I was thinking the other day about Mitt Romney. You remember him—living tissue over cybernetic skeleton? The white robot Republicans trumped up as their candidate, spent months trying to dismantle and then finally went with anyway to try and oust President Obama? Yeah, that’s the guy.
Not the most timely of topics I know, but I hope you’ll indulge me just this once if I delve back to Election Night 2012. The poll results were in, the Rovian theft of Ohio thwarted, and Barack Obama voted into a second term in the U.S. Presidency: An office you’d have to be out of your mind to want.
I was thinking about this, and thinking about that stretch of time, after Obama pulled ahead, ahead and still further ahead to come out more than the 270 electoral votes needed for a decisive reelection, and about how there was this long pause after we all knew it was over before Mitt Romney conceded. There wouldn’t be a recount. We didn’t need to wait for Florida. Still, we all sat and waited for Mitt to take the stage, give his “I just got my ass handed to me” whathaveyou and disappear.
Why did we wait? Because, as he said earlier in the day, he only brought one speech with him to his campaign headquarters in Boston.
One speech. Now, presidential elections are not short on bullshit. Top to bottom, the rhetoric and the actions of these men and women running for office—from the primaries to the inauguration—are the finest puppetry money can buy. But Mitt Romney only having one speech ready has stuck with me, because the only reason for him to have one speech—a victory speech, to be delivered at the moment of his triumph in unseating America’s first African-American president—is if he really thought he was going to win.
You and I, we’re hip. We saw the poll numbers, and on Election Night, we played it cool, trying to sync up CNN coverage with the sound off to Electric Wizard records. We knew what was up, that Mitt was a sucker’s candidate and that if the Republicans actually thought anyone could take the race from Obama, they’d have run them instead. But what Mitt’s lack of preparation tells us is that he didn’t know. I think he might have been the only one.
Let me make this clear: I don’t feel bad for Mitt Romney. Because he has hundreds of millions of dollars and generations of cultural privilege? Yes, because he has hundreds of millions of dollars and generations of cultural privilege. I’ve never had the experience myself, but I imagine that when it comes to consolation, there’s little more one could want. What this shows us, though, is that even someone like Mitt Romney—who is the traditional American vision of the “man in charge” as much as anyone has ever been, from his personal wealth to the capitalist chicanery that “earned” it for him to his jawline to his hairline to his bevy of lacrosse-player-looking progeny—can get played.
One can point to the party elite or supervillain moneyed interests like the Koch Brothers or Sheldon Adelson, but thanks to campaign finance laws, we don’t even really know who exactly it was propping Mitt up, but there he was, and while you and I could flip open our laptops, phones, tablets, or Game Of Thrones-esque messenger ravens and see in the polls that homeboy didn’t stand a chance from the start and that the “tight race” was just something to fill time in the news cycle, every moment of Mitt’s day was scripted, punched in, accounted for and planned. He couldn’t know.
Maybe they didn’t want him to know. Maybe they kept it from him. How could he possibly go out and pay the necessary lip-service to his candidacy if he knew it was lost? When John McCain knew he was done in 2008, he more or less said so three weeks beforehand, and his already drowned campaign sunk even further. They had to keep Mitt in the dark in order to keep him believing—right up to when we all waited for him to make that concession speech—that he was going to pull it out. So he only took the victory speech with him to Boston.
Again, my sympathies for Romney are minimal to the point of statistical insignificance. It’s just if even Mitt Romney can get the proverbial wool so thoroughly pulled over his eyes, what hope can there possibly be for the rest of us?
All hail the narrative.