Mitt Romney: an American man

Andrew Breland, The Elephant in the Room

Despite the sun shining and nary a cloud in the sky, it was still cold Tuesday as I stepped onto a small private runway in North Central Ohio. It all became very worthwhile, though, because five minutes later a plane, emblazoned with a red, white, and blue “R”, landed not 100 yards from me.

For those unfamiliar with the logo described, it’s the one used by Republican presidential nominee. And to answer the next question: yes, I met Mitt Romney.

Your first impression when you see the Republican nominee for president is one of lowered expectations. The god-like figure one hears about on television is no longer existent. In his place is a normal person, just like each and every one of us. Of course, this specific person has more money than I do and he has children, while I do not. But overall, Mitt Romney is extremely relatable, humble, and human.

After the cordialities, I could actually begin to ask the nominee questions that dealt with his campaign. And after talking with him, anyone could tell that Romney is not an angry man, a ruthless business-killer, or anything like he has been portrayed during this election cycle. In fact, in talking to the former governor, one gets the impression that he legitimately believes that America is the greatest place on Earth and should always remain that way. Romney is a conservative in the Reagan-esque “shining city on a hill” tradition.

Over the past week, I have gotten the chance to test this portrayal of the nominee, not just on campus, but also in the community and with all manner of individuals.

One woman, the owner of a home I was asked to canvass for the campaign, told me that Romney was “the best chance we have to get back on track in this country.” Another said that “Obama has this country on a collision course with disaster” and that only a businessman willing to change things will fix our course.

But these testimonials need not only come from faceless, nameless individuals who could just as easily be invented.

While at a lunch talk sponsored by the Department of Political Science at our very own Case Western Reserve University, Professor Jeff Cohen of Fordham University defended a very Republican ideal that with increases in rights come increases in the market, à la Citizens United (2010), and the emergence of super PACs. He continued that those who lead businesses are the best equipped to wrangle with the new beast that is the expanded market, an endorsement of Romney in all but name. This defense came to the chagrin of some other professors in the room, one in particular who felt the need to argue the point well after it had been decided against him.

But perhaps the most telling portrayal of the Romney candidacy came from a fully tenured professor in one of our own science departments (I have elected to keep his name and position secret for fear of administrative reprisal). He told me that Romney’s business skills make him a builder. “Conservatives build things: universities, institutions, governments. They make them right,” he says. “Liberals come in and run them – run them right into the ground. The governor is the best hope we have of rebuilding this country.”

It was a stunningly simple portrayal of the original question: What does a liberal/conservative do?

In meeting Romney on Tuesday, I was able to share these character portrayals with the character himself. Each intrigued him in a different way, but each was pleasing to the nominee who, out of humility, would rather discuss economics than the things he has accomplished in his political and business career.

And who knows, one of these portrayals may wind up on the stump one day.