Originally Published: 16 February, 2012.
I would again like to discuss the link between Romney’s wealth and inability to connect with voters. This time I would like to raise the question of why wealth is such a big issue for Romney, as he is far from being the first Presidential candidate to be super-rich but seems to get more negative press because of it than others candidates have.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Fitzgerald Kennedy were also super-rich like Romney with Roosevelt being the most aristocratic President America has ever had. President Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy Onassis and the Kennedy family had the image of movie stars whilst President Ronald Reagan actually was a movie star, yet Kennedy’s and Reagan’s personal wealth wasn’t really a campaign issue. Like FDR, George W. Bush also came from a politically aristocratic family yet he was rarely portrayed in the media as being part of the elite.
I think Romney’s problem is two-fold:
1. His fiscal and welfare policies appear to be closely linked to, and influenced by, his personal wealth and background (i.e. the ‘I’m not concerned with the very poor’ gaffe). The apparent direct link between Romney’s personal wealth and policies marks a direct contrast between Romney and Roosevelt and JFK who despite their wealth pursued liberal economic and social programs. FDR despite being part of the American political aristocracy launched radical, socialist programs in order to bring America out of the Great Depression. JFK despite his own privileged place in society, called upon the people of America to commit themselves to public service with his inspirational command, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.’
2. His personality. His robot-image and the feeling he conveys of never having to get his hands dirty reinforce his elite image and his inability to connect with the average voter. This is in direct contrast to President Reagan and President George W. Bush. Reagan despite being a movie star, or perhaps more accurate because of it (and his acting experience), was able to convey the image of being the archetypal American male with his cowboy image. Similarly, George W. Bush’s obvious disdain for intellectual discourse and his everyday, colloquial style of speech masked his elite political background and establishment policies.
Therefore Romney has neither the folksy image or strong enough contrast between his own personal wealth and policies needed in order to make his wealth a non-issue on the campaign trail.