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A critique of Jeff Salzman’s view of Mitt Romney as having an Integral worldview

Mitt Romney

On the Daily Evolver, Boulder Integral co-founder and integral pundit Jeff Salzman takes a contrarian position on Mitt Romney’s philosophy, character, and worldview. Unlike many of his friends who regard the Republican candidate for U.S. president as a joke, Salzman thinks Romney has a “whipsmart mind” that presents a credible option for voters.

Salzman writes:

I argue that Romney has an Integral view of the world, even though my lefty friends will strongly object (as I am sure we will see in the reaction to this dialogue!) If you look at Romney’s life, you see a straight shooter. No big scandals (yet), doesn’t drink, and seems like a reasonable guy. His family is a strong presence in the progressive wing of the Mormon Church. He believes in rules and fairness in managing his employees, and has been highly successful in the modern financial market—even though you could argue that Bain Capital did not actually create jobs, but instead created lots of increased revenue for its owners. And Romney, at various points in his career, has supported progressive positions in health care, gay rights, and gun control from a moderate Republican position.

In my view Salzman makes some salient observations, but I think he misses a hugely important aspect in his analysis.

I agree with Salzman that Romney’s view of the world shows some markers of an integral consciousness: listening to many perspectives, taking positions that appear to be mid-way between left and right, and so forth. David Reardon and Jeff Salzman attribute different levels of development to aspects of Romney’s worldview — red, blue, orange, green — in a manner common to Integral Theory, which informs their thinking.

However, if we grant that Romney has an integral consciousness, it must still be acknowledged (I think) that he is tremendously flawed in many basic measures of social ethics: advocating tax policies which could wipe out the poor and middle class safety net in favor of millionaires and billionaires; doubting the reality of climate change; setting the gay rights movement back massively; appointing “strict constructionist” judges to the Supreme Court that could pave the way for the most radical re-making of America in a hundred years; deporting millions of undocumented workers, making havoc and destroying many thousands of Hispanic families; repealing health care reform; and so on, and so on… Who can doubt that Romney is seriously, dangerous flawed as a candidate?

If Mitt is a poster child for Integral, no wonder there are plenty of people who think there’s a shadow to Integral that is producing such deformities of political worldview. Marc Gafni has recently written eloquently on “A hidden danger of high states and structure stages: unkindness.” Could it be that Integral consciousness — call it yellow, teal, or turquoise, post-postmodern if you will — places so much value on cognitive complexity and flexible framing and positioning, that Integral’s own shadow comes to the fore in Romney’s character?

Consider if these are traits of an Integral worldview:

  • Janus-faced duplicity
  • Pandering, craven hypocrisy
  • Treating people as ends rather than means
  • An instrumental, machine-like ability to manipulate outcomes
  • Saying what you need to say to every audience, lacking a backbone
  • Forgetting core values such as love, kindness, and decency in favor of expediency and efficiency
  • Instead of owning his own path of development or evolution, Romney sometimes lies about it, claiming to have always had the same views
  • Willingness to throw people under the bus, sacrificing the dignity of individuals in favor of a collective spirit (see how Romney destroyed Newt Gingrich’s reputation)

Maybe Mitt Romney is an Integral poster boy. That strikes me as a scary possibility. There are certainly well-informed integralists who believe that he is, even if they say they will “probably end up voting for Obama.” And perhaps it is our own integral shadow that we project on Romney. But that ought to give people pause who think that an Integral Consciousness or Integral Revolution will transform the world in itself.

A World Politics based on Integral principles needs to be careful to be alert to these important shadows. I have no doubt that Mitt Romney is a good family man who wants a better world for his grandchildren; but with the extreme and backwards features of his worldview, is he really the best person to put in charge?

Love, compassion, justice … these are the principles upon which a World Politics ought to be based. Certainly the AQAL Integral Framework must inform our analyses, but not to the point where we are sanctioning craven politicians who will say anything to get elected and, once elected, re-write America’s laws in the most extreme regressive agenda of any candidate in recent history.

Romney, for all his beautiful wonderful individuality and sacred dignity, is (I think) not an authentic character. I haven’t met him so I can’t speak from personal experience, but pundits all describe him as “plastic” and “phony.” That his “authenticity problem” does not appear high on the radar screen of Jeff Salzman and David Reardon should be a telling sign that they may not have fully absorbed the importance of Marc Gafni’s Unique Self teaching for World Politics.

Authenticity — a deep centered presence in the True Self, manifested in ways that people instinctually feel are genuine and love-based, is the key to understanding how many voters approach the ballot box. The Integral worldview without authenticity can get stuck in its own ugly shadow.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore