It’s doubtful that anyone needs any more reasons to explain why Americans are fed up with politics as usual. Nevertheless, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has given us one more.
Apparently when Romney said, “I saw my father march with Martin Luther King,” in his much publicized “Faith in America” speech, this was not exactly true.
It appears that not only did Romney not see this, but there is serious doubt whether his father ever indeed did march with Dr. King.
Romney now says that he meant this “figuratively.”
According to the former Massachusetts governor, “If you look at the literature or the dictionary the term ‘saw’ includes being aware of in the sense I have described. It is a figure of speech.”
We haven’t seen a politician parse a sentence like this since Bill Clinton dissected the meaning of the verb “is” and explained that it was Monica who had sex with him and not the other way around.
The next sentence in the speech following the King claim was, “I saw my parents provide compassionate care to others, in personal ways nearby. …” Also figuratively?
The Detroit Free Press says that it has no record of Romney’s father, one-time Michigan Gov. George Romney, ever marching with King. According to the Free Press, when Dr. King marched in Detroit, their archives show that Romney’s father did not participate because he said his religion prohibited him from public appearances on Sunday.
How ironic that Romney chose to insert this apparent whopper in his “Faith in America” speech. Perhaps the governor’s idea of faith is what Groucho Marx had in mind with his line, “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”
This kind of casualness with the truth is what has alienated good citizens across the country from the elites who are running our political machinery.
The Pew Research Center reports as their No. 1 public opinion story of 2007 the “sour mood of the public.” A Gallup poll just out puts the number of Americans who “are satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S.” at 27 percent.
This dissatisfaction carries over into low approval ratings for the president and even lower ratings for the Congress.
Americans are unhappy with the status quo and hence the surprise showings of candidates like Barack Obama, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul. They’re sick of detached, elitist, power-hungry candidates whose personal agenda is something other than genuine concern for people and clear and honest principles.
In a recent Pew survey, only 34 percent agreed with the statement “Most elected officials care what people like me think.” Twenty years ago, in 1987, 47 percent agreed with this statement.
The bad news for Republicans is that prevailing disillusionment is disproportionately toward and within their party.
According to Pew, 33 percent now identify as Democrats, up two points from 31 percent five years ago.
Twenty five percent now identify as Republicans, down five points from five years ago.
In addition to this, 17 percent of independents now lean Democratic, up six points from five years ago, and 11 percent of independents now lean Republican, down one point from five years ago.
This overall shift in sentiment toward the Democratic Party, however, reflects disillusionment with Republicans rather than enthusiasm for Democrats. The current favorability rating for the Democratic Party is at 54 percent, exactly where it was after President Bush’s victory in 2004. However, the current favorability rating for the Republican Party is 41 percent, down 11 points from 52 percent over the same period.
The point is that Americans have not suddenly fallen back in love with the liberals.
They have fallen out of love with a Republican Party that was supposed to be carrying the banner of traditional values and limited government, whom they no longer trust to do so.
When Reagan ran against the entrenched political establishment in 1980, the sentiment toward him was similar to what we hear today about Mike Huckabee. How could this guy – a class B actor, former sportscaster, with a bachelor’s degree from Eureka College in Illinois – be running for president of the United States?
But Reagan had been traveling and speaking around the country for years. He knew the country, and he knew its people. When he ran against government and the establishment, these folks felt he was representing them.
But now Republicans have become a detached ruling elite, like the Democrats that Reagan ran against. And they have alienated a chunk of the grass roots within their own party, and independents that Reagan had wooed.
Republicans can win back the hearts and minds of Americans. But they have to get real and get honest – unlike the former governor of Massachusetts.