If you sat down and wrote out all of the words that you would use to describe Mitt Romney I bet you would face a list like mine. Mitt Romney is moderate, mediocre, monogamous, monetary, secure, sound, stayed, stale and secretive. Those words paint a picture of someone who you might want handling your 401K, not necessarily leading the free world. To contrast, think of the words you wouldn’t use to describe the former Massachusetts governor. Mitt Romney is not electric, eclectic, energetic, bold, powerful, dynamic, engaging, entertaining, funny, lighthearted or captivating.
During the primaries most conservatives I talked to understood that Newt Gingrich had been as inconsistent, contradictory and at times openly hostile to many of the causes we believe in as Mitt Romney had during his career. The difference was that with Gingrich, they believed they had a fighter who would come at Barack Obama with everything he had. That was something many feared Romney wouldn’t do. Gingrich fires people up, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way and of the words I would use to describe him come from the list of words I wouldn’t use to describe Romney. They are words that move people and define what we often look for in leaders and the guy we ended up with isn’t going to start embodying them anytime soon.
Here we are, six weeks from the election and the fears of those people who thought Romney would fizzle are coming to fruition. Looking at those lists of words, it is easy to understand why. We got the candidate who is secure not bold. We have the candidate who is mediocre not electric. We have the candidate who is secretive and not engaging.
Anyone hoping that winning the primary would somehow awaken a spark in Mitt Romney and turn him into a fire breathing, balls-to-the-wall, ready-to-rumble campaigner was living in the same dream voters for Obama inhabited when they thought he would wave a wand and bring change to the nation. Sure Romney can be tough, but he has never been bold. He has always been a cautious corporate guy. A guy who doesn’t want to offend too much, say too much, do too much. It is no surprise that most of his campaign has been spent raising money rather than hitting the ground and connecting with voters. It is no surprise that he tries to connect with the electorate through airwaves rather than through heart and soul.
The race for the presidency isn’t just a job interview. It is a job interview, a reality TV show, a beauty pageant and popularity contest, a horse race and a freak show all wrapped into a televised and re-tweetable package that defies the conventional wisdom more often than it defines it. Our first president, a larger than life figure who excelled at image-shaping (amongst a near-endless list of other things) helped ensure that. He set the example that great presidents are those who follow the old Roman saying, “Fortune favors the bold.”
In all of his career there is only one example that comes to mind that displays boldness in Mitt Romney. That was his Massachusetts health care reform that became a model for Obamacare. That doesn’t inspire much for a population who overwhelmingly want to overturn the law and question his campaign to court conservative credibility. He has had to run away from that law, only to return, then run away again losing any ability to exploit fortune from his one rare moment of standing for something.
The list of things Romney is not are descriptors that also don’t fit Obama. The bold speeches about hope and change were never describing him, the guy who voted present rather than truly being the reformer he claimed to be. His presidency has proven our president is a professor, often distant and aloof, detached. He is increasingly incapable of explaining his message with any zeal and seems to have no platform for a second term. However he already won the presidency, he has the job and is running against a candidate who is equally ambiguous, vague and detached. When faced with the fear of the known vs the fear of the unknown, humans tend to stay with what they know. They don’t change horses mid stream, not because they are dumb but because the other horse is drowning too, so why risk falling between them?
Mitt Romney was likely being the most honest he has ever been in his political career when he said he didn’t see a reason why he should make changes to his campaign. This is who Mitt Romney is and the campaign, anyone paying attention, knew he would run. One might as well ask a baker, faced with a faulty oven, if he is thinking of becoming an archeologist. Why would he? Eventually the oven will get fixed.
Our nation faces economic decline, world strife and a loss of purpose. Would we benefit from someone who is “moderate, secure and sound?” Likely we would, but that isn’t who we are as a people. We are like the baker, we don’t know archeology and aren’t about to try. We are cowboy diplomats who chase manifest destiny and demand all that we want when we want it. When faced with two options, neither fitting the true sense of who we are and what we want, we just won’t show up. We will figure it out for ourselves or wait for someone better.
Republicans and the pundit class can gripe about Romney but their buyers remorse is hard to sympathize with. There was never a shred of evidence that Romney isn’t the man we have before us. That he would ever rise to a level beyond what he has reached. He was never a guy who electrified us or exemplified our cause. He was always just a guy who looked like he could be president and seemed like he knew how to raise a lot of money. There wasn’t a solid alternative and we ended up with what we got. This is his nature, it is who he is. We cannot make him into something he is not.
To use one final old saying, he was the date we brought to the prom. Not the person we really wanted to go with but the one we knew would say yes. Not the prettiest, not the most engaging but someone whose shoulder we looked over all night to see the person who really had our attention. At this point the prom is still on and we are caught up in the limo ride, the dinner and the spirit of it all. We keep looking over at our date, wondering why they aren’t getting more attractive or making us laugh, but then we shrug and hope it will all get better.
Imagine if Mitt Romney wins. Imagine if that prom date turned to marriage and a life of contentment but not passion. An existence of monotony without love. The night isn’t getting better, what makes us believe the next morning, the future date, the wedding or anything after will? We’ve seen who Mitt Romney is during this campaign and we aren’t going to find someone different either in the next six weeks or if elected the next to the next four years.
Not to sound defeatist but neither the prospect of winning the election nor the outlook for the future if we do inspires much hope in me.