The Republicans have a problem, named Mitt Romney. He’s the guy the mainstream party bosses like, but no one truly loves. He’s solid on paper, but is a shape-shifter, with an unusual gift of gaffe that makes him seem like a character out of a cartoon — a throwback tycoon. The other day, trying to sell himself as a Michigander, he talked about his memory of a parade in Detroit — but it actually happened before he was even born. “I love cars,” he said, running the grave risk of alienating the anti-car voters. He went to Daytona Beach and said he doesnt’ follow the races but some of his best friends own NASCAR teams.
Supposedly all this adds up to an authenticity problem. I think not. Romney’s inauthenticity is his core personality feature. It’s who he is. He needs to embrace this. He needs to tell his audiences: Beneath my kind of phoney exterior is an even phonier core. He should say this phoniness is not something new, something adopted on the campaign trail, but rather is at the very center of his being, and always has been. He should say, “I was inauthentic before inauthenticity was cool.”
And stop referring to himself as “successful.” No, he should say, “I’m not successful or affluent or well-off or in a position of having a good deal of economic means. I’m rich. Look up the word in the dictionary and you’ll see my picture. I would no sooner fly coach than let my hair grow out in dreadlocks. My philosophy is that a rising tide lifts all yachts. I’m rich and I like being rich. I believe in an America in which anyone can grow up to be rich, though my level is probably unattainable, realistically. Don’t delude yourselves. Ain’t gonna happen.”
Here’s my story about Michigan, leading up to today’s primary:
Before there was rust, there was gleaming chrome. You can see it on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. Behold the voluptuous 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible, bursting with movie-star glamour. Check out the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado, a rocket ship on wheels, fit for a titan of industry.
A small sign by the Caddie includes a quote:
“Cars 19 feet long, weighing two tons, are used to run a 118-pound housewife three blocks to the drugstore for a two-ounce package of bobby pins and lipstick.”
That’s George Romney, 1955. He was a car executive then, running American Motors Corp., which bucked the Detroit tradition and tried to sell small cars.
Now his son Mitt is stumping across the state, trying to sell himself as an authentic Michigander. (“I love cars ” is one of his messages, and more than once he has said he likes the state because “the trees are the right height.”)
He told an audience in Milford on Thursday night that he was born in Detroit. His family lived in a “lovely” house in a nice neighborhood in Palmer Park. After his family moved away, Romney said, the house became an eyesore — and it was demolished.
A connection to demolition, however distant, gives a candidate in Michigan a modicum of street cred. So many houses in Detroit have been bulldozed that urban agriculture is making a comeback, and “grown in Detroit” is a selling point at the city’s farmers market.
[and there’s more...]
Good Daytona 500 highlights at ESPN. (I love cars!)
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