There’s been a lot written over the past few months about the Republican primary voters’ apparent lack of enthusiasm for Mitt Romney. Almost all news coverage refers to Romney as the frontrunner and inevitable GOP nominee, because he has the support of the party establishment and many of its major donors.
Analysts and journalists have been trying to make sense of that lack of voter support with varied reasoning: Romney is Mormon and there’s lots of anti-Mormon bias; Romney is seen as flip-flopping on issues and lacking in core values and beliefs; Romney is boring and doesn’t have the showmanship of Herman Cain.
But I think all of this Romney coverage is wrong and shows how completely out of touch both politicians and journalists are with what is going on in America right now. It is the height of arrogance to pronounce Romney the frontrunner when in polls and actual voting he has either lost or polled about even with one or two other candidates. And it is insulting to voters to suggest they are looking at candidates other than Romney because other candidates have more showmanship, or hold more conservative positions.
Perhaps it’s time for us all to start looking at the facts, and covering the political season as news, not as some kind of horse-race or insider dealing. If people are not showing support for Romney, maybe it is because they simply are not convinced he is the right man during this critical point in American history.
In fact, I would argue that the reason none of the GOP candidates have been able to pull ahead – since the lack of a clear frontrunner is not only a Romney problem but shows a lack of consensus toward any of the GOP candidates – is because GOP primary voters are not really hearing anything new from any of them. And voters are smart enough to realize that right now, in what is the closest we have ever come to a second depression, new ideas and bold leadership is what we need.
If we look at the GOP primary race in that context, is it any wonder then that Herman Cain showed temporary momentum by offering something new and bold with his 9-9-9 plan? Without scrutiny of that plan to help voters understand its ups and downs, voters did the best they could to evaluate it and were genuinely excited by someone who seemed to be offering fresh, bold, game-changing ideas that might actually help our economy.
As it turns out, by analysis from both the left and the right, Herman Cain’s proposal is ill-conceived and would not help. But by the time news coverage started to take him seriously, his 9-9-9 plan had already found resonance among an electorate thirsty for real leadership and fresh ideas.
The candidates – and current elected leaders – are busy bickering about budget cuts versus tax cuts. Meanwhile, the voting public is sending them clear messages that those kinds battles are antiquated and pointless when the country is facing such dire economic difficulties.
The voting public is more united than politicians and the media want to believe. Most voters are frustrated and disgusted, and it is hard to blame them. There is little difference in motivation between a GOP voter and a person marching in Occupy Wall Street protests. In both you will find someone who has lost patience, and who is looking for leadership and meaningful solutions to our many economic problems.
The next election will be a wake-up call for both the GOP and the Democratic Party, unless the parties wake up before then.