Ann Romney Makes a Decent Sales Pitch, But Doesn't Close the Deal

What Women Really Think
Aug. 29 2012 10:19 AM

Ann Romney's Sales Pitch

150893385
Can Ann and Mitt's love close the deal for some voters?

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In her Republican convention speech last night, Ann Romney said she had come to talk about love. As soon as she finished, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie set up a choice between love and respect—and chose respect. Over love. The apparent contradiction gave birth to many tweets, and these MoJo and BuzzFeed posts, arguing that running the two speeches back to back was a mishap. But I wonder if that's wrong, politics-wise.

Ann Romney got to be soft and womanly and Christie got to be tough and manly. Doesn't that represent the skillful dual appeal conservatives make to voters, a la psychologist Jonathan Haidt's research? He argues that there are six foundations for morality, on a spectrum from caring and fairness to authority and sanctity: "Liberals jack up care, followed by fairness and liberty. They rarely value loyalty and authority. Conservatives dial up all six." Cue Ann and Chris.

Advertisement

I am less sold on Ann's eruption of love for women ("I love women!") and her painstaking efforts to make it sound like she knows what it feels like to be pinched by the rising price of gas or groceries. The Romneys just have no claim to ordinariness. They are standouts in every way—their money, their Mormonism, their son after smiling son, their horses and their car elevators. I'm with Ross Douthat here: It's much more convincing to sell Mitt Romney as the privileged WASP savior of the rest of us.

The economy is in bad shape, Obama is vulnerable. Why not keep going for the tiny slice of the undecided with the most credible pitch: Mitt Romney has what it takes to rescue us precisely because he is so distinctly blessed. Ann's best line made her husband sound like Superman: "No one will move heaven and earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live!" (A note of dissent from all the praise for another line: “Mitt does not like to talk about how he has helped others because he sees it as a privilege, not a political talking point.” Really? Isn't the reason Mitt doesn't talk about his philanthropic giving that he doesn't want to detail how much of it has gone to the Mormon Church, or offer any other accompanying window into his finances?)

It's disheartening, too, that the right-wing shift of the Republican party—check out this amazing juxtaposition of the 1980 and 2012 platforms—leaves so little room for Ann and Mitt to recognize the structural forces that drive fortune. With all those "We built that" posters in the convention hall, it was taboo to mention how government can seed entrepreneurship or how anti-discrimination laws protect the women the Romneys are so eager to court. I can't believe the Romneys are actually this simplistic: They are too smart, and Mitt has acknowledged the positive power of government too many times in the past. But this convention makes it hard to have faith in the older, saner Romney edition.

Emily Bazelon was a Slate senior editor from 2005 to 2014. She is the author of Sticks and Stones.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 19 2014 1:10 PM Ascension Island: Home of Lava Fields, a False Forest, and the World's Worst Golf Course
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 3:07 PM Everything Is a "Women's Issue"
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.