Election 2012

Love him or hate him, says Steve Almond, everyone on earth does what Mitt Romney is being skewered for. We tell one story in public -- and another in private. (AP File Photo)

As we all know by now, on Monday, a video surfaced of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaking candidly to wealthy donors at a fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida. Ever since, media pundits have been engaged in one of those prolonged bouts of indignation that so animates them.

Like most non-millionaires, I found the content of Romney’s spiel totally despicable and unsurprising. He’s a rich guy who views poor people with contempt. Stop the presses!

But there’s been something especially unsettling about watching this latest flap unfold. And it’s this: All of us who are sitting in judgment of Romney have behaved exactly like him in our own lives, probably as recently as Monday.

Because this is just what people do. We present one version of ourselves in public—kind, reasonable, sensitive — and another in private. Away from the scrutiny of those who might judge us, we feel liberated to ditch the politesse.

All of us who are sitting in judgment of Romney have behaved exactly like him in our own lives, probably as recently as Monday.

Every time I go out with my guy friends, for instance, we all say things that would infuriate our partners. It’s how we release steam, given that we are:

a) stressed out by the pressures of being good husbands and fathers

b) frustrated by how careful we have to be not to offend our partners

c) fundamentally still monkeys

And by the way, our partners (who are not monkeys but are — honey, I hope you’re reading this! — beautiful queens) do the same thing. I’ve quietly sat around a few gatherings where wives and girlfriends, assisted by liberal quantities of wine, let loose on the men in their lives. Their comments make Mitt Romney look like a softie.

The same dynamic prevails at work. Anyone who’s toiled at an office larger than, say, two people has taken part in multiple slander sessions.

How else are we supposed to cope with the inevitable frustrations of the modern workplace? We find our little circle of allies and bitch to them about what a jerk everyone else is, especially the boss.

And when we talk to our closest friends, the long knives come out. My pal Billy and I speak so offensively, about so many different topics, that we often joke about taping each other. At least, it better be a joke.

People have always been two-faced, of course. But back in the old days, it was harder, because we spent a lot more time actually interacting face-to-face. It’s not so easy to be cruel or dismissive if you know you’re going to have to look them in the eye again.

But the rise of technology has caused us to spend more and more of our time in front of screens, interacting virtually. The Internet has enabled us to fling invectives at a speed and volume that our forebears would consider dizzying, if not nauseating. If you don’t believe me, just spend some time trolling the comment section of any article involving politics, popular culture, sports, or religion.

The Internet has also begun to erode the very concept of privacy. Thanks to our ever-more-voracious exhibitionism, and voyeurism, and our ever-smaller recording devices, peoples’ “private selves” are being outed at an unprecedented rate.

Frankly, when it comes to politics, that’s often a good thing. After all, the modern campaign is so focus-grouped and stage-managed, that the candidates seem more like actors than real people.

Whether or not you like what he had to say to his rich pals, there was little doubt you were seeing the real Mitt Romney.

He wasn’t awkwardly trying to play a man of the people, or singing off-key, or making baffling jokes about the height of trees. He was telling a bunch of people he trusted what he really believes. Isn’t that what all our candidates should be doing?


Related: Listen to Steve explain why he thinks books written by conservatives fare better than those written by their liberal counterparts.

Tags: Election 2012, Mitt Romney

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

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  • Edith

    We are not all Mitt Romney and to assert that we are requires a stretch of the imagination. When most people get together with their friends to ‘say what we really think’ it makes no difference. Most of us have no power. It’s good that Mitt Romney was so candid about what he really thinks of what turns out to be most people. It’s good to know and hear from the horse’s mouth that in the mind of the man who might be our next president, most of us are moochers dependent on government aid. Well, I guess we are. Most of us cannot afford to have our own police force, appreciate a little help with the purchase of a first home, like to have a little unemployment insurance in the case that the company we work for goes under, like to have health insurance guaranteed in our old age. But I digress. My main point is that we are not all Mitt Romney. He is very different to most people. His wealth sets him apart in a world of privilege that most of us cannot begin to comprehend, Steve Almond (who equates blowing off steam with your friends at a bar to Mitt Romney who is talking at a fundraiser to equally fabulously wealthy people about his ideas of how everyone else has delusions of entitlement because they want to eat!) being the first to demonstrate misperception. I am not like Mitt Romney. And neither are you, Steve Almond!

    • Jo

      You are so right! Well said, thank you.

