Friday, December 09, 2011

The Rich Kid

Why is it so many people just do not seem to like Willard “Mitt” Romney? My belief is, it’s because he is a perfect example of the Rich Kid trying to be “one of the guys” without knowing the culture well enough to become one of them. By trying to become something he isn’t he attempts to ingratiate himself with them. For example, he claims falsely to be a hunter when he has perhaps hunted only twice in his entire life, pretends to be a member of NRA when he’s not, and so on. Similarly, in his ambition to be President he uses the same technique of ingratiation, changing his position whenever he thinks it might help him. He seems not to understand that by doing this he is accomplishing the exact opposite of what he intends. By flip-flopping on every issue he makes himself even more of the Rich Kid trying to belong. When, for example, he claims that he, too, is unemployed he comes across as totally inauthentic, phony, and this is quite apparent to everyone. He doesn’t know how to talk with ordinary people, working people, and always appear either stiff or condescending or both. You don’t, for example, walk into a restaurant full of customers and say “what’s going on here.” He is, in short, the equivalent of a political “Nerd.” He neither talks the talk nor walks the walk. He doesn’t know how. He cannot possibly know how ordinary working people live.

In his obsession with becoming President he is willing to say anything, take any position, if he thinks it will help. In his latest embrace of the absurd Ryan budget, he seems to be pursuing it only because it is the opposite of the Gingrich position, a wonderful case in point. Paradoxically, and as unfortunate as it may be, even his emphasis on his stable 42 year marriage, and his belonging to the same church all his life, makes him suspect as that is not the typical life career of most Americans, it is in fact relatively unreal. If he were to proudly claim he was an Eagle Scout it would not work to his advantage (I am not saying he did claim this distinction). Most American boys do not become Boy Scouts, and few that do achieve Eagle Scout status, however desirable this may be. Having lived such an exemplary life is more likely to get you accused of being a “Goody, goody, two shoes,” than a “regular guy.” The fact of the matter is, in my opinion, Willard “Mitt” Romney is every bit as much the “Other,” as Republicans have tried to make Obama. Even his using “Mitt” rather than Willard is evidence of his trying desperately to be “just a regular guy.” I am not suggesting that Romney is a bad person, or that he has not lived an exemplary life, or that he suffers from a bad character, or is living a lie. He is, unfortunately, for himself, and perhaps even for the rest of us, too far out of the main stream of American culture to be a very convincing candidate for the Presidency.

I attribute Romney’s inability to connect with ordinary Americans (including other politicians) to his life history. Born into wealth and a Mormon family, sheltered, attending a prestigious Prep school for the very wealthy (he was not athletic), spending time as a missionary in France (where he was not very successful with the wine-loving Catholics not amenable to Mormonism, admitting what he was doing was rejected), later a year at Stanford (where he was opposed to the opposers), BYU, and eventually a special Harvard program in Business and Law (he was an excellent student whose classmates considered him “guilelessly optimistic). All in all he seems to have been the epitome of the “button down” conservative. While this experience no doubt fitted him splendidly for a career in business, it also kept him well apart from the mainstream of American culture. Thus it is true that from the standpoint of most ordinary Americans he lacks authenticity, he is not “one of them.” He is too perfect, too straight, too privileged, and too unable to “relate.” Strangely perhaps, Newt Gingrich with all his warts and baggage, is someone ordinary people can relate to, however sleazy he may actually be. Even more interesting when it comes to Gingrich is the fact that people do not seem to consider him what he actually is, or at least claims to be. That is, while he considers himself Professorial, a Historian and an Intellectual (and Professors and intellectuals do not usually fare well in American politics), people either overlook this or forgive him, seemingly thinking of him as basically a politician, or even a kind of “hustler,” someone who is more like themselves only smarter (he has successfully conned people into believing this over his many years of promoting himself). In any case, he is certainly not the “Other” that Romney is. Obviously you would not even consider having a beer with Romney, a non-drinking Mormon, but Gingrich might be entertaining.

Thus we have this bizarre situation where someone who has the background, experience, and means to become President, probably won’t, because he simply doesn’t relate well to others, whereas someone who is demonstrably unethical, only marginally moral, pompously egomaniacal, and disturbingly unpredictable, may have a better chance. Who says life isn’t stranger than fiction?

When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.

Mark Twain

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