THE BLOG
10/22/2012 10:06 am ET Updated Dec 22, 2012

Authority or Authoritarian

Finally! The real Mitt Romney, not the glossy PR portrait, has emerged. His dark visual snarl -- aimed squarely at journalist Crowley who dared contradict him with facts -- impels me to do all that I can to deny this man the presidency. The look and manner is as familiar as it is offensive. It's corporate America's "I'll get you for that/you're toast" look.

It's also the look of a bully or of a man who is contemptuous of 47% of the American electorate. Both domains are familiar territory for Romney, whose bullying in high school has been widely reported. Romney's latest incarnation, the one that surprised so many in the first presidential debate, is the blithe fibber so greatly admired by his "running mate, Fox News" (thank you, Stephen Colbert). Domination is what CEOs do. Submission is what they expect. It's a shame we have to be reminded -- a free society requires journalists, and voters, who refuse to be submissive.

That look from Mr. LBO Romney left me seething. Add his anything-goes primary campaign to his collaboration with Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and Brothers Koch, the inescapable pattern that formed in my head led me to look again at the study called "The Authoritarian Personality." Short course: the study was initiated after the Second World War to identify elements of character which led to fascism and it's been updated over the years. Among its many insights: rigid, domineering people can impose their will only when enabled by others willing to submit to them. Domination requires submission to work.

With the ascendancy of corporations and the minions they are intent on installing in political offices across the United States, the question now before Americans heading for the polls is this: Will we be collaborators with Romney's fellow plutocrats, elites who put profits before people? Or will we re-elect a President who has demonstrated his commitment to the best interests of the vast majority of us? There's no question that Romney fronts for the privileged 1% who want to dominate. Though he writes-off only 47% of Americans, he presumes that the other 52% will do as instructed by the remaining 1%. The question is, are we willing to submit?

In my personal experience with individuals at the highest levels of corporate America, the ones who scale the corporate heights live in exceedingly comfy bubbles where they get away with a great deal for which the rest of us would catch hell. At work, they're isolated and cozened in very quiet suites. They dine with each other in places where it is unnaturally quiet with services of all kinds delivered by obsequious and practically invisible hands. They go home either to gated communities in suburbs or city dwellings guarded by doormen. And far too often, their rich rewards come from a profound lack of empathy... and from our pockets. That empathy deficit is key to putting profit before all else.

It's easy to characterize such individuals as cold-blooded. If you've ever worked in corporate America, you know the type. They want what they want, when they want it, without regard for human costs. This is not only a woefully apt description of too many of those running America's corporatocracy. It is also why Etch-A-Sketch Romney is all too easy to characterize as a cartoonish representation of greedy corporate America in general and Wall Street in particular. I haven't read it, but my experience with senior executives of large corporations suggests that the bestselling Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work contains truthful insights.

It's no accident Romney has trouble relating to people. He's never had to. And it's no accident that he bears the marks of a cold blooded CEO and the worst traits of the very rich. Born to wealth, privilege and a faith community where his family is functional royalty, Romney then spent well over two decades in finance.

You remember finance. It crashed the economy not all that long ago, a crash so comprehensive that no mortal (i.e., President Obama) could have repaired the damage in four years. Back in the 1980s, the leveraged buy outs (LBOs) in which Romney specialized earned these particular transactions an especially ugly name, even among those raking in the dough. Remember Barbarians at the Gate or F.I.A.S.C.O.? Then as now, financial manipulation can be viewed as fundamentally predatory.

Predation is also the promise if we let the corporations and people behind Wall Street's Poster Boy take the White House. The financialization of the American economy almost destroyed it. This economy cannot survive as a casino (the irony of casino operator Sheldon Adelson's massive cash support of Romney would make appallingly bad fiction).

Authority -- genuine, authentic, legitimate authority -- is entirely different from the authoritarian. It has integrity. It is focused far beyond one's own personal wants and privileges. America's great good fortune is that our outstanding incumbent President is a man of genuine, authentic authority. President Obama has walked the talk of caring about more than "making it" and making more and more of "it." He's spent his entire adult life championing real, everyday people, not lusting after profits and privilege. Now it is up to the American people to do whatever is in our own power to insure that our nation chooses President Obama's demonstrated, courageous authority -- not the authoritarian alternative -- to represent us moving forward.