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Contagious Thoughts, Mutating as Needed

These aren’t REAL reasons to dislike Mitt Romney? Part I

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Another day, another whisper campaign. I received this somewhat sarcastic email “Top Ten Reasons to Dislike Mitt Romney” from one of the usual places. To the person who sent this to me: I forgive you for trying to provoke me with things like this. You’ve given me the gift of a blog post topic.

The idea of the piece is to present a rebuttal to people who might not think Mitt Romney is all that likeable (including some who might – gasp – support Barack Obama!). It suggests that the “media” is misleading you about his “likability.” Keep that in mind as you judge the merits of the argument for yourself. Check in with your own intuition too – do you find him likable?

It is both amusing and disheartening to read some of the comments from some people who don’t even grasp the sarcastic undercurrent. “What’s wrong with having no scandals? Why does having sons with no prison record make him unlikable?” Seriously?

Here’s my take on what is, at least, an opinion piece intended to sway you.  I’ve spared you the huge red fugly font of the email.

 

A lot is being said in the media about Mitt Romney not being “likable” or that he doesn’t “relate well” to people. Frankly, we struggled to understand why. So after much research, we have come up with a Top Ten List to explain this “unlikablility.”

We”? Who is this “we”? Research?

Top Ten Reasons To Dislike Mitt Romney:

1. Handsome with gracious, statesmanlike aura. Looks like every central casting’s #1 choice for Commander-in-Chief.

The alignment of the presidential role with a particular appearance is interesting. Whatever do you mean? Does the Commander-in-Chief have to be real white and male, awkward and snobby? He has the commanding presence of a Gerald Ford and the grace of a John Kerry, or is it the other way around? As long as he doesn’t speak to people, I guess you could argue that he looks the part that some would sterotype as a “central casting” choice for President, if you like that combed-back Vitalis look.

But cast your mind back, and compare/contrast with some that were actually cast as President:

2. Been married to ONE woman his entire life, and has been faithful to her, including through her bouts with breast cancer and MS.

He was married when still a child, his entire life? Only kidding.

Each man should be assessed for his own decisions and actions, and Mitt seems to have been faithful to and supportive of Ann. The repercussions would be severe for him if he weren’t, especially as a Bishop within a very anti-divorce subculture that views marriage itself as well as divorce in a very unusual way.

When talking of a Mormon, you might avoid putting ONE in all caps like that. Better not to call attention to the fact that polygamy used to be a big part of the culture, and in some scions of that group, still is. To be fair, both Romney and Obama have a family branch involving polygamy. Mitt’s own father even had his own “birther” controversy.

While it’s all good that the Romney marriage has appeared to be stable, the Republicans, even most of the so-called “religious right,” seemed to have little problem supporting men like Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich while denouncing a sitting President who has been faithful and loving to his wife and family.

So it’s really a matter of priorities, isn’t it?

3. No scandals or skeletons in his closet. (How boring is that?)

Really? You’re not counting his sexy fugitive great-grandfather, tracked by federal marshals as he tried to plant polygamy throughout the Southwest? Whatever you want to say about that, it’s not boring. Can’t talk at all about the story of Mitt’s father, a Mexican-born child of American citizens who became Governor of Michigan and was able to run for the Republican nomination for President in 1968 despite his support for civil rights and opposition to the Vietnam War? He seems interesting.

No? Just Bishop Willard Mitt, named for hotel magnate J. Willard Marriot, huh? Well, if you insist.

Here’s a few, or just look at his record as Governor of Massachusetts and draw your own conclusions. You could look at where he claimed residency, for example.

4. Can’t speak in a fake, southern,”black preacher voice” when necessary.

Wow – that took a turn.

Maybe you’re underestimating Mitt – has he tried? He has the background as a Bishop, so he’s the actual preacher. I for one would love to see footage of some of his sermons.

What exactly is being implied here against Barack Obama? When exactly has that occurred, and why would the writer think it be “necessary”? What is being emphasized, and what reaction is intended from the reader?

5. Highly intelligent. Graduated cum laude from both Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School …and by the way, his academic records are NOT sealed.

Sure, Mitt is a smart guy. So is Obama. I think we’re (at least temporarily) past an attraction for dim presidential candidates, right? Um, right? Right?

No other presidential candidate but Barack Obama has ever been asked to prove fitness to serve by releasing academic records – or a birth certificate, for that matter. Along with the usual slurs about not being a “real” American – questioning his religion and his patriotism – this is intended to imply that there’s some sort of problem with his credentials.

