Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The unbearable lightness of being Mitt Romney

The 1988 film The Unbearable Lightness of Being shows life behind the Iron Curtain, during and after the Prague Spring of 1968.  The dramatic tension in the story comes from Tomas' (the main character's) inability to change his psyche when dealing with other people.  This naturally causes him no end of complications with his wife, but no less trouble with the Communist authorities.  While well educated and privileged in his country, be cannot change and play the political game that it would take for him to have a comfortable life.  Basically, he is true to himself in rejecting the "go along to get along" that he needs.

Mitt Romney is, in a sense, the mirror image to this.  His entire life has embodied the "go along to get along" dynamic.  As a result of this (as well as his own privileged upbringing and admitted intelligence and drive) he has advanced to be the CEO of companies, the Governor of a State, and a candidate for President.

But as with Tomas, he cannot change his spots, either.  And therein lies his trouble.

Mitt Romney represents the Technocratic Elite.  He is similar to another famous technocrat from an earlier age, Herbert Hoover.  A graduate of Stanford, Hoover became a mining engineer and (as a civilian) guided the Marines to save the American community trapped in Tianjin in the Chinese Boxer rebellion.  Personally honorable, as he later put it his "first time with greatness" involved chasing former President Benjamin Harrison who had failed to pay admission to a Stanford baseball game.

Of course, Hoover was not a successful President.  While not the disaster that liberal teachers (redundancy alert) make him out to be - to make Roosevelt look greater in contrast - nobody can claim Hoover's administration to be a success.  You see, the technocrats had no solution to the troubles of the day.  Like Tomas in the story, and Romney today, Hoover could not change his technocratic spots, either.

Romney's problem is that the credibility of the Elite has collapsed.  Indeed, the technocratic institutions that dominated the post-war period are all sagging.  The idea that the "Best Thinkers" can think up solutions to the problems of the day seems quaint, a relic of the Father Knows Best television era.  The idea that the modern Academy produces the best thinkers is enough to make you laugh:
The Instapundit has been thrashing the higher education bubble meme for this little while, most recently lining to a longish piece in New York Magazine, The University Has No Clothes.  As you, Dear Reader, will be aware if you’ve been paying attention the Buckethead clan is homeschooling its youngins.  So the idea of college and education and assorted issues is important to us.  I have mixed feelings about college education.  It is in theory capable of providing the sort of knowledge that simply cannot be gotten any other way.  And we all like to think of it that way.  But the reality is something more akin to a four to seven year long, savagely, offensively expensive binger with a light frosting of vocational training and (for the lucky or skilled) a creamy filling of consequence- and moral-free sex.  At the end, you are tossed into the world with a credential of dubious and rapidly diminishing value and a mortgage for an expensive house you can’t live in or sell.
The problem is that two generations of increasingly entitled Academics have used the Universities as a public cash cow to be milked for their own psychological and material benefit, and the public has noticed:
Part of the growing disrespect for—and ambivalence toward—higher education is a result of the slackening of academic standards and the proliferation of college course and degree offerings in subjects viewed (fairly or unfairly) as frivolous by the public. Part is bred by familiarity; as more and more adults have had at least some college education, they have less reason to view universities with the reverence inspired by the unknown and unattainable. Part of the disrespect is fostered by the higher education establishment itself, which by means of “adjunctification” has made work for professional academics insecure and unrewarding. And part of the disrespect stems from academics themselves, who have helped to dismantle (for good and for ill) the aura that once surrounded their profession by, for example, dressing more and more like their students.
The intersection of out of control University costs with tightening State budgets is showing the contempt of the Universities for the public exchequer: when budget cuts are mooted because the public does not see enough value in the current University, the response of the Education Authorities is to propose eliminating the Computer Science department.

And this is the Technocratic Elite that is supposed to lead us?  Even assuming an elite that did not assume a droit du seigneur to rape chambermaids, or that many of the academic credentials of governmental officials are bogus, today's public simply won't buy the notion that the "right sort" of "smart" people are fit to lead.

And Mitt Romney pretty much represents the Technocratic Elite.  The Wall Street Journal's brutal description of Romney as "Obama's running mate" hits quite close to home.  Not because of the similarities between ObamaCare and RomneyCare, but is a shared world view that society can and should be lead by a technocratic elite.

Like Tomas in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Romney can't change who he is.  But he's the opposite of Tomas, willing to go along to get along, as long as society gets nudged in the right direction by the right people.

Stick a fork in the Romney campaign.  It's done.


TOTWTYTR said...

Part of the growing disrespect for—and ambivalence toward—higher education is a result of the slackening of academic standards and the proliferation of college course and degree offerings in subjects viewed (fairly or unfairly) as frivolous by the public

One has to wonder if this is why university professors are among the first lined up against the wall in revolutions? Or is it just that revolutionaries don't like independent thinkers once they've helped the revolutionaries overthrow the establishment so that THEY can become the establishment.

TOTWTYTR said...

As to Romney, he might be done, but he might not be done. He's likable and electable. Even though we don't like him, remember we're outliers in many ways.

With the way that would be candidates are falling by the wayside, I don't know who will be left to oppose Obama. As we now know, any Republican is going to be light years better than him.

North said...

When I woke up this morning I never expected a comparison of Mitt Romney and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.


ASM826 said...

It the Republicans make the mistake of running Romney, you can stick a fork in them, too.

Will not vote for Romney. Would rather see the Dems win again.

Guffaw in AZ said...

Everyone's so serious about this...
I was just sitting here wondering if Mitt had patches-on-his-jacket elbows, like Robert Young?

and, yes, he's worthless.

Anonymous said...

The failures of the Technocratic Elite don't only manifest themselves in things like proposing to eliminate the computer science department; they also manifest themselves in things like maintaining ethnic studies programs, with their defenders presumably thinking the math & science departments can take the brunt of the budget cuts to spare their fragile egos.

Romney is done? From your lips to God's ears, bubba.

TOTWTYTR said...

@ASM826 Sorry many did that in 2008 with the result now in the White House. Even Romney is better than another four years of Obama. I'm not getting any younger, but I'd not like to outlive the country I grew up in and love.

We didn't get into this mess overnight, it's not going to get fixed overnight.

I still hope that a better (more conservative) viable candidate comes along, but if they don't, I'll hold my nose and vote for Romney.

kx59 said...

jeez I held my nose and voted for McLame. Romney reminds me too much of the Texas governor good hair. LOoks good in them tight fittin jeans, but that's about it.
The only reason governor good hair is still in office is he was the lesser of two evils.
We don't need a former governor from the peoples republic of taxachussets as president. I spent two years working on a failed project in Boston, South Station.
Borepatch was up there then I think. I didn't know of him then, otherwise we'd have met. Man what an effed up state that is. The MBTA managed to stall that project just long enough to kill it.
Romney is son of obomanoid, the death knell for this country.
Me? I'm liking Cain.