Swan Tower - Mitt Romney, Bubble Boy

Sep. 19th, 2012

10:05 pm - Mitt Romney, Bubble Boy

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In light of Romney's self-inflicted gut wound this week, I find myself dwelling on this piece by Jeremiah Goulka, about how and why he ceased to be a Republican.

The enormity of the advantages I had always enjoyed started to truly sink in. Everyone begins life thinking that his or her normal is the normal. For the first time, I found myself paying attention to broken eggs rather than making omelets. Up until then, I hadn’t really seen most Americans as living, breathing, thinking, feeling, hoping, loving, dreaming, hurting people. My values shifted -- from an individualistic celebration of success (that involved dividing the world into the morally deserving and the undeserving) to an interest in people as people.
[...]
My old Republican worldview was flawed because it was based upon a small and particularly rosy sliver of reality. To preserve that worldview, I had to believe that people had morally earned their “just” desserts, and I had to ignore those whining liberals who tried to point out that the world didn’t actually work that way.

Goulka says a lot more, going into detail about how Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War pried the scales from his eyes, but that's the part that I keep thinking about -- because it's the only way I can make sense of Mitt Romney.

I think the man has spent his entire life in a socio-economic bubble so hermetically sealed that he doesn't even realize the world outside it exists. That's how he can see forty-seven percent of this country as moochers selfishly glued to the governmental teat, shirking personal responsibility while the virtuous men of his class keep the country going. That's why he thinks people making two hundred thousand dollars a year are middle class; that's why he can say, with a straight face, that he "inherited nothing." By his standards, those statements are true. But his standards are so skewed, the skew has completely vanished from his field of vision. He's a poster boy for privilege: carrying so much of it, and so utterly blind to the knapsack on his back.

And it means that when he opens his mouth around people from outside his bubble, he comes across as a condescending dick. It's happened again and again on the campaign trail, despite what I presume are the best efforts of his handlers to teach him less counter-productive habits; it happened on a massive scale at that fundraiser, because he never meant those words to be heard by the hoi polloi. It happens when they send Ann out to be his surrogate, because she's been living in the same bubble, a world where she and Mitt were "struggling to make ends meet" back when they were living off his stock portfolio.

During the 2008 campaign, I remember somebody writing a cute post wherein they pretended the presidential election was a piece of fanfic, and criticized it for Obama's Mary Sue qualities and the OOC way John McCain was being written, betraying all his principles in a cynical bid for the win. If 2012 were a workshop story, I'd be bleeding ink all over the page, lambasting the writer for saddling the Republican party with such an unrealistic caricature of arrogant, wealthy, self-interested self-absorption as their candidate. Because even when I can explain Mitt Romney, I have trouble believing that this really what we've ended up with.

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From:dunmurderin
Date:September 20th, 2012 05:20 am (UTC)
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I think it was around the time Newt Gingrich announced his grand scheme of 'going to the moon, brb' that I was staring at the TV at work and going 'what the hell happened to the Republican party? When did it go completely gagaf*cknuts?' And I remember feeling more than a bit *scared* because the disconnect between the Republican candidates and reality was so wide and it was like, 'we're supposed to *trust* you but you're talking nonsense!'

I'd had the feeling for a long time that politicians in both parties have little or no concept of how many Americans really live, but these days I don't get that feeling as much from Obama. Romney, on the other hand, makes it pretty damn clear that not only doesn't he know anything about how people live but that he doesn't *care* enough to learn different.
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From:swan_tower
Date:September 20th, 2012 05:30 am (UTC)
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The monetary requirements these days for a presidential campaign (not to mention the other offices you have to hold before you can realistically contend for the nomination) means that, sadly, the poorest of our candidates are going to be pretty well-heeled. But even with that, Obama and Romney are from different worlds, especially when you look at their early lives. (To my surprise, Clinton also had a fairly "normal" childhood, compared to a lot of our more dynastic politician types.)

