Thursday, 30 August 2012

Tom Buchanan for President

What gets our goat(s) about Mitt Romney?

Poor Mitt takes it in the torso for a number of things: having amassed a sizeable fortune, being stiff, shirking taxes, flip-flopping, outsourcing jobs, neglecting the middle class and the poor, having four home-states, having four homes, etc.

These are all reasons not to like him, but are they the ones that get beneath our skin? We take jabs at the wealthy, but only jabs, because, well, it would be nice to be there. We sneer at private banks, but we stop short of dismissing them altogether because, hey we might need them one day.

Liberal attack ads have been heavy handed when it comes to outsourcing. It’s another straw on the camel’s back, but it’s not quite what ruffles our feathers. Outsourcing is part of the capitalist sausage factory. It’s necessary, we digest it, but when it rears its head we can’t help but gag.

Romney also appears to have been manufactured in the factory that manufactures presidents. This understandably makes some of us grimace. His teeth are little too white, his hair still has a little too much black and his skin is still a bit too taut.  These are appropriate reasons for disliking someone, but we’re not yet at the end of our tethers.

Romney graduated from Harvard with a Juris Doctorate and MBA, finishing cum laude and landing in the top 5% of is MBA class. His classmates give him good accolades. He succeeded in the competitive consultancy environmental, then went on to found Bain Capital. He raised a family without any heroine addicts. Although his plentiful sons all seem to have been manufactured in the adjacent factory that manufactures upper-class New England yuppies. More reasons to dislike Mitt, but we’re not there yet.

Might the key ingredient that sours the stew be that his father had a few million dollars? This is a salty fact that we can revel in for a short while. It allows us to write-off his successes and attribute them to nepotism. We can believe that his millions aren’t the result of dedication, hard work and sacrifice, but the result of some unjust configuration over which we have no control and are forced to accept. Yes, Romney won the lottery of birth and this also constitutes another appropriate reason not to like him. But what we can’t dismiss is that he parlayed his winning hand. After all, many heirs end up doing a lot of nothing. Herein lies what gets our goat(s).

Romney only exacerbates this by trying to identify with the common man. These efforts are the seeds of those illusory stories of having worried about getting a pink slip, or of having been unemployed. Mitt seems to have forgotten that being unemployed with $250,000,000 in the bank is called being retired. He also seems to have forgotten that throughout his life he has had a substantial inheritance on the horizon that most Americans can hardly dream of. Mitt tries to pretend that he’s walked in our shoes, but fails to get the size right and ends up foolishly tripping over himself. It’s through these repeated moments that he supplies us with those grimaces that can only be elicited from condescension.

What Americans like is a good gamble. We don’t derive any entertainment value from a well calculated path, comprised of a number of premeditated straight lines from points A to Z. Americans don’t like the Tom Buchanans. We much prefer the Gatsbys.

We forgave Gatsby for working with Wolfsheim, because he went from living in his car to living the America dream. Maybe his path took him through some questionable back alleys along the way, but that only adds to the mystique.

Romney inherited the American dream, which is antithetical to the self-made ethos on which the country was founded. He takes us back to an aristocracy that is in our national DNA to detest. He had a head start that few get. So what if he took advantage of it? So what if he earned his own stripes? We like a hero who bears scars. Americans like a Jay Gatsby. Mitt is a Tom Buchanan.

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