I spent last week on the Great California Bankruptcy Tour, visiting the old bankrupt (Stockton) the freshly bankrupt (San Bernardino), the possibly-soon-to-be bankrupt (Compton), and the amazing-it’s-not-bankrupt (Los Angeles). I also hit a few places with happier fiscal stories (San Jose, San Diego), and you can read all about it in the next issue of National Review. (I love the mighty, mighty NRO, but if you aren’t reading the magazine, you’re missing some of our best stuff.)
I cannot think of very much good to say about the post-apocalyptic traffic situation that prevails in much of southern California, but I will say this: It provides one with an opportunity to listen to the radio. A lot. Hours and hours of radio, in fact. About conservative talk radio, my longstanding observation that the field is basically Rush and then everybody else still stands, even though the man himself was away one day and replaced by his official Sinister Foreign Guest Host.
But (apostasy alert!) there is only so much talk radio one can listen to, and there is something about the peculiar sensation of being trapped in an epic traffic jam (the slow crescendo of building rage, the sense that one is witnessing an immense institutional failure of a particularly urban variety) that makes rap music sound to my ear like the appropriate soundtrack. (Your mileage may vary.) I am no expert on the genre in its current expression (I’m pretty sure the last rap album I purchased was in 1991; O.G. if you’re wondering), and I’m sure the politics of hip-hop are as ignorant and backwards as the politics of any other randomly selected segment of the entertainment industry, but after a few hours of listening to rap radio, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit better about Mitt Romney’s electoral prospects. Seriously. It is impossible to listen to a rap station without coming to an inescapable conclusion: America does not hate rich people.
About every third song on the radio was about the joys of acquiring great heaping stacks of money, preferably in neatly bundled hundred-dollar bills, and engaging in all manner of conspicuous consumption. “I got so much money I should start a bank,” declared a young son of Pittsburgh calling himself Wiz Khalifa. “So much paper right in front of me it’s hard to think.” Sound like anybody you know? The kid probably doesn’t have the net worth of Romney’s accountant’s accountant’s accountant, but he’s making a good living (God bless America!) boasting about his assets on the radio. Wikipedia informs me that Mr. Khalifa, born Cameron Jibril Thomaz, is the product of a world-traveling military family and a blue-ribbon high school. But, I’m guessing, still not a Romney voter.
Donald Trump is a baleful influence on U.S. politics and on the conservative movement in particular, but I suspect that the success of his television show bodes well for Romney: Apparently, a not-insignificant number of Americans’ idea of a good time is watching the deliberations of a rich guy who likes being able to fire people. Sound like anybody you know?
This inevitably put me in mind of what is widely regarded as the world’s greatest Twitter exchange, involving a rapper called Drake and another character who will be familiar to readers of this magazine:
@drake The first million is the hardest.
@boonepickens The first billion is a helluva lot harder RT @Drake: The first million is the hardest.
A few Occupy-type lefties have, in what they imagine to be the height of cleverness, started spelling Romney’s name “Rmoney.” (And they even faked a photo of kids in T-shirts spelling out RMONEY.) If I were Romney, I’d track down the first Republican rapper I could find (Eazy-E, where are you in our hour of need?) and present him with a nice gold chain (heck, platinum) with an RMONEY medallion attached. I’d print up posters of Obama at some Solyndra-style crony-capitalism ribbon-cutting with the caption: “It’s not your money, Mr. President, it’s our money. This message brought to you by RMONEY.” Or, “Hey, Mr. President, Where the Hell Is All RMONEY?”
Or imagine this conversation:
Romney: Hey, Wiz, did I hear you say you just spent a hundred thou on champagne? That’s terrific!
Wiz: Rmoney! I didn’t know you even liked champagne.
Romney: Oh, golly, I don’t drink, but in 2005 Bain did a $2.45 billion deal with Pernod Ricard. Hundred thou — that’s cute.
Obviously, there’s a reason I’m not a campaign consultant.
But I do believe that the Left is overplaying the class-warfare card, and Obama’s having been burned by his recent loose rhetoric is only one illustration of that. We don’t hate rich men — we subscribe to magazines publishing annual lists of the country’s wealthiest people. We read movie reviews, but we also read reports about how much money movies make. There’s a reason they sell The Robb Report at Walmart, and it isn’t because the typical Walmart shopper is taking his goods home in a Rolls-Royce.
I have mixed feelings about Mitt Romney, but RMONEY is a candidate I might could get behind.