Reading Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi’s latest political remonstration about Mitt Romney – “Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital” – I felt myself sinking deeper and deeper into that queasy, impotent apprehension we’ve all gotten to know so well since ‘W’ Bush ascended to the throne lo these dozen years ago.
The Dirty Dozen, you could call them.
There have certainly always been shitheads and tyrants and con-artists and despots around to make life uncertain and tawdry for the good folk, but by some odd juxtaposition of truth and cant (or perhaps it was growing up in an intensely hypocritical and/or naive household) I somehow made it well into adulthood believing that all senior leaders in positions of sweeping public responsibility (in America, at least) were committed to doing the right thing for democracy and the common good.
This sense that responsible adults were always there when you needed them pretty much died in my case when James Baker appeared on TV during those fateful days of uncertainty following the 2000 election. With the question of Florida’s votes tied up in the Supreme Court, and the Gore team making noises that the best thing to do would be to carry out a full recount or even re-vote in FL, Baker stared down the journalists, TV cameras, American people, and world and basically told us to go fuck off and yield to the assertive power and naked ambition of the Bush crew – democratic legitimacy be damned.
We’ve been living with that ever since.
Call it a coup d’état, because that’s what it was. I never understood why Gore didn’t fight the worthiest battle ever put before him in his career, before or since. Sure, off he went pleading for climate sanity, a good cause, right? But he stepped out of the ring when America’s democracy was threatened, and never made the difference he could have made. The Big Swinging Dicks (to use the term Michael Lewis immortalized) prevailed, in Washington as on Wall Street.
Taibbi didn’t convince me – I knew it already – but reading his latest article reminded me viscerally how so much of a BSD Mitt Romney is. The pandering, the manipulation, the falseness, the scaremongering are all part of the communication strategy aimed at pulling off (with thanks to Taibbi for the analogy) the greatest political leveraged buyout in modern history. He’d clean up, of course. America would be left in much deeper debt, monetary or otherwise.
What’s this have to do with MBAs?
A lot, actually. Leaving aside the fact that both ‘W’ and Mitt Romney are alumni of Harvard Business School, the strategies and tactics that both (and their machines) employ are right out of winner-take-all business strategy, and (their lying sanctimonious Christian-Right rhetoric notwithstanding) there’s not a shred of ethical integrity or public-mindedness to be found. This is all about beating the other takeover team and walking off with the spoils. The people who live here are just muppets, hobbits, the primordial ooze. They’ll get over it.
Hm. That reminds me of some other similar situation in America’s history, but I can’t quite place it…
I hope to dear God that Romney loses, as many polls currently indicate he might. Not that Obama’s administration entirely lacks the amoral killer-culture we see in Romney’s (shout-out to Hillary!). But, if Romney wins, I’ll be one of the first to argue that we’ve reached the point where America’s federal core needs to be disassembled so that the immense concentrated power that these sociopaths are drawn to is dissipated and a more direct, decentralized, accountable form of democracy begins to replace what we are presently confronted with.
Then the B-school boys can return to business and leave our critical, precious socio-political value chain alone.
A vain hope? Entirely beyond the scope of The Curriculum of the West?
PS – What does the title of this post mean? Read this gripping excerpt from the final paragraphs of Matt Taibbi’s article (below). The bolding is mine. Perhaps this the the real meaning of globalization. The older notion of the absentee landlord or the absentee owner assumed that they lived at least somewhere. A truly evil lord lives nowhere.
Listen to Mitt Romney speak, and see if you can notice what’s missing. This is a man who grew up in Michigan, went to college in California, walked door to door through the streets of southern France as a missionary and was a governor of Massachusetts, the home of perhaps the most instantly recognizable, heavily accented English this side of Edinburgh. Yet not a trace of any of these places is detectable in Romney’s diction. None of the people in any of those places bled in and left a mark on the man.
Romney is a man from nowhere. …
Romney, … is a perfect representative of one side of the ominous cultural divide that will define the next generation, not just here in America but all over the world. Forget about the Southern strategy, blue versus red, swing states and swing voters – all of those political clichés are quaint relics of a less threatening era that is now part of our past, or soon will be. The next conflict defining us all is much more unnerving.
That conflict will be between people who live somewhere, and people who live nowhere. It will be between people who consider themselves citizens of actual countries, to which they have patriotic allegiance, and people to whom nations are meaningless, who live in a stateless global archipelago of privilege – a collection of private schools, tax havens and gated residential communities with little or no connection to the outside world.
Mitt Romney isn’t blue or red. He’s an archipelago man. That’s a big reason that voters have been slow to warm up to him. From LBJ to Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Sarah Palin, Americans like their politicians to sound like they’re from somewhere, to be human symbols of our love affair with small towns, the girl next door, the little pink houses of Mellencamp myth. Most of those mythical American towns grew up around factories – think chocolate bars from Hershey, baseball bats from Louisville, cereals from Battle Creek. Deep down, what scares voters in both parties the most is the thought that these unique and vital places are vanishing or eroding – overrun by immigrants or the forces of globalism or both, with giant Walmarts descending like spaceships to replace the corner grocer, the family barber and the local hardware store, and 1,000 cable channels replacing the school dance and the gossip at the local diner.
Obama ran on “change” in 2008, but Mitt Romney represents a far more real and seismic shift in the American landscape. Romney is the frontman and apostle of an economic revolution, in which transactions are manufactured instead of products, wealth is generated without accompanying prosperity, and Cayman Islands partnerships are lovingly erected and nurtured while American communities fall apart. The entire purpose of the business model that Romney helped pioneer is to move money into the archipelago from the places outside it, using massive amounts of taxpayer-subsidized debt to enrich a handful of billionaires. It’s a vision of society that’s crazy, vicious and almost unbelievably selfish, yet it’s running for president, and it has a chance of winning. Perhaps that change is coming whether we like it or not. Perhaps Mitt Romney is the best man to manage the transition. But it seems a little early to vote for that kind of wholesale surrender.