Challenger who stayed hidden in plain sight
Mitt Romney:Willard Mitt Romney’s mother Lenore abandoned a career as a Hollywood starlet to marry his father George, an automobile executive who became the governor of Michigan and a failed presidential candidate. Were it not for his Mormon faith, Romney would fit perfectly the stereotype of the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant patrician.
Romney’s victory or defeat tonight will test the comparative strength of the ageing white United States and the younger, ethnically more diverse country emerging. Late-night comedians have had a field day with Romney’s gaffes and Ken-doll appearance. As David Letterman put it: “Mitt Romney looks like the guy in the photo who comes with the frame. He looks like the guy at the Cadillac dealership who comes out to close the sale.”
The $250 million fortune Romney accrued in private equity finance has been an ambiguous asset. “Guess what?” he said last March. “I made a lot of money. I’ve been very successful. I’m not going to apologise for that.”
But the Romney campaign’s accusations of “class warfare” each time Democrats evoke his life of privilege show how sensitive an issue it has been.
As a student at Stanford University, Romney picketed anti-Vietnam war protesters, though he escaped service in Vietnam himself. Romney wants to dramatically increase funding for the Pentagon. Neither he nor any of his five sons have served in the military.
Car crash injury
Romney has known several trials in his 65 years. As a student missionary in France he was badly injured in a car crash. He almost lost his high school sweetheart, Ann Davies, to another man.
Decades later, when Ann was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he was a loving and supportive husband.
In the October 3rd debate on domestic policy, and the October 22nd debate on foreign policy, Romney demonstrated his legendary capacity for political expediency, transforming himself from a self-described “severe conservative” during the primaries to a bland moderate in time for the election.
Suddenly Romney portrayed himself as the champion of the middle class. But memorable quotes throughout the campaign had entrenched his reputation as a scion of privilege.
If Romney loses tonight, it may well be because he was secretly recorded telling wealthy donors last May that 47 per cent of Americans will vote for Obama “no matter what” because they “are dependent upon government . . . believe that they are victims . . . believe the government has a responsibility to care for them”. His job, Romney continued, “is not to worry about those people”.
The election presents voters with a heart-and-mind dilemma. Tens of millions of Americans are disappointed by the slow pace of economic recovery under Obama. For most of the race, polls showed Americans had more faith in Romney’s ability to improve the economy. But the polls consistently showed voters prefer Obama’s personality and feel he better understands their plight.
Romney vaunted his business and administrative experience as his main qualification for the White House.
He claims he created more jobs than he destroyed at Bain Capital, the private equity firm he founded. But there is ample evidence the company stripped assets and outsourced jobs. The fact that Romney is certain to lose Massachusetts today speaks volumes about his record as governor.
Romney has espoused nearly every possible position on every issue, so if he is elected he can claim to be fulfilling campaign promises regardless of his actions.
His true intentions, like the extent of his wealth and the millions he has stashed in the Cayman Islands, remain a mystery. Elsewhere in the world such characteristics might provoke resentment and distrust. But among conservative Americans they inspire admiration and the secret hope that they too can one day be like Romney.