Why Romney’s riches weren’t the reason why he lost

Sanne van Oosten

Mitt Romney’s wealth has been quite the issue during the US presidential elections. As we wait for the polling booths to close and the outcomes of the various states to roll in, I’m thinking about how interesting it is that such a rich entrepreneur came so far in the elections of 2012. In an era with a falling economy and a strict division between the 1% and the 99% it seems peculiar that Romney could get so far.

A presidential candidate should be someone who people can relate to, and being extremely rich in a time where more and more people are experiencing economic hardship seems like it should stand in Romney’s way even more. But is it really all that strange? On second thought I think America is the only place where Mitt Romney could have run for president. Let me explain.

The American Dream. Even before this phrase became popular in the 50s, Alexis de Toqueville had already described America as adherent to such a notion. “In no country in the world is the love of property more active and more anxious than in the United States” (Democracy in America, 1840.)

At the beginning of the last century the German Sociologist Werner Sombart wrote: “We see in every American – beginning with the paperboy – restlessness, yearning and compulsion to be way and beyond other people” (Why is there no socialism in the United States, 1906)

In the sixties John Steinbeck explained why he thought socialism had never caught on in the United States: “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires” (America & the Americans, 1966).

Not only European thinkers think the American interest in wealth is noteworthy. John Steinbeck made note of this as well. I think these quotes explain to us even more why Romney’s wealth wasn’t that much of a problem. If the American poor see themselves as “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” Romney was definitely someone they could relate to.

Their alter ego’s wish they were Romney and they still believe it could be possible to become someone like Romney some day. Nowhere else could Romney have gotten so far in a presidential election than in America.

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