It’s not true that Mitt Romney has released his academic transcripts, nor is that the norm. He went to Cranbrook School (a private boys’ academy), Stanford University (for only a year), Brigham Young University, and Harvard University Law School/Harvard University Business School. For what it’s worth, I did find one report card obtained by a Boston newspaper reflecting one stage of Mitt’s earlier schooling, but I’m willing to grant some slack. Mitt Romney was really only interested in business, but his father had advised him that a law degree would be valuable to his career so he enrolled at the newly-created four-year joint Juris Doctor/Master of Business Administration program coordinated between Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School – that part is true. By the time Romney arrived at Harvard, his father had run a major corporation, been elected three times as Michigan’s governor, been a presidential nominee, and was serving as a US Cabinet secretary.

Speaking as a former academic here, I don’t think Barack Obama had the same kind of social advantage or class advantage that Romney had. I also find it a little hard to believe that he didn’t have to have a pretty stellar academic record to be the president of the Harvard Law Review.

6. Doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol, and has never done drugs, not even in the counter-culture age when he went to college. Too square for today’s America?

Oh, he’s square all right, but probably not too much so for a lot of Americans. His contradictory statements on topics such as Vietnam suggest that he didn’t really “catch the drift” of his generation’s concerns. Mitt only went to Stanford for a year, then took deferments against the draft to go to France and be a missionary (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57449254/at-stanford-romney-got-his-bearings-in-a-year-of-change): “In July of 1966, the same month he left for France to serve his mission, the Selective Service granted Romney a 4-D categorization as a “minister of religion or divinity student.” This deferment status was controversial at the time, as critics argued that it allowed young Mormon men to avoid the draft disproportionately. The practice of granting 4-D deferments to Mormons for the purpose of serving their missions sparked a federal lawsuit by non-Mormons in Utah, and the LDS Church eventually cut down on the number of missionaries it permitted to receive 4-D status.”

But hey – good for him for not getting into addictive behaviors centered on drug use. He had a lot of support for that decision from the very strict LDS (Mormon) restrictions on such matters. I would think that setting a good example to his newly-converted fiancé back in the day might have also been a motivation – but that’s just speculation.

7. Represents an America of “yesterday”, where people believed in God, went to Church, didn’t screw around, worked hard, and became a SUCCESS!

Wow – the golden age fallacy – it always strikes a nerve, doesn’t it?

Maybe the word “yesterday” is in scare quotes for an actual reason? This so-called “yesterday” – when is it? Which people? When?

Are we talking about that “yesterday” when people from a privileged background didn’t have an advantage? The time when everyone agreed on religion? The age when life was fair? Or an archetypal fantasy from childhood, when life seemed less complicated because, well, you were a child? Do some research and tell me when this golden age existed.

From the other side, are there no Americans who believe in God or go to church (assuming for a moment that this a measure of goodness)? Depending on whether you’re talking about infidelity or laziness, are there no hard workers left, no faithful spouses anywhere?

And – is there an implied claim that there are no Americans who take profit without work, or who suffer from lack of opportunity? On what basis does each community and each individual measure success?

When I think about a world of Rockwell paintings, it creeps me out.

I don’t see the obvious connection between Mitt Romney and a work ethic, especially in any way that Barack Obama’s biography does not meet or exceed. To my mind, Barack’s story is much closer to the American Dream narrative – it’s even pretty close to that rare Horatio Alger story.  This email aims to work with the resentment that many working people have toward the unemployed, and it also carries some resonance to previous demonizing and scapegoating propaganda campaigns.

Read some history, especially actual stories of people’s lives in America and elsewhere, for an antidote to this kind of thinking.

8. Has a family of five great sons….and none of them have police records or are in drug rehab. But of course, they were raised by a stay-at-home mom, and that “choice” deserves America ‘s scorn.

Hold me down. Seriously. This one is just ridiculously obnoxious.

Let’s start with this cause-effect correlation between working moms and the criminality and drug use of their offspring. How dare you! So is this email aimed just at men? Where was that study showing the connection again? See how insidious this kind of thing can be? What do *you* think is the subtext here? What is being implied?

There’s nothing wrong with moms either choosing to work or choosing to stay at home, but there are actual economic concerns here. Many American moms don’t have much of a “choice” – either for reasons of community, religion or economics – but to stay at home. Many American moms don’t have access to millions of dollars that free them from worry about how their children will be fed, clothed, educated and housed. Most moms, even moms who have good jobs and/or are married to someone with a good income, are not free from the anxiety that they might lose their health benefits or financial security (as a result of companies that reap profits even when jobs are closed down, for instance). Most moms don’t have to worry about their Olympic horse’s dressage event either, so maybe it all evens out.

But it’s really a very good thing for a president to hear, to listen, and to care about a range of American experience, so as to make decisions that will most benefit all the people, not just the few.

