Mitt Romney is still having trouble understanding cultural context and target audience in his communication efforts. At the end of February this year, fighting in the Michigan primary, he tried to convince the working class folks in Detroit that he’s one of them—“a Detroit guy.” He told them he drives a Mustang and a Chevy pick-up—and that his wife drives “a couple of Cadillacs.” He almost had them with the muscle car and the truck. But when he threw in his wife’s two caddies, which she alternates use of between two of their houses, the jig was up.
Romney—who made 21.6 million dollars in 2010, over half of which sum was from capital gains, and none of which was earned wages—can’t possible grasp working class reality himself. He might do well to hire someone who does (and this is clearly not Eric Fehrnstrom) because it’s possible that he believes he’s a Detroit guy. He was born there, his father worked for American Motors Corporation from 1954-1962 (as chief executive, that is) and his father also served as governor of Michigan from 1963-1969. Plus, Romney owns an excessive amount of American-made cars. In his own cultural context as a multi-millionaire with deep roots in the Detroit-based ruling class, he’s as close to a “Detroit guy” as you can get. But to most of the autoworkers there, who understood the title of Romney’s NY Times op-ed piece, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” as what former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm recently referred to as getting “knifed in the back,” Romney can’t possibly be a Detroit guy who can take credit for the rebounding auto-industry, even if it was achieved both by bailouts as well as the kind of managed bankruptcy he had called for in his editorial.
When he did try to take credit for Detroit’s coming back from the edge this Monday, he and his advisors failed to see, yet again, the distinction between his own cultural context as a multimillionaire (who was taxed at a meagre 14% on his 21.6 million dollar income) and the cultural context of the rest of us to whom he is directly addressing when he speaks in public. This likely Republican presidential nominee and his communications advisors continue to mistakenly believe that their target audience consists of wealthy big business managers—Romney’s colleagues—rather than the majority of American voters.