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
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2015 GMT (0415 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1928 GMT (0328 HKT)
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1729 GMT (0129 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT