Editor's Note: This column was written by Demetrius Minor.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently set off fireworks all across the American heartland. "I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich. They're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling," he said.
There are two major components of politics: ideology and imagery. Unfortunately, many voters are compelled to put more emphasis on imagery. Americans like their politicians to be fairly good looking, charismatic, charming, kind and of course….relatable. When a politician that is worth 250 million dollars talks about not being concerned with the poor, you can expect a chorus of angry and confused individuals. Let me say this: If you’re never been poor or had to struggle to make ends meet, it will be difficult to relate to those who are poor and encounter financial burdens on a daily basis. In all fairness, I do want to point out that Romney contributes 15% of his income to charity, so it’s a little harsh and naïve to claim that he doesn’t entirely care about the condition of the poor in America. However, perception, to most people, is reality. You can begin with Romney telling voters in Iowa that he was “unemployed”, or his unflattering “I like to fire people” comments. This creates an image of a filthy rich politician that is out of touch with mainstream America. It makes people view him as a plastic individual entrapped within his own comfort zone who is unable to reach out to those who are hurting and in financial despair.
Not only does Mitt have an image problem, but his ideology is questionable. His reference to the poor having a “safety net” is intriguing. He said if it needs to be repaired, he’ll fix it. This is very vague and lacks a concise approach to the problem. This can be interpreted as simply allowing the poor to be complacent and increasingly dependent on big government. Should we be satisfied with just having a “safety net” for the poor, or should we look for ways and ideas to help eradicate poverty, enhance the cost of living, promote ownership, help small businesses, and advocate the message that the American people can live their lives better without the government telling us what to do left and right.
I understand and agree with Romney’s case for helping strengthening the middle class. The problem we are facing is that the middle class is shrinking. The middle class is what is paying for our deficit and debt. What happens when the middle class becomes smaller? Well….they become poorer. If you want to help the middle class, you essentially are helping the poor class. Mitt Romney, obviously in the upper echelon of wealth and success, cannot simply say he isn’t concerned with the poor. This is not an issue that can simply sit on the shelves. This attitude and approach enhances the dialogue and frustration of disparity and the gap between the rich and poor.
For someone who has been running for President for a second time, Romney has struggled and failed, to this point, to perceive an image of someone who can relate to the “everyday individual” or to the couple who shops at thrift stores and Walmarts.
My message to Mitt Romney: Perception can be reality. If you cannot resonate with the “average Joe”, you will not win the 2012 presidential election. I hate to use an Occupy reference, but it’s possible that 99% of people will agree with this sentiment.