The important thing to keep in mind as you watch Mitt Romney's brand new campaign ad -- the one that officially kicks off his general election push for the White House -- is that everything you're seeing, and not seeing, is intentional. We've witnessed some pretty impressive missteps and gaffes from the Romney camp over the last several months, but make no mistake: The advertising of a presidential candidate is a tightly choreographed piece of theater where nothing is done spur-of-the-moment and nothing is left to chance. Penetrating the psychology of your target audience is too important -- that audience is always shown exactly and only what the campaign and its promotional team want it to see.
What this means is that it's not an accident that every face you see in Romney's new "Promise of America" ad is white. Every single one. Though there may be the back of a head shown for a split-second, there isn't a person of color's face to be found in the two-and-a-half minute spot that features Mitt Romney, all chiseled central casting looks and very carefully edited diction, vowing to restore our country to its former greatness as Hans Zimmer-style orchestration swells to a sweeping crescendo. And again, while over the next week or so you might hear a lot of people talk about how this is a huge oversight on the part of the Romney campaign, it absolutely is not. It's exactly according to plan. Because Romney knows who he has to win over in a commanding way and right out of the gate -- white, Christian middle-Americans either outwardly reeling or quietly concerned over what they see happening to "their" country.
Only breathtaking incompetence on the part of Team Romney would lead to a campaign ad in which a substantial portion of the electorate -- one growing at an exponential rate -- wasn't represented at all, even in the interest of cynical pandering. Sure, Romney spokesman Eric Fehnstrom screwed up royally by coming right out and admitting that his guy is an "Etch-a-Sketch" who can erase his positions and draw entirely new ones at will, but that was an off-the-cuff comment -- this is a carefully constructed promotional campaign. And what the Romney camp is saying with this is unmistakable: Regardless of the rise in status that minorities have enjoyed over the past few decades, culminating in the election of a black man to the highest office in the land, good, old-fashioned white people are still the backbone of this country -- the "real" Americans. No, Romney isn't denigrating black and brown people -- not directly -- he's simply and subtly letting it be known to those who need to hear it that when he talks about restoring our country, he means going back to a 1950s, Pleasantville vision of America -- a time before, well, everything became so darned complicated and less "pleasant" because minorities suddenly seemed to be a powerful cultural and political force throughout the nation.
For the very specific audience Romney is attempting to appeal to in the "Promise of America" ad, there's an original sin to blame for the tumultuous times our country has been forced to endure recently, one that wasn't a singular event but has instead played out over several decades. That sin: change -- progress. Specifically the loss of influence by the people who had traditionally been in control of the nation and who could rest comfortably in the privilege bequeathed to them by God and the founders -- coincidentally, people who looked very much like the smiling faces featured in the Romney ad.
Romney has made it clear right off the bat: He's reaching out to white America.
And that may wind up making it pretty clear what the choice is for everyone else this November.
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