Have you seen Steven Spielberg's docudrama about Mitt Romney's 2012 primary campaign? It was made, prophetically, in 1971, it starred Dennis Weaver and a really irrationally vindictive truck, and it was titled "Duel." Some film buffs and political experts still debate the believability, or unbelievability, of the movie's ending, in which the pathetically desperate traveling salesman (Weaver) triumphs over the mechanized leviathan's blind rage. The film's irony, however, which we'll get to, is profoundly unmistakable.
If you haven't seen it, you should. Brilliant allegories like "Duel" don't come along every day. In it the faceless, mindlessly hateful tanker truck is of course the GOP base, which pursues Weaver, which is to say Romney -- something of a poor schmuck of a guy who's just trying to do his day job -- at every literal turn. Romney, driving a Plymouth 'Valiant,' no less, has done nothing to deserve this monstrous pursuit and deadly chase. But, it is what it is. And since the trembling, sweat-soaked Romney can't change what it is -- either the base itself, or this duel to the death -- he somewhat haphazardly plots the tanker's kill. Successfully. The truck -- that is, the base -- goes over a cliff.
This imagery and allegorical docu-melodrama leapt inexorably to mind this morning when I read Paul Krugman's latest, which is a kind of variation on Speilberg, in that Krugman posits that the trembling, sweat-soaked Romney "is, in fact, a closet Keynesian." Krugman says this because Romney recently said that "If you just cut ... spending you’ll slow down the economy" -- which is something that Romney isn't allowed to say by the predatory, samizdat-hunting base. What Romney said is perfectly rational, mind you, and there's not a mentally balanced economist alive who'd dispute it, but such rationality has a way of being capriciously targeted for brutal extermination by those who would be Romney's followers on his road to the White House.
Romney is of course quite aware of this irrational pursuit; indeed his self-conscious hyperawareness is what makes the poor schmuck so excruciatingly uncomfortable in his own skin, and just as excruciating to watch. He has perforce become a Costanza-like Lord of the Idiots, who must halt whatever instinctively intelligent judgment is about to come out of his mouth and instantly substitute the precisely moronic opposite. This, for irrational reasons not yet wholly determined, the base demands, and Romney is (mostly) delivering.
The immense irony of this Spielbergian tragicomedy is that nominee Romney will, true to form, swerve at the last minute in yet another desperate attempt to save his own ass; the base, too, will likely espy the precipitous, electoral catastrophe ahead and begin grinding its gears into downshift, to avert utter disaster; but it will all be for naught -- the raging, irrational base will mangle itself into oblivion.
And Mitt Romney? Deprived of a truly emotionally satisfying triumphalist moment, he'll just wander back to his quarter-billion, poor thing.