On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” The New York Times’ David Brooks shared a historical perspective that puts Mitt Romney in a unique position. The candidate’s unfavorable ratings are 50%, causing Brooks to pronounce Romney: “the least popular candidate in history.”
David Gregory, host of the show, attempted to define Romney’s personal brand:
“Personally, I think he is a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he’s pretending to be something he’s not, some sort of cartoonish government hater.”
That is perhaps the most generous, if incomprehensible, perspective one could have formed to explain Romney’s personal brand. If Gregory is correct, Romney engineered an inauthentic persona. He chose:
Stupidity. Pretense. Hate. To hide his kindness and decency.
In fact, if you look at both his off the record and on the record appearances, Romney’s authentic personal brand has nearly 50 shades of hate. His personal brand consistently communicates sentiments that reflect disrespect, mockery, disdain, meanness, bullying, cynicism, anger and hostility, among other dark impressions.
This is not the first time we have seen a persona like this in US politics. Romney apes Dick Cheney’s dark side personal brand. But Romney lacks a loveable sidekick like President George W. Bush whose cowboy persona communicated that sure: a sheriff’s in town, but that sheriff is Andy Griffith, this is Mayberry, and Aunt Bea is baking a blue ribbon pie.
We’re seeing venom in Romney’s brand. Or as President Obama said, he “shoots first and aims later.” This careless but consistent attack pattern could be dangerous in a president.
In May, Romney is caught on camera castigating nearly half of the US people who only pay payroll taxes or sales tax, but not federal income tax. Romney indignant and incredulous, reports that “these people” feel “entitled to…. food…”
These people include the triple amputee solider who didn’t pay income tax on his combat pay. The elderly retired factory worker who worked 40 years paying into social security and Medicare. The single mother with two kids, working a fulltime retail job and taking an earned income tax credit on her minimum wages.
Even Romney’s humor is mocking and disrespectful.
On April 19 in Pennsylvania, Romney opines to a woman seated next to him at a picnic table at a Pennsylvania reception, “I’m not sure about these cookies. They don’t look like you made them,” No, no. They came from the local 7-eleven, bakery, or whatever.” Of course, the town’s legendary local baker John Walsh made those cookies for the gathering. Walsh suggested Romney, “eat cake.”
Review Romney’s ascent into politics and there are dozens and dozens of these mean diatribes, moments and actions. “Hey, I’m unemployed, too!” he tells a group of unemployed workers.
And who can shake the image that Romney took a family road trip with his crated dog strapped to the top of the car, vomiting?
If there’s anything surprising about Romney’s favorability rating it’s that half the country is good with hate. And, that most of these people are receiving the assistance that prompts Romney to say, “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” After all the 50% is likely to be in the 99%, not the 1%. But that’s the statistics wonk in me.
This is a personal brand looking to be hired by the American people. Can you imagine speaking the way he does, to your potential employer, investors or employees? And, it’s business that is Romney’s framework. As if we are working out a succession plan, Ann Romney claims on behalf of herself and her husband, “it’s our turn,” and the dissed and the haves would be lucky to have him “run the country.”
BTW, in America we say, “lead the country.”