It is not very easy to care about Mitt Romney.
It’s a bit of a phenomenon, actually. It has proven almost impossible for most Americans to muster interest in this numbly rich, exceedingly bland caricature of a candidate, a man who is almost completely devoid of deep ideas or astute observation, who stands for nothing and says nothing you can ever remember, whose last ten speeches can be rolled into a fist-sized ball of palliative mush, hurled against a wall and then observed to ooze slowly to the floor, ending in a moist, displeasing plop. Fun!
There have been articles. There have been alarming notes coming in from all over the Interwebs talking about Mitt Revulsion Syndrome (MRS); websites and blogs, newspapers and TV shows alike have found that feature pieces about the GOP’s favorite tepid Mormon get the fewest clicks, viewers race away in droves, no one cares. Turns out Americans will do anything to escape Mitt’s creepy glare, his heavily shellacked aura, his vacuous everything. In short, Mitt is traffic poison.
(Author’s Note: So dangerous is MRS that I was hesitant to put his name in the headline to this column. Are you reading it now? Then I am lucky. Or perhaps I changed the headline to “Porn Star iPhone 5 Naked Gosling!” to get you to click on it. Did I? Sorry).
But try I must. To care. After all, these are urgent and trying times. The issues at stake are more vital and volatile than ever. Global warming, the economy, greed and corporatization, paranoid gun owners in a fresh panic that Obama is coming for their guns, their daughters, their Fear of Everything.
So I ponder. I pace up and down my very long hallway here in my San Francisco flat, from my front office to back kitchen, furrowing my brow and sighing a lot as I search for a point of Mitt-related interest, something besides the man’s insufferable personality or his obvious distaste for everything and everyone you or I hold dear.
My hallway, by the way, runs nearly the entire length of my apartment, in an almost perfectly straight line, maybe 80 feet of lovely, well-worn hardwood. Classic San Francisco, really, narrow and arterial. I stroll this meditative passage countless times a day. I stand in the kitchen after refilling my coffee, pondering column ideas as I look outside onto the tiny back porch. I notice my plants need watering. I notice one pot in particular.
Man, just look at that sad sight. Such a failure. The location is just too tricky. I’ve tried at least four or five arrangements in that large pot, to no avail. San Francisco weather! That weird little spot – did you see the picture? – gets errant blasts of sun, wind, fog, cold shade. I have tried vines, small, hardy flowers, tomatoes. Nothing seems to survive more than a few months. I am not much of an urban gardener, I admit. But lo, I am perplexed. What do you think? Maybe if I tried…
Whoa. Damn. Do you see what just happened? Do you see what struggles I, working here in the periphery of the mainstream media, must face?
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It strikes me as surely as it strikes millions of Americans every single day; I care more about that sad, dead heap of old soil than the Republican candidate for president. Put another way: A small potted plant contains far more excitement and luminous potential than the GOP’s chosen bucket of stale Fig Newtons.
It’s not difficult to see why. Hell, it’s easier to care about an oil stain or a rash on your toe than Mitt Romney. Even with the addition of Ayn Rand-loving, anti-choice, fiscal extremist Paul Ryan to the ticket, Romney only looks that much more the unlikable sugar daddy. Ryan does add a disquieting jolt of nasty fanaticism, though. Is it enough?
Not a chance. And it’s a bizarre phenomenon. I am far from politically apathetic. I care a lot. Bush won a second term I couldn’t scrape my heart out of the trenches for a month, such was the brutality of that blow to the country, and world. Conversely, my initial enthusiasm for Obama was off the charts, and remained hot and hopeful for a good two years.
Now? Not so much. Obama promised the moon and delivered exactly half of it. The rest he either fudged, punted or lied about completely. All in all, a fairly typical, if wildly disappointing, track record for a moderate liberal president/half black SuperJesus. But is Obama still light years ahead of Romney in articulation, vision, overall smarts, general support of the causes I care most about? Not even a question.
At least Bush had his searing ignorance, childish notions of God, moronic cowboy worldview to rally around. Mitt Romney promises little, delivers less, stands for nothing you can really name save for what his handlers feed him: Poor people are losers, abortion is wrong, wealthy white folk are wonderful and benevolent and should never really pay taxes, Mexicans are fine in small doses when they’re mowing the lawns of one of my five estates or cleaning the stalls of my show horses.
You’d think Mitt’s sneering distaste for the world would be enough to spark some outrage, some interest. But as I stare at my lovingly desiccated plant, as I imagine flourishing greenery – maybe an herb garden? – I rest in the knowledge that I am not alone.
Here’s the fantastic thing: no one on the Right cares much for Mitt, either. There is no passion to be found anywhere (save for the extremists and Tea Party simpletons who adore Ryan). Even House Republicans are bored to death by him. Heartland Christians really want to care, but Mitt’s creepy Mormonism means they don’t know which way is heaven anymore. Only rich Wall Street barons are happy with Mitt. This is because they built him.
It all bodes very well indeed. When a nation is this apathetic and numb to a particular candidate, when they can’t get away from him fast enough, good things happen for the other side. Even Bush was able to galvanize the uneducated, fundamentalist right. Even McCain could leverage his bogus patriotism and Sarah Palin’s ditzy winking. Romney can’t even galvanize your grandmother in Florida. If anything, she’s furious that Paul Ryan wants to kill Medicare. Or rather, she soon will be, once Obama reminds her, fifty times a day, for the next three months.
So be heartened, liberal America. Milquetoast mannequins who inspire no one – not even their own supporters, not even the Christian right, not even House Republicans – never win major elections. They do make comforting footnotes, though. Do you think I should try some basil plants?