There was the following statement in the New York Times’ (March 31) article titled “A Quantum Theory of Mitt Romney

The recent remark by Mitt Romney’s senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom that Mr. Romney could change his political views “like an Etch A Sketch” has seemed an apparent admission by a campaign insider of two widely held suspicions about Romney: that he is a) utterly devoid of any ideological convictions and b) filled with aluminum powder.

The imagery may have been unfortunate, but Mr. Fehrnstrom’s impulse to analogize is understandable. Metaphors like these are the only way the layman can begin to grasp the strange phantom world that underpins the very fabric of not only the Romney campaign but also of Mitt Romney in general. For we have entered the age of quantum politics; and Mitt Romney is the first quantum politician.

From the phrase quantum change meaning revolutionary change, I guess quantum politics means “rapidly and drastically changing politics”, and quantum politician means “a politician who is adaptive to the quick change of situation, or very quick on the feet.” But I have no idea what Mitt Romney is “filled with aluminum powder” means. What does it mean?

Are "quantum politics / politician" and "filled with alminum powder" popular" words or just examples of purple verse?

5 Answers 5


I back up Tim Lymington's comment above that "not even the author would claim that it's obvious what he means."

In using the nebulous aluminum powder metaphor, the author must have in his mind --no pun intended-- the aluminum powder which is used in Etch A Sketch tablets.

I have also an idea that at the time the author wrote his article on his I-Pad tablet, he had not been able to resist the temptation of inserting in it --again no pun intended-- that nebulous aluminum powder metaphor, and it is likely that in hindsight he wishes he could just shake the article like an Etch A Sketch tablet and make his novel nebulous metaphor disappear.

Well, the author will have to just shake off the matter of his aluminum powder metaphor. To use another well known and well worn metaphor, one just cannot put back toothpaste into its tube once it's been squeezed out.

  • Excellent find on the Etch-a-Sketch connection. Without the cultural/technical knowledge this is all speculation.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 13:03

I think in this case, quantum means being able to be in two contradictory states at once, so that Romney can be in a superposition of position A and position B, and you can't know which position he actually holds without a measurement, which is presumably, him winning the election.

Filled with aluminum powder is just a jokey reference to the fact that he is generally stiff and unnatural seeming in front of the cameras, so people joke that he isn't fully human, which would be explained if his insides were aluminum powder. It's more funny as a non-sequitor, just because an actual etch-a-sketch is filled with aluminum powder, and Romney presumably isn't.


I think this means he is random and unpredictable (having no ideological convictions). The aluminum powder hints that he has a hidden explosive potential.


Not in my experience, no. I have never encountered either expression, and I believe that the journalist has contrived them for the occasion. They may of course happen to be picked up and become common expressions.


Aluminium powder is an important component of bombs: for what it's worth, I took this reference as a suggestion that the campaign might self-destruct at any moment. But not even the author would claim that it's obvious what he means.

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