As we all know (if we are nerds), in the world of fan fiction, a “Mary Sue” is a character who exists solely as a surrogate for the author — it’s the ordinary girl who is a better Quidditch player than Harry Potter, or the super-spy who gets to raid Lara Croft’s secret treasure vault, if you know what we mean. So it turns out that plodding centrist boringpants David Brooks has written a fan fiction story of his very own! Only the Mary Sue in his story is not merely a character who gives Mitt Romney a winning strategy, it is a wholly fictional version of Mitt Romney himself, who says all the things that David Brooks thinks would win America over and elect a hypothetical centrist Republican. We have seen similar “centrist boringpants are the real conservatives” fantasy pretty recently (by Tom Friedman, natch), so it’s not surprising that David Brooks would want to play Starfleet Captain, too. And the New York Times, which has a weakness for this sort of candidate fan-wankery around upcoming debates, even let him republish it from his LiveJournal.
So, in Brooks’ richly imagined fantasy world, the “Mitt Romney” character has enough self-awareness to admit that Mitt Romney makes mistakes. Talk about a plot twist! So this fictional Mitt (let’s call him “Brooxney” so there’s no doubt about who’s really speaking) then admits that while his true love is actually Sensible Centrism, sometimes in the heat of a campaign, “the consultants want to make you something you’re not,” and
I’ve allowed that to happen to me. I’m a nonideological guy running in an ideological age, and I’ve been pretending to be more of an ideologue than I really am. I’m a sophisticated guy running in a populist moment. I’ve ended up dumbing myself down.
It hasn’t even worked. I’m behind. So I’ve decided to run the last month of this campaign as myself.
We have to admit that this is a pretty gutsy move for Brooks, since it suggests that somewhere inside the outer shell of this year’s right-wing Mitt, and possibly under the liberal-ish 1994 Mitt, you’d find a core of Actual Mitt Romney. But Brooks is looking for the real Chauncey Gardner and finding only an idealized version of himself.
And what does Brooxney think? Well, not surprisingly, he thinks that President Obama has not done enough to promote a bipartisan agenda, but then, neither has the Republican party. Happily, Brooxney knows that Republicans will be far more willing to go along with a moderate Republican president with an actual “R” following his name, rather than the one who currently occupies the White House. And so he will avoid the “fiscal cliff” with a thoughtful compromise that gives both sides part of what they want, using Math and Reason to accomplish that goal:
globally, the nations that successfully trim debt have raised $1 in new revenue for every $3 in spending cuts. I will bring Republicans around to that position. There’s no way President Obama can do that.
This is where the fans get restless about the character’s violation of the series canon, pointing out that you might as well get Klingons to sit down and have a good empathetic talk about their feelings. As Ezra Klein tweetered about the Brooks fanfic, “If Republicans would agree to a 3:1 deal, the budget negotiations would’ve been successful.” Yeah, Ezra, but THIS is a version of the universe where R’s are happy to compromise to get something they really want. And they probably didn’t dump Richard Lugar or Bob Bennett, either.
Brooxney then goes on to say that job-creation is not something that can be created by a single “magic lever,” but that he’ll promote many small policy changes that will provide a nudge toward growth, which is really the most that government can accomplish. And healthcare reform needs to be adjusted too, but not flailed at with an axe. Brooxney then gives a summation that only a David Brooks could think would win over undecideds (who are very calm and sensible in this version of the world):
I’ve tried to be on the level with you. This president was audacious in 2008, but, as you can see from his negligible agenda, he’s now exhausted. I’m not an inspiring conviction politician, but I’ll try anything to help us succeed. You make the choice.
And Brooxney wins, to the crowd’s resounding cries of “Meh.”