Oct 2nd 2012

Romney’s Biggest Problem: He Disrespects Most Americans

by Robert Creamer

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book: "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," available on amazon.com.
The reason why Mitt Romney’s condescending comments about the “47%” have done such damage to his candidacy is simple.  As Republican consultant Alex Castellanos said in Tuesday’s Washington Post: “The only thing in politics that is worse than voters deciding they don’t like you is when voters decide you don’t like them.”

In politics there is no bigger sin than disrespecting voters.  It is a sin that is rarely, if ever forgiven.  You can explain your policies and programs.  You can argue until you’re blue in the face about how effective you are as a “manager”.  It won’t matter.
People don’t want leaders who treat them with disrespect – who believe they are unable to “convince” them to take responsibility for their lives. 
Respect is such a core element of voter decision-making because it addresses one of our primary self-interests as human beings.  More than most anything else, people want to feel that they have meaning – that their lives make a difference.  Meaning in life is our core motivator, and once you tell people that they are, in effect meaningless pond scum, they are not so inclined to choose you as their leader.
Being disrespected is toxic in just about any human interaction.  Nothing engenders more hurt or rage than the feeling that someone thinks you don’t matter. Ask the wife who feels that she is being treated like a piece of furniture by her husband.  Ask the employee who can’t stand the high-handed attitude of his boss. Ask any high school kid what he or she fears the most – the disrespect of their classmates.
Great leaders inspire people.  That’s just the opposite of communicating disrespect.  Inspiration is not something you think, it’s something you feel.  When you’re inspired you feel empowered.  You feel that you are part of something bigger than yourself and you can personally play a significant role in attaining that greater goal.  When a leader inspires you, he or she does not make you feel that he is important.  He makes you feel that you are important – that you matter.   Disrespect communicates exactly the opposite. 
In the 47% video, Mitt Romney did not imply that he disrespected half of the country.  He said it directly. He said he didn’t care about “those people” because he could not convince them to take responsibility for their lives.  What an arrogant, patronizing, disrespectful thing to say about half of the population.
And it was plain to see that this was not a gaff. Romney wasn’t awkwardly searching for words.  What you saw was the real Romney – the one that his campaign tries to hide – speaking to the home-boys and home-girls from the board rooms and the country club.
The tape by itself would have been bad enough.  But its power was magnified because it was one in a long line of Romney comments that showed disrespect for everyday Americans.  They have ranged from his contemptuous put down of the cookies a local person had served him at a drop-by at their back yard, to his patronizing, “I love to fire people,” to his constant reference to “those people”.
And his disrespectful comments extended to his “blooper reel” foreign trip last summer, where he managed to disrespect the people of London and their competency to run the Olympics, and the culture of every Palestinian.  
Then again, it should not be surprising that disrespect should characterize the Romney foreign policy. He has surrounded himself with a Neo-Con foreign policy team from the Bush years that specialized in showing disrespect for pretty much everyone else in the world.  That worked out well.
The 47% tape simply served to confirm what most people were already feeling about Mitt Romney – and that’s why it is something that Mitt Romney will find it very hard to escape.
He will try hard in the debates to be respectful and empathetic to the voters.  It won’t work, it’s not who he is.
When the Washington Post asked them last month the person they would rather have as the captain of a ship in a storm, the voters were about evenly divided between Obama and Romney.  Now they choose Obama 52% to 40%.  
That’s partially because the Conventions gave voters a chance to think about where each candidate would lead the country, and which one they believe has the vision and skill to effectively solve the country’s problems. 
But it’s also because many voters have become convinced that if Romney were the captain, he might have so little respect for them that he would throw them overboard.
Disrespect correlates very highly with another key parameter that affects voter behavior – the perception of whether a candidate is “on your side”.    Of course it is entirely possible for someone not to be “on your side” and respect you all the same.  That happens all the time in sports (or as Romney would say “sport”).  Two teams have conflicting goals and do battle to win, but show the deepest respect for each other’s skill.  The same thing happens over negotiating tables in business everyday. 
But nothing fires up the members of a football team more than the belief that the other side doesn’t respect them.
And nothing makes for a more inspiring a story, than when everyday people stand up to those who have disrespected them and refuse to be defeated. That’s exactly what is going to happen November 6th.
Bottom line: you can be a rich guy and win Ohio.  But you can’t be a rich guy who disrespects the voters and win Ohio.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: ".......like Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."
Feb 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Europe must not lose sight of the long game, which inevitably will center on China, not Russia or relations with post-Brexit Britain. China is already establishing a presence in Iran, and demonstrating that it has the capital, know-how, and technology to project power and influence beyond its borders. Should it succeed in turning the Belt and Road Initiative into a line of geopolitical stepping-stones, it might soon emerge at Europe’s southeastern border in a form that no one in the EU foresaw."
Jan 29th 2021
EXTRACT: "One sign of this change is that, unlike all recent Democratic administrations, Biden’s hasn’t paid obeisance to Wall Street by giving bankers top jobs. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a former Federal Reserve chair and academic who has made it clear that she understands the country’s pressing social needs. Moreover, Biden consulted Warren on her economic views, and has named a former Warren adviser as Yellen’s deputy. Yellen’s appointment demonstrates that Biden shares the insight that enabled Trump’s rise: that too many Americans feel that they cannot get a fair share. "
Jan 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "Barack Obama cautioned in his final speech as president that, “Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” Yet isn’t that exactly what America has been doing? In a decade punctuated by the global financial crisis, the COVID-19 crisis, a racial-justice crisis, an inequality crisis, and now a political crisis, we have only paid lip service to lofty democratic ideals. ... Sadly, this complacency has come at a time of growing fragility for the American experiment. Internet-enabled connectivity is dangerously amplifying an increasingly polarized national discourse in an era of mounting social and political instability. The resulting vulnerability was brought into painfully sharp focus on January 6. The stewardship of democracy is at grave risk. "