Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science, has some timely advice for President Barack Obama.
In his landmark book, The Discourses, Machiavelli outlines how to maintain liberty within a republic.
Among his counsels:
…The quickest way of opening the eyes of the people is to find the means of making them descend to particulars, seeing that to look at things only in a general way deceives them…
President Obama seems to have gotten the message.
On August 6, speaking about Mitt Romney at a campaign event in Stamford, Connecticut, Obama said:
“He’d ask the middle class to pay more in taxes so that he could give another $250,000 tax cut to people making more than $3 million a year. It’s like Robin Hood in reverse. It’s Romney Hood.”
Mitt Romney as Robin Hood
Obama cited a study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center that says millionaires would receive a tax cut of approximately $250,000 a year if Romney prevails in November.
On the other hand, middle-class families would have to pay up to $2,000 a year in additional taxes.
All too often, people allow their message to get lost in too many details. This is especially true when they’re talking about something as complex as changes in tax law.
The trick is to get the message across quickly, vividly and–hopefully–unforgettably.
Thus, ”Romney Hood.”
Nearly everyone has seen the 1939 classic, The Adventures of Robin Hood, featuring the dashing Errol Flynn in green tights. Or, for those wanting an updated version, there’s the 2010 Robin Hood, with Russell Crowe.
Errol Flynn as Robin Hood
So while the federal tax code, at 73,608 pages, remains a mystery to even veteran accountants, the story of Robin Hood remains understandable even to children.
Robin Hood, after all, is the story of a wronged nobleman who aids the poor against corrupt and greedy aristocrats who support the pure evil of Prince John.
It’s the ultimate black-and-white story–or green-and-white, if you count the tights.
So when that story is reversed–with the poor being robbed to further enrich the wealthy–it conjures up imagery that’s also easy to grasp.
And unless you belong to the wealthiest 1%, it’s imagery that arouses profound feelings of anger and unfairness.
So it’s no surprise that members of the Right has savagely, desperately sought to rewrite the Robin Hood tale.
Like Rush Limbaugh, for example.
Limbaugh combines the poisonous tongue of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels with the porcine girth of Reichsmarshall Hermann Goring. He is the American Right’s most powerful spokesman.
Struggling mightily to put a good face on the devastating “Romney Hood” jibe, Limbaugh said:
They’re trying to make this thing stick, folks, by calling Romney Romney Hood. They’ve got ads. They’ve got all their talk-meisters out spreading that word. Romney is Romney Hood. The only problem is everybody misunderstands the Robin Hood story.
I’ll bet you more than half the people of this country think that what Robin Hood did was steal from the rich and give it to Lady Marian so that she would put out.
That, of course, is pure Limbaugh at his pornographic best. The man who
- Repeatedly called university student Sandra Fluke a slut for telling Congress that insurance companies should cover birth control; and
- Sees salaciousness where others would see only a struggle for justice.
If you watched the TV show, that’s what you probably thought. When I was growing up, Robin Hood and his band of merry men, Lady Marian in there, and the sheriff of Nottingham Forest was an evil guy. But the sheriff of Nottingham Forest was trying to always capture Robin Hood.
Everybody thinks that Robin Hood was out there stealing money from the rich and taking it back and giving it to the citizens of Sherwood Forest. Robin Hood was stealing from the government.
Robin Hood was a Tea Party activist. Robin Hood was anti-taxes. And that’s another myth. So many people misunderstand what Robin Hood’s all about.
Thus, the Right’s attempt to rewrite the classic legend. Clearly, the Obama campaign has touched a live nerve.
And no doubt it hurts Romney even more that Obama has added ridicule to his celebrated eloquence. Against ridicule there is no defense.
When Obama unloaded “Romney Hood,” the audience laughed.
And Romney is so identified with the privileged few that “Romney Hood” instantly conjures up a knowing laugh. At least, it does among those who don’t belong to the wealthiest 1%.
Only one question remains to be answered: Which version of the Robin Hood story will American voters sign on with?