin to Strangely Reflect Grettle Rockwell | Ties

  • kemah

    “The demographics race we’re losing badly,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told the Washington Post. “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”
    That is the problem with the GOP. Not enough angry white guys.

  • Eddy Collins

    Actually, Rockwell DID a very pro-integrationist illustration “The Problem We All Live With”, showing a little black girl in pigtails being escorted by suit-and-tie-wearing (white) US marshalls past a tomato- and (“N*GGER”) graffiti-strewn wall, presumably into a public school.

    I’m sure EEC (above) also forgets that the top marginal income tax rate for the entire 1950s never dropped below 91%.

  • LanceThruster

    Many thanks for providing this info. I was not taking Rockwell to task as much as the times (exemplified by many of his depictions). It’s like recognizing the the Mayberry of the Andy Griffith show would entail certain realities not dealt with in the show itself.
    I’d be curious to know what the most widely distributed publication featured “The Problem We All Live With” and when. Did it ever get a cover page?
    Again, great reference.

  • Eddy Collins

    Thanks for your kind comments. This picture actually changed MY perspective of Rockwell when I first became aware of it, as I was well acquainted w/ his “usual” reputation.
    I’d forgotten it actually was about Ruby Bridges, integrating the NOLA public schools in 1960 (there was a movie out a few years ago). According to the above link, it originally ran in an early 1964 issue of Look magaizine. it currently is on loan for display at the White House.

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