  • Alyson

    I do not fault him for the behavior. Although it can be argued he was paying lip-service to a bunch of rich people to better separate them from their money. I do, however, have a problem with the DEGREE of hypocrisy. Sure, I can tell the world that my mom is annoying and drives me batty – but on some level, my mother KNOWS this and on another level, those I am telling know that I love my mother despite her wackiness. Here we don’t know – or we do know. Anyway, he’s trying to be the representative for ALL of the people while telling the very elite that he’s written off almost half of them. Not very presidential no matter the way you come down on it. I think Presidents should look out the most for the weakest – very Jesus-like, despite my not being down with Jesus – because the lowest, weakest, poorest do not have the power to do it for themselves. Big money, the wealthy and corporations have the power to be heard so don’t need worrying about.

  • Chris

    Umm, excuse me but we are NOT all Mitt Romney, and the guy is running for President! If he said what he believes, he should be held accountable for it. If he was pandering to his audience, then what does that say about his character?

  • sjw81

    and Obama doenst do this? Pander to his supporters? He just hasnt been secretly taped illegally. Facts are Facts. 47% dont pay income taxes. Besides the legit such as social security, vets, or even short term unemployed, the fed gov is borrowing money from china and paying it out to food stamps, medicare, medicaid, student loans(really to colleges), foreign aid…we are bankrupt and this bubble will burst very soon. then how will they be paid? monopoly money?

    • Guest

      What you call a fact certainly is NOT. Romney lumped the Seniors into his stats. The Seniors paid into their retirement funds from which they are now collecting.

      NOW you want to call them “free-loaders?” How dishonest are you?

    • Jo

      Isn’t a shame that we don’t tax a family of 4 who make 20K a year! Yes, we should tax them at 14% the same tax rate that Mr. Romney paid on his 14+ million income last year! You say that the family of 4 would not be able to have a place to live and no food to eat?…..well, Marie Antoinette had an answer for that!

    • jenny

      Perhaps the reason we haven’t seen any tapes of Obama “pandering to his supporters” is because he has never said anything so breathtakingly horrific about half the people in this country (despite what the right-wing radio hosts will have you think).

    • Pointpanic

      excuse me sjw not only was Romney not factually accurate but he was also condescending to the people he professes to want to serve.

  • Graham White


  • Imran Nasrullah

    Yes, and now you can vote based on what you know he really is.

  • Guest

    Steve, I am sorry that you live amongst such people (liars) as you claim. May I suggest that you find better friends.

  • NotMittRomney

    Are we? Perhaps Steve and his friends behave this way, but don’t assume that everybody else does. I, for one, have the belief that you never say in private, or put in writing, anything that you would not want to see posted in a public place for everyone to see.

    “To thine own self be true”.

  • Nancy

    Nonsense. There’s a difference between ordinary two-facedness and what he revealed in that video. We don’t care what Mitt really thinks of his mother in law, for example. This is not analogous to his revealing that 1) he feels contempt for a huge swathe of the people he hopes to govern, and 2) profoundly misunderstands how our system’s tax system works and why. As to this question: “He was telling a bunch of people he trusted what he really believes. Isn’t that what all our candidates should be doing?” The answer is no. We don’t want politicians showing their real faces only behind closed doors with supporters who have big bank accounts. We want them telling what they believe to the people whose votes they ask for, the people whose lives they will truly affect.

    • Pointpanic

      Nancy, thank you,. I especially love your last 2 sentences. it reflects poorly on mr. Almond and on WBUR to pass off such an insincere article as “cognoscenti”

  • Fred

    Yes, we do this. But Mitt wasn’t amongst good friends he was actively courting money for his campaign. I would believe this argument more if he hadn’t doubled down in the last few days to support his comments!

  • pam

    WE ARE NOT ALL MITT ROMNEY.Instead of trying to sympathize with him,let’s just let him go back to where he belongs(wherever that is) and let us move forward with Obama.
    Meanwhile, we have to protect the vote. This person who people are saying is really a good guy, is condoning(or directing) a scandalous voter supression effort and the TP’s to whom he has been pandering, are intimidating voters at the polls.

  • Rayoutwest

    I am heartened by the fact that many comments are objecting to the views of this article. I have met and dealt with two faced people in my life, as many people have mentioned, but I venture to say that most of us are trying to be true to ourselves and the people that we deal with. I can honestly search my soul and say that at least 99% of the time, except for an occasional case of being too frank (maybe that’s okay?), or biting my tongue, that I have been the same with everyone that I meet. Not everyone loves me for that, but hey, the ones that do, love or like me for who I am and not who I pose to be.

  • Kevin Sullivan

    wait a second steve, you’re a non-millionaire!

  • Blake Mitchell

    Wow, it’s amazing how many people are incapable of being honest with themselves…

  • Pointpanic

    THis shill piece for Romney and the elites he serves fails to mention that we all are not running fro president. making disparaging remarks about your spouse over a beer with your fellow yahoos is not the same as berating a percieved class of people ,you purport to serve as the highest executive officer. So is this ‘BUR’s idea of “thinking that matters”?