Posted by: George | August 31, 2012

Romney’s Acceptance Speech

If you were able to make it through Clint Eastwood’s rambling dialogue with an empty chair or Marco Rubio’s speech about himself (maybe a speech about why Marco should be the presumptive nominee in 2016, that is, after Romney loses), if you managed to stay awake through all this, you saw Romney deliver an interesting acceptance speech. The speech essentially said, “I am the anti-Obama.” It was not what I predicted in a recent post. I told you to look for the mytheme, the mythic kernel that would hold the speech together. Instead, Romney went for anti-myth.

Before discussing the speech, I need to go back four years to the Democratic primary. On February 5, 2008, Super Tuesday, Obama said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person. Or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” In the same speech, Obama repeated the phrase “yes we can,” which would become one of the cornerstones for his campaign. This speech was the stuff of myth.

Later, the McCain campaign picked up on Obama’s line “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” In a crude commercial, the McCain campaign tried to portray Obama as messianic, a would-be Moses. I would argue that the commercial also had racist undertones. Obama was portrayed as an uppity Black man.

That was McCain’s crude attempt to undercut the Obama myth. Last night, Romney took his own turn at undercutting the Obama myth. It could prove to be more effective than the McCain commercial.

Here is the portion of the speech that best conveys Romney’s anti-myth: “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise . . . is to help you and your family.”

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans” sounds a little like “Moses parted the Red Sea.” The claim to “heal the planet” is an ambitious goal. In contrast, Romney seems to say, “I am an ordinary man. All I want to do is help you like a neighbor helps you.”

We will see how well this anti-myth message resonates with the American people. Romney might have effectively argued that Obama the president did not fulfill the promises of Obama the candidate. However, when Romney offers himself as an alternative because he is not promising global change, he seems to be saying that we should elect an ordinary man to be the most powerful leader in the world.

I suspect that the American people want big promises, the stuff of myth, even if they realize that politicians can rarely bring about the change they envision. If the American people have been disappointed in the myth of Obama, that does not mean they will elect an ordinary man. We need hope and dreams, especially in tough times.

The morning reviews seems to be consistent. Reporters were moved by the video that preceded Romney’s speech. They feel that Clint Eastwood’s sad performance might upstage Romney’s speech. They feel Marco Rubio’s speech fell flat. About Romney’s actual speech, reporters seem to agree that there was no magic. There was no inspiring line. In short, there was no myth.

Whether or not Romney’s anti-myth approach works in November may depend on how well Obama can reclaim a mythic aura during an economic crisis.



  1. I think I agree. Romney’s rhetoric did not come across as inspiring. I didn’t feel like a better person for watching it as i did when I watched Obama’s inaugural speech four years ago. However, just because Romney didn’t have much flash in his speech, doesn’t mean that an effective connection with his is audience wasn’t made. After hearing the speech, I felt like I knew this man better. He talked about his successful business feats casually that I feel enhanced his economic competence and experience. Also, like President Obama, he spoke of his wife and children, though not near as memorably as Obama did. He also carefully mentioned his Mormon routes which somehow added to his wonder boy persona. Though it lacked luster, it wasn’t a loss to me. I felt it was a good speech, and went in his favor. But rhetorically, it was a drop in the bucket compared to the rhetoric explosion the democrats had at their convention, especially Michelle.


    • I like the idea of Romney as Wonder Boy.


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