Romney and the 47 percent: He just doesn’t get it
Published: Friday, September 28, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 28, 2012 07:09
In the wake of Mitt Romney’s now infamous comments about the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income tax, there has been a considerable division in interpretation. Some on the right have defended his words. Others have pointed out how the assertion is misleading, and many of these 47 percent are either students, elderly or unemployed.
For many of us, however, our worst thoughts about Mitt Romney were confirmed last week. Mr. Romney does not understand what it is like to struggle every day, nor does he make an attempt to understand. This attitude will be very hard for him to overcome in the next month, as Americans want a leader who understands their stories.
When John F. Kennedy ran in the Democratic primary in 1960, he came to southern West Virginia to talk to coal miners. West Virginia, a very Protestant state, was already suspicious of the possibility of a Catholic becoming President. An elder miner asked Kennedy if it was true he was so rich he never had to work a day in his life. Kennedy admitted that yes, it probably was true. "Well, son," the miner grabbed his hand and said, "You ain’t missed a damn thing."
The difference is this: while Kennedy did not know what it was like to risk his life going hundreds of feet into the earth to work, he did his best to understand the lifestyle of those miners.
Kennedy, like Romney, led a very privileged life as the son of a businessman. And he did not exactly seem like an average citizen with his Harvard education and the way he spoke. But he made up for it in his dedication to people from all walks of life. Kennedy’s willingness to humbly accept that he did not work hard compared to coal miners, shows a great deal about the man’s character.
Kennedy understood that without the dreams of the least privileged being achievable, his dreams were also in danger. That is how a politician should view the less fortunate. America has always been marked by its ability to not let one’s unlucky or slow start determine his or her finish at the end of the race. It has been marked by the resiliency of its people to rise up and create something great out of humble beginnings.
I do not fault Mitt Romney for having a very privileged childhood. What I do fault him for is criticizing many of the hardest workers in our country and simply not understanding that many of them need a little help to achieve greatness.
Underlying Mr. Romney’s comments is a very disturbing thought: the 47 percent includes most of the 30,000 students at West Virginia University. These students do not pay taxes, and many rely on government-subsidized loans to combat ever-rising tuition prices.
Yet, instead of offering his support and inspiring these students, he said, "I’ll never convince [the 47 percent] they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." Never mind the factual inaccuracy here. What Romney is essentially saying is he does not believe in students who rely on the government for help, as they certainly will never take personal responsibility for their lives. The man running for the highest office in the United States of America does not even believe in his country’s future.
Malcolm Forbes, former businessman and publisher of Forbes Magazine, once wrote, "You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them."
In this election, the policy differences are huge. And this arises from two very different worldviews from the two candidates. But shining brighter than all their differences is a deep difference in character.
I might not be able to say for certain what Mitt Romney’s motives are, and I am in no position to say if he’s good person or not. But I say with certainty that he is not a man who understands or supports the average American enough to be the president of these United States.