July 12th, 2007

Romney’s Too Perfect? You’re Too Envious

Romney Family

One of the less-analyzed refrains about Mitt Romney is that he’s flawless. Whether it’s his Liberace locks, George Washington probity, Norman Rockwell family or Bill Gates success, “Romney may ironically turn off some voters by being too, well, perfect,” writes Matt Lewis.

The reason for this topsy-turvy attitude, Matt argues, is that Americans have always been anti-elitist. This is true, but we disdain privilege over merit, not success itself. We frown upon those who are born rich, but we “want to be like Mike.”

Leaving aside anti-Mormon bigotry and Romney’s lack of spontaneity and warmth, the root explanation for the “too-perfect” sneer is more insidious. People are naturally drawn to people like ourselves, for both positive and negative things. But since Romney’s life has been so strikingly charmed, it’s hard to identify with him. Instead, we cling to a Bill Clinton who snacks at McDonalds, or a Michael Bloomberg who rides the metro, or a Jimmy Carter who tells Playboy that he has “looked on a lot of women with lust.”

Such shortcomings reveal humanity, but they also bring down our icons to a “real” level. As Matt puts it, “To some people, extraordinary is creepy.”

Consider: Was Martha Stewart convicted of insider trading? See, Mrs. Perfect isn’t so perfect, after all! Did Britney Spears shave her scalp and then attack an SUV with an umbrella? See, America’s sexkitten is really a nutcase! Did Mitt Romney strap the family dog to his car roof for a 12-hour ride? See, the square family man abuses animals!

Such schadenfeude exhibits what novelist Ayn Rand termed “hatred of the good for being the good.” The corollary is that only when our stars fall from grace—only when we can see them behind bars or in tears or simply squirming—do we open our eyes.

That’s a shame, because the candidate who’s truly inspiring is already before us.

Addendum (7/15/2007): Here’s an elitist custom Americans rightly disdain: when the Queen of England finishes her meal, everyone’s meal is finished.

1 Response to “Romney’s Too Perfect? You’re Too Envious”
Smile Says:
April 11th, 2011

You’ve got a beautiful brown nose!