Mitt Romney, Bubble Boy
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.