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Election 2012: How is it even close?

Published by marco on

I wrote recently about my pet theory that Mitt Romney is a deliberate Republican decoy—a red herring—to encourage an otherwise lackluster public to vote for Obama, who is himself a nearly perfect Republican candidate. See Are we not paranoid enough? if you’re interested in hearing more about that argument.

The long-ish article This Presidential Race Should Never Have Been This Close by Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone) also discusses the seemingly improbably inept Romney and wonders how broken the U.S. political system has to be for this to even a close race at all.

In my article, I posited that a public disenchanted with Obama’s lackluster performance—his drones, his fiscal policy, etc.—would need a kick in the ass to get out and support their candidate in November. Taibbi takes a different tack, assuming that the public doesn’t know any of this … and doesn’t seem to know much of anything because a man like Mitt Romney seems to have captured almost half of their votes. That Obama has captured more is kind of irrelevant because, while we’re used to Americans voting against their best interests, how the heck can so many Americans want to vote for a guy who represents the exact kind of guy that ruined everything over the last dozen years?


“Think about it. Four years ago, we had an economic crash that wiped out somewhere between a quarter to 40% of the world’s wealth, depending on whom you believe. The crash was caused by an utterly disgusting and irresponsible class of Wall Street paper-pushers who loaded the world up with deadly leverage in pursuit of their own bonuses, then ran screaming to the government for a handout (and got it) the instant it all went south.”

That’s Mitt Romney. He’s the poster boy for that kind of behavior. Taibbi again:

“These people represent everything that ordinarily repels the American voter. They mostly come from privileged backgrounds. Few of them have ever worked with their hands, or done anything like hard work.”

Even if you’re a supporter of Romney, it’s really hard to argue with that statement. But, somehow, people instead accuse Obama of living a privileged lifestyle, although he came from much humbler beginnings. Romney wouldn’t know humble if it slapped him in the face. I personally wouldn’t care about details like that—I won’t vote for him because his expressed policies would be disastrous for an already heavily-listing ship of state—but most Americans, voting from the gut, should care, no? When Bush was running, people couldn’t shut up about what a nice guy they thought he was and how they wanted to have a beer with him. Romney has shown himself to be a stick-in-the-mud, well, … asshole at pretty much every juncture. He truly does not seem to know how the other half lives. He can’t even fake it. At all.

Taibbi again:

“For all this, when it came time to nominate a candidate for the presidency four years after the crash, the Republicans chose a man who in almost every respect perfectly represents this class of people. Mitt Romney is a rich-from-birth Ivy League product who […] has never done a hard day of work in his life […]

“He has a $250 million fortune, but he appears to pay well under half the maximum tax rate, thanks to those absurd semantic distinctions that even Ronald Reagan dismissed as meaningless and counterproductive. He has used offshore tax havens for himself and his wife, and his company, Bain Capital, has both eliminated jobs in the name of efficiency (often using these cuts to pay for payments to his own company) and moved American jobs overseas.

“The point is, Mitt Romney’s natural constituency should be about 1% of the population. If you restrict that pool to “likely voters,” he might naturally appeal to 2%. Maybe 3%.”

This is pretty accurate, except for the phrase “never done a hard day of work in his life”. I would change that to “never done a day of hard work in his life”, much less a week or month or year. By that I mean that I believe he worked hard throughout his life. Pushing pencils isn’t easy, even if lifting 100-pound sacks day in and day out is objectively harder. He has no idea what it’s like to bust your ass for 10 or 12 hours a day, get paid for seven of them and that at $7.50 per hour. He has no idea what it feels like to be absolutely exhausted at the end of a week and have almost nothing to show for it—and only an extra shift on Saturday to look forward to.

The point that I think is important is that, while he worked hard, he was doing so for relatively large rewards. And, most of the time, because of his privilege, those rewards were pretty much guaranteed. The private equity business has an enormous buy-in, but there is pretty much no downside. You may think it’s unfair to point this out, but Romney himself invites this kind of criticism because he’s so fond of indicating which other people are lazy and shiftless and a burden on society. He equates wealth-accumulation with usefulness and cheerfully consigns everyone under a certain income level as moochers trying to leech away his hard-earned millions, each dollar of which he richly deserves.[1]

Which takes us back to the question: how in God’s name can Romney even be in this race? You would think every last Tea-Party member would hate his guts—and in 2010, there were so many Tea-Party members in the Republican party that they won a bunch of Congressional seats.

Taibbi again:

“He’s everything we’ve been trained to despise, the guy who had everything handed to him, doesn’t fight his own battles and insists there’s only room in the lifeboat for himself – and yet the Democrats, for some reason, have had terrible trouble beating him in a popularity contest.”

One possible explanation—and one borne out by quite a bit of evidence—is that the Democrats just suck. They are horribly ineffective and constantly betray the ideals that a good number of their constituents desperately wish they had. Or maybe it’s because the U.S. media has just convinced enough people that Mitt Romney and his friends should pay no taxes—0.5% under his running mate Paul Ryan’s proposal—and we should just throw out the government and let the wealthy run things.[2] Plus, Obama’s a socialist who’s building internment camps and taking away all the guns. Oh, and one more little, tiny thing: Obama’s kind of black. Maybe that’s it.

[1] If you’re interested in more background on Romney and Bain Capital, check out Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital by Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone).
[2] Officially run things, that is. They’re pretty much running things now, but it’s not in the Constitution yet.