My sister is married to a wealthy lawyer. He sent their kids to private school, he told me once, so that they â€śwouldnâ€™t have to come into contact with the sort of people he didnâ€™t want them toâ€ťâ€”by which he meant, of course, people like me and my kids, who went to public school. He said this with a breathtaking lack of self-consciousness, as if it was a sentiment that all people naturally share. Which of course it is, if by â€śpeopleâ€ť you mean people like him. Which he did.
Which brings us to Mitt Romney.
The great secret of people like Mitt Romneyâ€”and Dan Quayle and his son Ben, and the two Bushesâ€”is that they know theyâ€™re pretty much not great shakes. Theyâ€™re aware theyâ€™re not the sharpest tools in the tool shed. They recognize that they havenâ€™t had to work very hard to get where they are.
And therein lies the problem with privilege. When your path in life is smoothed all along the way by money and its perquisitesâ€”fancy private schools, ritzy colleges that admit you because youâ€™re a legacy, social clubs and fraternities that seek you out, nifty first jobs at law firms or in political campaigns, businesses that fail but that never let you failâ€”youâ€™re bound to wind up thinking: â€śYou know what? This isnâ€™t so hard.â€ť And the natural corollary? â€śAnybody ought to be able to do this.â€ť And the follow-up: â€śAnyone who canâ€™t is clearly lazy or an idiot.â€ť And there you have the notorious 47 percent.
Think about it. Youâ€™re George W. Bush, you got crappy grades at Yale, you got to be a National Guard pilot despite your low aptitude scores and record of poor attendance, you became a drunk, you drove the Texas Rangers into the ground, you ran an oil company that failedâ€”and hell, the country still elected you president! Talk about a low bar! These are the kinds of people who rub shoulders at the top of the one percent. Theyâ€™re the people my brother-in-lawâ€™s kids go to school with. Canâ€™t you see how easy this makes it for you to completely disparage societyâ€™s losers? Christ on a cracker, how dumb must they be?
Or be Mitt. Run for the Senate and lose. Run for governor of Massachusetts and win, but decline to run again so you can instead focus on winning the Republican nomination for the presidency. Whichâ€”you wonâ€™t, losing out to John McCain. But! Try again in 2012 and get nominated, even though youâ€™re nobodyâ€™s favorite candidateâ€”maybe because of that. See? How hard can life be? All you have to do is show up, practically!
These people out there complaining about their taxesâ€”sheesh! Why donâ€™t they just use my accountant? These women whining about access to contraceptionâ€”Ann never wanted contraception! She wanted sons! If you need money for college, just ask your freaking parents, like I did! If you get sick, just go to the emergency room! Thatâ€™s what I did after I was driving that car in France and that woman got killed!
Romney doesnâ€™t think heâ€™s all that. He knows heâ€™s notâ€”and yet look where he stands, on the threshold of winning the presidency! The rest of you out thereâ€”the short-order cooks, the single moms, the waiters, the trash-truck drivers, the schoolteachers, the elderly, the disabledâ€”come on! You must not even be trying! Youâ€™re trying even less than I am, and Iâ€™m hardly trying at all!
Of course, should he win, he wonâ€™t see any reason on Godâ€™s green Earth to extend a hand to help you with those bootstraps. Why should he, when you wonâ€™t even help yourself?