Mitt and Ann Romney do have five grown sons (as well as a number of grandchildren):  Tagg, Matt, Josh, Ben, and Craig. It looks probable that they don’t have police records or drug abuse issues. Tagg Romney is a Managing Partner at Solamere Capital who co-founded the company and has previously worked as Chief Marketing Officer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, VP of onfield marketing at Reebok, and Director of Strategic Planning at Elan Pharmaceuticals. Tagg founded and subsequently sold Season Perks. Tagg worked for each of his father’s three political campaigns, and worked as a consultant at Monitor Group and McKinsey and Co. Tagg has a BA in Economics from Brigham Young University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Matt Romney works as VP of Strategy and Investments at Excel Realty Holdings. He was previously a Project Manager for Microsoft Corporation and held marketing and project management positions for Polaroid Corporation and Lavastorm, Inc. Matt received a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Harvard Business School and a Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University. Josh Romney is a Real Estate Developer and owner of Romney Ventures and previous Acquisition Analyst for Intercontinental Real Estate. He is also an advisor to Utah Governor Gary Herbert, and helped his dad with the 2008 Presidential Campaign. He also got his BA from Brigham Young University and his MBA from Harvard Business School. Ben Romney is a Medical Student who also got his Bachelors Degree from Brigham Young University. Craig is an Advertising Music Producer who also got his Bachelors Degree from Brigham Young University. None has served in the military, but they probably all did their stints as Mormon missionaries and Romney claims they served their country by helping him.

Barack and Michelle Obama have two young daughters: Malia Ann was born on July 4, 1998, and Natasha (known as Sasha), was born on June 10, 2001. Sasha is the youngest child to reside in the White House since John F. Kennedy, Jr. arrived as an infant in 1961. Girls are good too, right?  Or not?

9. Oh yes…..he’s a MORMON. We need to be very afraid of that very strange religion that teaches its members to be clean-living, patriotic, fiscally conservative, charitable, self-reliant, and honest.

Ask around in Utah, and perhaps among some former Mormons, about that. But – live and let live.

I believe in the constitutional rights of freedom of religion and the separation of church and state, and the closer we stick to this very American value, the better off both the state and church are.  The Church of Latter-Day Saints does have significant weirdness, but so do many other religious groups. I would think that the discomfort level would be higher among very conservative christian groups, many of whom do not consider Mormons to be real Christians, so this might be a bit of damage control.

More Americans know that Romney is Mormon than can correctly identify President Obama as Christian (49%).

Although most Americans say it is important for a president to have strong religious beliefs, party affiliation ― rather than religion ― drives voter preferences. It’s a matter of priorities, right?

Among Americans who know Romney’s religion, 6 in 10 say they are comfortable with it. Republicans (68%) are more likely than Independents (62%) and Democrats (51%) to express comfort with Romney’s religious affiliation. But nearly one in four white evangelicals say they are uncomfortable with Romney’s Mormonism, higher than any other religious group except atheists/agnostics (30%). The percentage of Americans who know that Obama is a Christian has increased from 38 to 49 percent since 2010, but there has been little change in the percentage who mistakenly believe that he is Muslim (19% in 2010; 17% in 2012). Perceptions of Obama’s faith fall into partisan camps: Nearly a third of Republicans believe that Obama is Muslim, compared to 16% independents and 8% of Democrats. Just 7% of Democrats and liberal-leaning Americans have concerns about Obama’s faith (see http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/poll-romney-may-see-an-evangelical-enthusiasm-gap/2012/07/26/gJQAitt5BX_story.html)

For myself, I would have liked to see Romney make some statement, like John F. Kennedy did, about the difference between personal beliefs and governing all Americans.

10. And one more point…..pundits say because of his wealth, he can’t relate to ordinary Americans. I guess that’s because he made that money HIMSELF…..as opposed to marrying it or inheriting it from Dad. Apparently, he didn’t understand that actually working at a job and earning your own money made you unrelatable to Americans.

You guess? It’s not apparent, and… well…. Sigh…  The bulk of his wealth came from capital gains, not salary or actual income, and much of it is sheltered outside the country. Is that “working at a job” in any sense that you as the reader can relate to, outside of your lottery-winning fantasy? There are some aspects that emerge in his comments that show that he is pretty out of touch, yes.  All that (and there’s a lot of all that) aside, it’s not the money that actually makes him unlikeable – it’s something far more important.

But that’s more than enough for today. To be continued…

Update: Or not. There will be no Part II. That’s enough for smart people to continue with their own thoughts…

Author: VirusHead

Interdisciplinary questioner, contextual ethicist, discourse analyst, compassionate warrior, spiritual eclectic, knowledge leader, former academic, ex-Jehovah's Witness, writer, poet, artist, singer, mom, wife, lover, sister, daughter, niece, cousin, dear friend, supporter, champion, worthy adversary, and very talented loafer. And that doesn't say anything much at all, does it?

One Comment

  1. Heidi, this is amazing! This essay/article taught me so much. It’s a fascinating read. Thank you!

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