The first presidential candidate from the economy’s now deeply unpopular financial sector, Romney is suffering because this sector’s arcane practices and instruments seem to many people, as indecipherable things often do, sinister. His tax returns perhaps testify to no more than sophisticated exploitation of the baroque tax code’s opportunities for — even encouragement of — tactics to minimize liabilities. This, however, may exacerbate the impression many Republicans seem to have of his slipperiness. And this attribute is related to the suspicion that there is something synthetic about him. This may be unfair, but so is life.
Life has been good to Romney, who now must quickly demonstrate authenticity, even if he needs to synthesize it. Actually, he does not need to. He speaks well, which is to say with infectious passion, about the dangers of the other party’s dependency agenda and the entitlement mentality it cultivates. But if Romney says even one more time “I believe in America” — a bromide worthy of Tom (“Your future is still ahead of you”) Dewey — voters may decide he is a human Oakland, that (as Gertrude Stein said of the city) there is no there there.