McKay Coppins had a Monday piece about a failed attempt to keep Mitt Romney off the ballot for the open Utah Senate seat. This after the president’s endorsement (before the primary!) of Romney. There is clearly a significant group of people that really, really do not like Romney. I find that bewildering. Mitt Romney is the least objectionable guy I have ever seen in public life. What is it that makes people object to him so? And it is not just this party thing in Utah – now that he is back in public life, and given my very active and public support of him in his presidential runs – I have got people coming out of the woodwork to tell me how much they don’t like him.
The short answer is, typically, “proven loser.” But that does not hold water for very long. The 2012 presidential election had a number of extraordinary factors involved and the man is not running for president again. He has won some pretty significant elections in his life. Further, the political realities in Utah give him an overwhelming advantage in this Senate race. “Proven loser” is a convenient excuse for objecting to Romney, but it is not a genuine reason.
The other thing I hear a lot is “milquetoast.” That’s just utter nonsense. Mitt Romney is not bombastic, profane, pushy or needlessly confrontational, but he is no milquetoast. That is a charge born purely of ignorance. Anybody that has studied his business dealings, or his rescue of the Utah Winter Olympics, or his service as governor of Massachusetts knows the man is not “a very timid, unassertive, spineless person, especially one who is easily dominated or intimidated.” This again is excuse, not reason. But it does, I believe, begin to hint at the real reason behind the obvious animus towards Mitt Romney.
We currently reside in an ugly, nasty, indecent world. Consider Hollywood. A lot of people think we need to fight fire with fire, and Mitt Romney is not a fire-fighting fire. Mitt Romney is a pillar of decency. His mere presence in political life shames those that would continue to drag us into indecency, even for the sake of fighting indecency. Mitt Romney’s political fights are a reflection of the battle that is raging for the soul of the nation. It is not really a political fight at all. It is a fight about who we want to be at our core.
Some of this, of course, is because Romney is a Mormon pillar of decency. There are other really decent people in the national political eye. Paul Ryan comes to mind immediately, but Ryan is not a Mormon. Mormonism has an undeserved hyper-moralistic label attached to it. Mormons are as moralistically diverse as the rest of us of faith, but perception and reality often separate. But even acknowledging an anti-Mormon bias does not change the fact that at its core, the objections to Romney are more about style and character than substance and policy.
In a lot of ways Mitt Romney is that kid we all hated the school. He is the one whose test scores always broke the curve. He’s the one that always stuck his hand up with the answer. He is the one that it seemed like never got dirty at recess and the teacher always praised. We did not hate him because he earned it, we hated him because he made us look bad by comparison. He never thought bad of us, but we thought bad of ourselves simply by comparison.
We are supposed to outgrow such things, but our current politics would indicate that we no longer do so. As a child there has always been a certain social stigma to “sticking out” somehow. Overcoming that stigma was part of the personal development for people that grew to true excellence in some pursuit. But as adults we are supposed to recognize and admire, if not reward, excellence. Yet consider the 2012 presidential elections – a member of the pot smoking “Choom Gang” beat someone with the extraordinary credentials of Mitt Romney. Just another indication that our issues as a nation are much bigger and much broader than our government was designed to handle.
Barring something truly extraordinary, Mitt Romney will be the next senator from Utah. I think as a nation we would be well served to acknowledge that fact and look not at Mitt Romney, but at ourselves. What is it about us that has caused us to fail to mature in this fashion – to treat national elections like elections for student council? The nation is not well served when like Peter Pan, we all refuse to grow up.