Schrödinger’s Romney

David Javerbaum has quite a fun piece in the NYT about a “Quantum Theory of Mitt Romney”. And when I say “quite fun”, I mean “wrong about most things”. He gamely tries to apply principles to quantum physics to Mitt Romney’s campaign, but, while entertaining, he makes some claims which even tongue-in-cheekness can’t excuse.

Firstly, Newt Gingrich as a “traditional campaigner”? I understand that the “Newtonian” pun was too good a chance to miss, but the idea that Gingrich is the prototypical candidate, whose “position on an issue tends to stay at rest until an outside force — the Tea Party, say, or a six-figure credit line at Tiffany — compels him to alter his stance…” is absurd. A colony on the moon: what the Tea Party have always wanted! Regardless of whether he was pandering to the Florida electorate in that instance, the extent in which he flip-flops for more “rational” or less “random” reasons than Romney is highly dubious.

More egregiously, there’s then this non sequitur on the issue of non-causality

For example, ordinarily the cause of getting the most votes leads to the effect of being considered the most electable candidate. But in the case of Mitt Romney, the cause of being considered the most electable candidate actually produces the effect of getting the most votes.

Pretty much every election I can think of has causality running from being considered the most electable to then getting the most votes. Ordinarily, the cause of getting the most votes has the effect of being, urm, the elected candidate, not the most electable one. I understand that the repeated game scenario of a primary season complicates this, but come on, it’s simple Downesian stuff, and the idea that being considered electable leads to your election doesn’t need an appeal to sub-atomic chaos to explain.

There’s a whole other point about the sentience of subatomic particles, and how they couldn’t settle on a state that is “likely to please the asker” in the way that Romney does, as that wouldn’t be random… Anyway, I won’t do any more on this; I get it’s a joke, and my soul aim in life isn’t actually to destroy all that is light-hearted and carefree with overblown pedantry. But there is a more serious point here. Why is Romney considered a uniquely unknown politician? Why so much speculation over who is “the real Mitt Romney?” He seems to me to be going through the same juggling act that most candidates go through; of appealing to a primary base that is more extreme than his (presumed) electorate for November, and he tries to say things to please a broad range of diverse people. And you can’t always take what he says at face value? Shucks, he’s only a politician after all.

Although I guess, to be fair on Javerbaum, appealing to a broad range of people would certainly set him apart from Newt.

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  1. April 8th, 2012

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