For the past few months, I have been trying to figure out why Mitt Romney is so unlikeable.
It can’t be because he’s rich, because there are a lot of rich people we like. Hell, President Obama’s rich and 56% of the country views him favorably.
It can’t be because he’s Republican, because Republicans don’t like him either. Last month, when a woman reportedly asked House Speaker John Boehner, “Can you make me love Mitt Romney?” he said, “No… the American people probably aren’t going to fall in love with Mitt Romney.”
The latest CNN/ORC International Poll found that 48% of Americans view him unfavorably, which isn’t exactly breaking news because Romney’s been unable to get much likeability traction since announcing his first run at the White House five years ago. For a sex scandal-free politician, that’s got to be a bit perplexing.
But then last week, the reason for the bad vibes about Romney became clear. You see, he’s been zipping across the country using President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” quote out of context for an analogy about a student who worked hard in school and made the honor roll. He used it again when he introduced his running mate, Paul Ryan last weekend.
What the president said was:
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.” He also said, “The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”
Romney spins it to make it sound as if the president is totally discrediting an individual’s hard work, summing it up this way.
“I realize that he got to school on a bus and the bus driver got him there, but I don’t give the bus driver credit for the honor roll,” he said. “I give the kid credit for the honor roll.”
Nothing’s wrong with that statement by itself.
The problem is, we don’t live by ourselves.
This analogy epitomizes what makes Romney so unlikeable to so many people, regardless of party, race, gender or socioeconomic status.
In his mind, the world is full of bus drivers and honor roll students and the two are independent of each other, which is why he can characterize President Obama’s desire to help those less fortunate as creating a “culture of dependence.” What rubs so many people the wrong way is Romney’s inability to see that society is interdependent.
There are moments in some of Romney’s speeches in which he comes across like the guy who doesn’t wave when you let him into traffic, because in his mind, he was able to merge on his own.
Few people ever like that guy … and this is why less than 50% of Americans like Romney.