On Mavericism

  1. a theory that your actions and their outcomes are governed by you rather than by immutable laws or the agency of other humans.
  2. a theory that all cultural phenomena are determined by you and that historians must study each period only by imposing your personal and absolute value system upon their understanding of them.
  3. a profound or excessive respect for yourself as institution, your laws, your traditions.
  4. a search for a limited selection of historical events that would explain and predict historical phenomena as related to your actions and only your actions.

OK, okay, I just took dictionary.com‘s definition of “historicism” and corrupted it to suit my needs.

This is what I really think of when I hear the word “maverick”:

So, you might guess that I’m somewhat nonplussed about it’s usage as the central theme in a presidential campaign.

There are also the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA and Tom Cruise in Top Gun.

When I was flying around the country doing interviews for academic jobs that weren’t actually open, budget-canceled searches and the like this spring, I often wondered what would happen if I sat before a hiring committee and said, “I don’t negotiate”.  “I go it alone, baby.  I’ve stood up against my department.  I have reached out to other academic divisions and crafted committee decisions that opposed my dean’s agenda.  I am my own artist and I teach in the way that I believe is right.  I don’t care what other faculty say about me.  It doesn’t matter if my students don’t understand what I’m doing.  When you know what’s best, you can’t let critics slow you down.”

Now, on the positive side, I’ve seen and read enough to know that neither candidate is anything close to actually being a “maverick”.  I mean, really, if you’re often the only guy in the entire U.S. Senate that believes what you believe, what does that say about you?

I get it though.  “Maverick” says, “I know my party leadership has f**ed up more than y’all used to think a single party could, but I tried to stop them. I did.”

I think one thing here is that those sorts of claims, if they’re not true, are very difficult to maintain in an age of pervasive video recording and Youtube.  I’ll bet if you studied the correlation between internet use and political preference, you’d see a striking difference of opinion on John McCain’s campaign on each end of the internet use spectrum.  That is not to say that you’d see the same difference of opinion on his ideas or policies, which are an entirely different thing.

My question is:  Regardless of the truth of the claim or actual policy proposals, why do people think they want a “maverick” leading a highly complex governmental system dependent on interpersonal interaction?  Are people really so ignorant about the federal government to believe that one, lone cowboy can whip into shape a federal government with 1,608,742 civilian employees, 1,436,642 active military, and 1,458,500 military reserve personnel, without some effort at being a “team player”?  (Office of Personel Management Fact Sheet, Wikipedia international rankings on military size, and yeah, that’s 4,503,884 people)  The truth is that even the “maverick” candidate doesn’t plan to preside over the executive branch while behaving like a maverick.  He’s been working with the federal government, in Warsheengton DeeCee!, since he became the Navy’s liaison to the Senate in 1977.  He knows that no one gets very far by being alone.  I know he knows it.

So, you’ve all had jobs in which you’ve worked with other people, right?  Some of you have probably worked with crappy managers whose unilateralism has screwed things up.  And, you may also like Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis, et al. as much the rest of us.  But, why on earth would people conflate John McClane with John McCain?  Why would John McCain want to conflate himself with John McClane?  Who really wants to work with Josey Wales as their immediate supervisor?  (Yippiekayay motherfucker)

I’m never going to understand this country.

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