“Disincentivizing” the Electorate
One of Mitt Romney’s major claims to fame is his much-ballyhooed business acumen and, ergo, his fitness to be the CEO of America. The most noticeable measure of his success is, of course, his vast personal wealth. Now Romney has also been a politician - governor of Massachussetts, as a matter of fact, but being a politician doesn’t play particularly well, right now, especially being a Republican politician, so Romney relied on his business cred for the major portion of his early campaigning.
. . . until Team Obama put a pin in that balloon with their “outsourcer-in-chief” ads which had as their take-away ““Mitt Romney’s not the solution. He’s the problem.” And a lot of people bought it.
A CBS/New York Times poll, in early August, asked voters in swing states Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania: “Does Mitt Romney have the right kind of business experience to get the economy creating jobs again, or is Romney’s kind of business experience too focused on making profits?” In each state, 48 to 51 percent of likely voters said Romney’s experience was too focused on profits. Only 41 to 42 percent said he had the right kind of experience.
No worries, Team Romney then pivoted from CEO Romney to Governor Romney to show that he has experience running a government entity, not just a private business. The problem is that Romney was not a very well-liked or effective governor. He served one term and his signature legislation was RomneyCare, the now-embarrassing prototype for the Affordable Care Act which Romney has damned as “bad law” harmful to the nation that he intends to repeal on “Day One” of his presidency. He also proved, convincingly, that he is not very skilled at playing politics.
As Andrew Miga and Steve LeBlanc reported on Romney’s sojourn as governor of Massachussetts:
What worked for Mitt Romney in the corporate boardroom didn’t fly in the more raucous corridors of the Massachusetts Legislature.[. . . ]
Romney’s mostly fraught relations with state lawmakers could provide insight into how he’d handle a Congress that might still be politically divided if he becomes president.
Democrats in the Massachussetts Senate certainly did not think the relationship with Romney worked well:
Some Democratic lawmakers accused Romney of being aloof, unapproachable and not much interested in working with them to build the kind of friendships and alliances that are needed to help pass legislation. They say Romney’s legislative agenda on big issues like transportation and higher education fizzled as a result.
“He didn’t get that government was not a business,” said state Rep. Cory Atkins, a Democrat elected in 1999.
Former House Speaker Tom Finneran, a Democrat, recalls:
“Initially his sense was, `I have been elected governor, I am the CEO here and you guys are the board of directors and you monitor the implementation of what I say. That ruffled the feathers of legislators who see themselves as an equal branch (of government).
Finneran said that, while he grew to respect Romney, “you have to work to have a conversation with him.”
Tom Birmingham, a former state Senate president who left just before Romney took office said:
“He made no effort to get acquainted with lawmakers. To call him disengaged would be charitable.”
I find none of that surprising. For some time now, I’ve been tripping over similarities between Mitt Romney and the other CEOs in my life. We’ll just call them the good, the bad and the downright ugly. That said I’m not pigeon-holing all CEOs as nasty dictators . . . like all human beings, CEOs are host to the full gamut of human dreams, visions, emotions and ideas. Some have early success as humanists and others realize success by becoming autocrats and thereby a die is cast because no one is a CEO for long unless success is a pretty consistent outcome.
Early this year, Eric Jackson wrote an interesting article for Forbes entitled The Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives.
When Mitt Romney is examined in light of these seven “habits,” it becomes pretty obvious what a disastrous choice he would be for POTUS.
Let’s take a look:
Habit # 1: They see themselves and their companies as dominating their environment
According to Jackson:
Unlike successful leaders, failed leaders who never question their dominance fail to realize they are at the mercy of changing circumstances. They vastly overestimate the extent to which they actually control events and vastly underestimate the role of chance and circumstance in their success.
That pretty neatly explains many of Romney’s seemingly tone-deaf attempts to impress war-weary voters by occupying the more hawkish ground in any debate. Romney is obviously out to prove that he is more aggressive and less accommodating than his opponent regardless of the circumstances.
Habit #2: They identify so completely with the company that there is no clear boundary between their personal interests and their corporation’s interests
Much has been made of Romney’s propensity for stupendous flip-flops and this “habit” explains it all. Romney has no ideological drivers outside of winning. If it takes a radical change in policy and beliefs to win? so be it. If one needs to be an intellectual moderate to win in Boston, in 2003, Romney’s moderate and pro-choice. If it takes being a right wing extremist to win the presidency, in 2012, Romney’s your pro-life man!
Habit #3: They think they have all the answers
Romney is a classic patriarch. He is the father of five boys, a bishop in the Mormon church, and a CEO in business. His word is law and he has no time for dissent or even opposing opinions. For his entire adult life Romney has been an authority figure. All of the people in Mitt Romney’s environment defer to him and always have.
And that is exactly why Mitt Romney makes such spectacular miscalculations in politics, like the ones he made on September 12, regarding the embassy crises in Egypt and Libya. Romney believes his own campaign constructs and distortions. He believes his party’s gross distortion that President Obama is an apologist for America and a stand-in for Jimmy Carter who is obviously a symbol of presidential weakness—to Romney. In addition, Mitt Romney is able to effortlessly skate away from inconvenient empirical data. Inconvenient facts are twisted or replaced and hammered into the issues “frame du jour.”
(See also: Habit #7)
Habit #4: They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn’t completely behind them
This one’s almost too easy:
“I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.”
“Don’t try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom.” (October, 2011 in Las Vegas, the hardest-hit metro area by the foreclosure crisis).
Or how about this one from the height of the financial crisis in 2008: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
And of course, there’s the essential Romney: “I like to fire people.”
Habit #5: They are consummate spokespersons, obsessed with the company image
For this one, look no further than the oceans of self-aggrandising Romney has very pointedly indulged in regarding his messianic “turn-around” of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, complete with “We Love Mitt” buttons replacing the usual rather staid official Olympic pins of the past.
Habit #6: They underestimate obstacles
Here’s my personal short list of “Obstacles Romney Underestimates in this Election:
US Non-white demographics
Importance of Middle Class
Rising Income Inequality
Effects of Rising Poverty
Importance of Social Security/Medicare
US Health Care in Crisis
Habit #7: They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past
Nobody says it better than Daniel Larison of The American Conservative:
No modern Republican nominee has leaned so heavily on the Carter comparison since at least 1988, and it has probably never been less effective than it has this year. Having spent months building up the idea that Obama was another Carter (and that he [Romney] was by implication another Reagan), Romney responded to an attack on American diplomatic missions by once again seeing Obama as a Carter simply awaiting his own hostage crisis.
The attacks on the Benghazi consulate and the embassy in Cairo were awful, but fortunately they were nothing like what happened in Tehran in 1979, in part because the region is not very much like the way it was in 1979.
Partly because Romney’s overall view of the rest of the world sometimes seems twenty or thirty years out of date, he continues unthinkingly rehearsing and applying the slogans that might have been appealing in another era because they might have actually meant something back then.
(See also: Habit #3)
The signs are not auspicious and the charges of “not presidential,” “poor judgment,” and “not ready to lead” are not going away quickly.