Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Why America doesn't like Mitt Romney

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
August 14, 2012 -- Updated 1912 GMT (0312 HKT)
Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally at Palacio De Los Jugos Monday in Miami, Florida.
Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally at Palacio De Los Jugos Monday in Miami, Florida.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: Polls show Americans favorable on Obama, not favorable on Romney
  • He says Romney's unpopularity stems from his sense of entitlement, disregard for others
  • He says Romney fails to realize that part of our strength is our dependence on each other
  • Granderson: Romney's likeability problem doesn't mean people won't vote for his ticket

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs

Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) -- 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.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

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.

Frum: Romney does Obama a huge favor

Gillespie on Romney's likability
Romney: Obama is out of touch on economy
Dueling budget plans: Romney-Ryan, Obama
Obama takes on Romney in Iowa

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.

Opinion: Is Paul Ryan for or against Ayn Rand?

Growing up, I rode the bus to school.

We only had one car and both my parents had to work. So if it wasn't for the bus I would have had to attend the neighborhood schools that were within walking distance as opposed to the special schools for high academic achievers that were an hour's ride away.

I worked hard to get accepted into the programs. I worked to stay there. But I would not have been able to do any of those things if it weren't for the bus drivers who made sure I got to school safe and on time.

When you genuinely live life through a prism of gratitude, you don't use analogies that minimize the impact others have on your life. When you live life through that prism, you don't see voters and delegates, you don't see the budget as just a bunch of numbers you have to make work.

You see the lives.

Romney doesn't irk us because he was born into privilege. He irks us because he behaves as if being born into privilege had nothing to do with his success. His wife, Ann, was supposed to make her husband more appealing. It didn't work. Now the question is: Can Paul Ryan make Mitt likeable?

I doubt it.

When men like Ryan or Obama or Vice President Joe Biden roll their sleeves up to talk to blue collar voters, it feels real because it's coming from a real place inside.

When Romney rolls his sleeves up, it's clear he's trying to send a message -- because his sense of entitlement and social disconnect prevents him from being the message.

That doesn't mean people won't vote for him in November. It's just that they won't be doing so because they like him.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1516 GMT (2316 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT