Friday, November 9, 2012

A meditation on the Romneys

comes to an improbable conclusion

Walking the dog a bit ago and musing, I came across something of a meditation about Ann Romney and about Mitt. I'm feeling pretty well-disposed right now (it turns out the defense of Obamacare is pretty damn good medicine), but I'm still not intending to write anything nice about the Romneys.

The meditation began with a focus on Ann's horse, which, we have been told, has been an important element in the treatment of Ann's multiple sclerosis. Really? And, so, are we to understand that we are to pay no attention to the wealth piled up in the corner, but focus instead on Ann's self, mortal like the rest of us?

I can manage a very little of that, but then the thought comes to mind: How incredibly privileged the Romney's are that they can afford such treatment. Yes, we will all shuffle off this mortal coil, but along the way some of us will suffer more.

None of this means that the Romney's are bad people (though wealth and cluelessness and the desire to lower taxes on the rich is the dangerous wish of a powerful person), but they do not a First Family make. According to media reports, Republicans are doing some serious investigation of their strategies and commitments and exploring options for the future. Let me suggest that they never run a person this rich for the presidency, again.

That wasn't a viable choice this time, and isn't going to be again, I'd wager (though I'm not willing to bet a Romney-style $10,000 on the proposition). Certainly, wealthy men and women are going to be the ones occupying the presidency for as far into the future as we can see, and will capitalize on their stature and our celebrity culture after they serve, but Romney was very likely a zero too far. His $250+ million fortune was less transparent than the fifty-times smaller fortune of the man he ran against and substantially larger than that of the Bush family.

But Obama made what he has on fame and book royalties, both things that have come to him fairly recently in life. And George W. Bush had a goofiness about him that persuaded lots of ordinary folks that Bush was a pretty ordinary guy, too. Lots of voters were okay with a goofy, rich man for president when times were good, but this time around, a rich man who has the same vibe as Thurston Howell III (on Gilligan's Island), would have been kicked to the curb sooner, and long before Obama sleepwalked through the first debate, if the economy had been only marginally better.

Thinking back on images of the campaign, I am struck by how often I recall pictures of Mitt looking befuddled or startled. Looking, in fact, like he has just run up against another manifestation of real life--like mere mortals questioning his judgement or his veracity--that he had never experienced before. Well, the only people I know of who are routinely protected from that sort of collision with reality are CEO's and the one percent. Don't kid yourself, you Republican deep thinkers, everyone was going to figure out that Mitt didn't have a clue, even if the Obama campaign had spent less money trying to convey that impression of Mitt.

I must say I don't envy Republican strategists right now. They must figure out a way to compromise on taxes and the deficit and Social Security and Medicare and the debt ceiling and immigration and infrastructure and climate change while maintaining strong connections to Tea Party supporters, half of whom will demobilize as the economy improves. For the Republican party as it is presently constituted, staying relevant in an age of adverse shifts in demographics and the electoral map  is like being up the creek without a paddle.

But the somewhat bizarre conclusion to my meditation is the thought that I really do wish the Republicans well. Democrats could use a hand governing the country at this very critical time. A Republican boost could be transformative.

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