Fulton’s Quarter Column of “Mitland” Massachusetts 

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As Sen. Bob Bennett reminded us at his Hinckley Institute of Politics lecture last week, politics has precious little to do with real issues. Instead, said Bob, it hinges on, well, sex appeal. A voter must “like” the candidate.

If that’s the case, the Mittster’s recent stomping of Democrat Shannon O’Brien warrants head-scratching. Sure, Massachusetts’ huge budget deficit and ailing public works mean someone’s got to turn the steering wheel elsewhere. But damn the issues. We’re talking about “likeability” here, remember?

Something’s out of joint. Sure, Romney worked wonders during the Winter Games. There’s a reason for that, one eloquently stated in the Deseret News’ latest congratulations-card disguised as an editorial. “Utahns, quite naturally, feel a connection to Massachusetts’ new governor, Mitt Romney,” the editorial board purred. “If he ever feels underappreciated, Romney can always come back here.”

Note the use of the word “underappreciated.” Utah is the land of full-on “appreciation.” We especially “appreciate” people with Utah connections who storm the world’s larger stage. In a state known for multiple wives, it mainstreams us.

Utah thrives on manners, Colgate smiles, and closets full of white dress shirts and floral-print dresses. Massachusetts, and Boston especially, takes nothing less than brusque, loud remarks. Smile, excuse yourself, or even tell someone to have a nice day, and they’ll think you’re a pervert or something. But Romney’s from Michigan, you say. Perhaps it’s the piercing Midwest winters that give him East Coast simpatico. Still, anyone who’s traveled Beantown to swoon at the coeds, marvel at all the Unitarian churches, shop Newbury Comics, and stand over the Boston Massacre Site after downing a few Samuel Adams knows how bizarre it is that Romney, of all people, will soon lord Massachusetts. Imagine Jerry Brown as governor of Utah. That’s an extreme comparison, but you get the idea. East Coast Democrats can’t be all that close-minded if they switched for Mitt, can they? No, they can’t. Perhaps they just, like, “liked” the guy.

The state’s flagship alternative weekly, The Boston Phoenix, groaned at the news: “Governor Mitt Romney. Good grief. What have we done?” But it was the words of upstart gubernatorial candidate Barbara Johnson, also reported in the Phoenix, that scored points. The man “has no hormones,” and gives off all the vibes of “a Martian,” Johnson said.

• As anyone who’s ever talked to a foreigner knows, higher education comes free of cost in most European nations. The reasoning is simple, an educated citizenry is the best citizenry, and income level should be no hindrance to studying math, science, Shakespeare and Goethe. Perhaps that’s why so few of their people sit in prison. We in America, of course, take a different tack. Trust-funders get the extra time to study. Poor and middle classes, must earn the right to learn. Give a dark cheer, then, to the Utah Board of Regents’ recent decision to raise student tuitions 4.5 percent. That’s just for starters, they warn. A measly half percent of that increase goes toward student aid.

But, of course, the system is ingrained. Those who worked for their education in the past don’t want young upstarts to get their education free. And as politicians know, it’s the older, tax-paying citizen who’s more likely to vote. Students look for second jobs so they can pay tuition.

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