The slate of candidates on the Republican side this round was . . . yeah. It's pretty obvious what happened: the more serious potentials looked at the economy (which still sucks, and will continue to suck for a while longer, a fact which will be blamed on whoever's in office for the next four years) and the influence of the Tea Party (which imposes purity tests that send independents screaming in the other direction) and thought, y'know, I'd rather wait for 2016. We were left with the third-stringers -- and with Mitt Romney, who won by default of being less scarily unstable than his opponents. But that doesn't make him a good candidate; it just makes him the last man standing.
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From:dunmurderin
Date:September 20th, 2012 05:44 am (UTC)
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Pretty much. It's pretty bad when my girlfriend's mom who has voted Republican for years is like, "I'm voting for Obama, he's a lot less scary."
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From:mindstalk
Date:September 20th, 2012 06:43 am (UTC)
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Actually I think if you go back through our last several Presidents, most of them come from fairly modest backgrounds -- the Bush clan excepted. Everyone else is pretty meh, until JFK. Then you have to go back to FDR. Beyond that, I lose patience. But Truman, Eisenhower, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Obama all range from "middle class" to "poor" in origins. (Carter seems one of the better off; "prominent businessman" father.)

By the time they run they may be wealthy -- Obama could have retired on his book alone -- but childhoods, no. "Anyone [male, and formerly white] can grow up to be the President" has some merit to it.

As for the campaigns, http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2012/Pres/Maps/Sep19.html#item-3 says Romney isn't spending his own money this time around.
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From:swan_tower
Date:September 20th, 2012 08:01 am (UTC)
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Interesting. I hadn't looked that far back; I was just thinking of Obama, Romney, Clinton, and the Bushes. In other words, my own political lifetime. That frame made me think the Bushes were more like the norm.
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From:cepetit.myopenid.com
Date:September 20th, 2012 06:41 am (UTC)
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This campaign reminds me of a flashback line early in the second season of The West Wing (it's in part I of "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen"):

LEO
Because I'm tired of year after year after year after year having to
choose between the lesser of "Who cares?"; of trying to get myself excited about a candidate who can speak in complete sentences; of setting the bar so low, I can hardly look at it. They say a good man can't get elected President. I don't believe that, do you?

* * *

And that is the key to understanding that The West Wing is not just a show about politics and political actors (puns intended): It is an alternate history in which we could elect that "good man" of great intellectual attainment.
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From:swan_tower
Date:September 20th, 2012 08:01 am (UTC)
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Instead of intellectualism being a black mark in the eyes of half of the electorate.
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From:beccastareyes
Date:September 20th, 2012 01:00 pm (UTC)
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There's also an article floating around about a group of same-sex couples talking to Romney about how his position on marriage equality hurts them and their families. He comes off as, again, having never even considered what life is like for a same-sex couple, and like he doesn't care to learn.
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From:ckd
Date:September 20th, 2012 02:56 pm (UTC)
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He doesn't even care enough to listen. He called the child one woman had given birth to "your adopted daughter". He was viciously petty enough to not approve one-day solemnizer certifications for people who wanted to preside over their friends' same-sex marriages until the day the latter became legal, even though those require weeks of advance notice.
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From:beccastareyes
Date:September 20th, 2012 05:51 pm (UTC)
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Yes. Which astonishes me that he doesn't see it at least as part of what an elected official does, or good PR. One thing that Obama seems to do really well is comes across* as the kind of person who cares about you and your family and job and town and so on. Even if it's an act (and I don't think it is), it makes it clear that Obama and his campaign team think that it's important to look like he cares. Romney occasionally tries, but it comes off as scripted -- one would think a veteran from business and political office (and, IIRC, he held a leadership position in his LDS ward) would have the chance to develop at least the appearance of empathy to people who are outside of his experience. Then again, maybe in his pre-politics and church work, he really never met someone who didn't fit in the 'really like me' bubble. (Or he never noticed.)

* At least in press footage.
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From:swan_tower
Date:September 20th, 2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
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This article makes for fascinating reading, because it shows what Romney is like with people inside his experience -- not the stupidly-wealthy side of it, but the Mormon community side, which is probably where you'd expect to find him showing a human side, if he was ever going to.

But yeah, he seems to so profoundly lack empathy for others that he can't even fake it in more than a half-hearted way.
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From:swan_tower
Date:September 20th, 2012 06:20 pm (UTC)
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Yep. He doesn't know about problems other than his own; when presented with them his reaction is not to bother paying attention; when his face is rubbed in them, he grudgingly does the bare minimum required of him. It's kind of stunning.
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From:d_c_m
Date:September 24th, 2012 05:01 pm (UTC)
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You have an Amen over here. Hubby and I have been discussing the same thing about Mitt.
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