On Mitt Romney, Dolly Parton, and Moral Reckonings
No matter how extraordinary the actions of some people are, for others, it's never enough.
In America, Mitt Romney — a current Republican senator and the 2012 Republican nominee for the U.S. presidency — has been in the news this week for doing something truly extraordinary: calling out his own political party for its shocking collapse into cynicism, nihilism, and demagoguery.
Romney has been talking in extremely pointed terms, naming names and explicitly saying what a danger he thinks former president Donald Trump was to the United States — and will be again if he is reelected.
Meanwhile, Michael and I have lately been listening to Dolly Parton’s America, a 2019 podcast about the country music star Dolly Parton.
The podcast argues — and, incidentally, I completely agree with this — that Parton occupies a unique and extremely interesting place in contemporary American culture: in a deeply polarized country, she is widely beloved by both the right and the left.
Parton is famous for her Appalachian roots, and she’s become a figure of profound respect in rural communities — a source of pride by virtue of her talent, yes, but also her celebration of her humble background and her many charitable works.
But in urban areas, Parton is equally celebrated — again, for her charitable works and undeniable talent, but also her general gutsiness and her open embrace of LGBTQ culture.
“It’s a good thing I was born a woman,” Parton once said. “Otherwise I’d be a drag queen!”
What Mitt Romney and Dolly Parton have in common is they both seem to be people of deep conviction and principle — Romney famously devoted to his Mormon faith, and Parton to her rural Christian roots.
And inspired by these values, they’ve both taken high-profile stands against elements of contemporary conservatism.
But Romney and Parton have their share of critics.
I’m not at all surprised by their critics on the right. After all, they’re calling out what they see as hypocrisy and corruption — and, especially in the case of Romney, they’re using the moral language of the right.
But they both also have plenty of critics on the left.