I don’t bother to vote anymore, but the first vote I ever cast was against Mitt Romney. It was 1994, I’d turned 18 two weeks before, and Romney was challenging Ted Kennedy for the Massachusetts Senate, a seat he’d held since 1962. I lived in Hopkinton, a small town that over the course of my childhood was turned into a bedroom community for lawyers, bankers and software engineers. They bought McMansions in its acres of recently felled woods, commuted the 25 miles east to Boston or various distances north and south to the biotech firms along the ring roads and generally changed Hopkinton’s flavour from what you might call ‘Masshole townie’ to ‘East Coast Yuppie’. (Twelve years later, it was the town where Neil Entwistle murdered his wife and infant daughter.) Every summer my father, a truck driver, pulled the Democratic town committee’s float in the 4 July parade, but my mother always suspected him of being a Reagan Democrat in the voting booth. I can’t claim to have had much politics of my own at the time, and had even passed through a reactionary phase that involved an aspirational Ronald Reagan costume for Halloween 1984, so I can only attribute my antipathy to Romney to a stirring of identity politics. Say what you want about the Kennedys, they were authentically of Massachusetts. Romney was a Mormon from Michigan and, more insidiously, a rich guy who wasn’t a Boston Brahmin like the then Governor Bill Weld, a recognisable holdover from a Wasp ruling class that had given way to an Irish American bootlegging dynasty and affiliated ethnic pols like Michael Dukakis and Paul Tsongas. Romney lived in a mansion in Belmont, a town between Cambridge and Walden Pond with nothing but mansions; in the era of NWA I recall another boy being teased for being ‘straight outta Belmont’. In our imaginations, it was the softest, whitest, richest place in the world, and a Belmont leveraged-buyout artist was easy to vote against.
LRB 23 February 2012 | PDF Download