Consequently when John expresses an opinion, I listen. I was therefore taken aback when he declared, “There is something about Mitt Romney that I just don’t like. I’m not sure what it is. I just don’t like him.”
John is apparently not alone. A majority of Republican voters have been frantically switching their allegiance from one candidate to another rather than commit to Romney. Despite the fact that he has the most consistent record of any of the candidates in the debates, they have expressed a desire for Gingrich, Cain, Perry, Paul, or Bachmann rather than him.
Some have suggested that this is because Romney is a Mormon. They say that evangelicals just do not trust Mormons. But John never expressed any such doubts. Moreover, millions of evangelicals love Glen Beck who is equally Mormon. This then cannot be the reason.
Others have argued that it is because Romney is insufficiently conservative. These folks believe that the Tea Party members are demanding the most conservative candidate they can find. In this case, however, they should have eschewed Gingrich. He has been all over the political landscape, but has nevertheless attracted a significant following.
May I, therefore, put forward another alternative. Something that Rick Perry said when he was pleading for a second look may hold the key. Perry complained that Romney was so good looking that this created a distraction when they were sparring during one of the debates.
The problem may indeed be that Mitt is too perfect. His hair is never messed up, his clothes are never rumpled, and he always has something appropriate to say. Mitt, in short, is a straight arrow. He is like that goody-two-shoes who was the teacher’s pet in the third grade. Just like that oh so flawless kid, you want to throw him into the mud to teach him a lesson.
What makes this especially odd is the earlier reaction to Obama. According to Ron Suskind, when Barack was running for president many in his entourage referred to him as Jesus. They apparently thought of him as so perfect that he could save the nation from Republican cupidity. For them, this was not a disqualification, but a source of enormous pride.
Republicans, however, seem to be a bit more realistic. As people who are attuned to the limitations inherent in the human condition, they are suspicious of anyone who appears unblemished. They fear that such a person is too good to be true; hence if he or she gains power, the insensitivity behind the mask will emerge to cause untold harm.
Barack’s saving grace was that he appeared affable. He seemed to be a nice guy. Today we know that he maintains an emotional barrier between himself and the rest of the world. Mitt unfortunately is stiff in comparison. It is as if there is a robot hiding underneath his tidy exterior.
But I suspect that the mistake we are making is the reverse of the one we made with Barack. I believe that Mitt is more decent and human than he generally reveals himself to be the public. This side of him, however, peeked through during an interview he gave to Fox’s Chris Wallace.
When asked about his wife’s health, Mitt was forced to discuss issues he usually keeps private. Up until that moment I had not realized that his spouse suffered from MS. This is because he had not brought up the subject in an effort to gain sympathy. He and his family had merely dealt with it in the matter-of-fact way of problem-solvers.
But what really grabbed my attention was the moistness in Romney’s eyes as he disclosed these matters. At no point did he ask for pity, yet in his tight-lipped way he convinced me that here was a man who genuinely loves his wife.
But he did more than that. His unfeigned modesty also convinced me that he is a man who genuinely loves his country. And I want someone like that for president!
Melvyn L Fein Ph.D. is professor of Sociology at Kennesaw State University.