Let Mitt Romney Finish

“Excuse me, it’s my turn to talk.”
-Mitt Romney, 1/9/2012, Nashua, NH

“If you want to speak, you can speak. But right now, it’s my turn.”
-Mitt Romney, 8/11/2011, Iowa State Fair

“Rick, you had your chance. Let me speak. Rick, again – Rick, I’m speaking. I’m speaking. I’m speaking. I’m speaking. You just going to keep talking or are you going to let me finish what I am trying to say? You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking.”
-Mitt Romney, 10/19/2011, Las Vegas

“You had your turn madam, now let me have mine. Just hold on a moment. Just hold on.”
-Mitt Romney, 8/24/2011, Lebanon, NH

“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Let me have a chance. Rudy, let me have a chance to finish, okay? Then you’ll get your chance. No, no, no, no. I get a chance to respond to this.”
-Mitt Romney, 1/5/2008, Manchester, NH

I hate being interrupted. You probably hate being interrupted. Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for President of the United States, co-founder of Bain Capital and former Governer of Massachussetts, really hates being interrupted. I have a few theories as to why.

Romney's lifelong issues may be catching up to him. His frustration is palpable whenever his dominion over an issue is derailed, either by a heckler, an interruption, or just bad political timing. This may point to something deeper in his past, a tragic flailing against his own mediocrity and the ghost of his and his father's political pasts. 

His upbringing contains the seeds of a potentially captivating narrative that, while not the thing of gilded history books, is quintessentially American. Romney has utterly failed to capitalize on this in his Presidential campaigns. If there is any platform on which selling oneself with a distinctly American identity is key, it's the race for President.

Romney plays down his social conscience and spiritual convictions, though those qualities might shine a light on the best in him. They certainly explain his one-time commitment to health care reform in Massachusetts, which he now frames as a States' rights concession he begrudgingly orchestrated. Focus groups have urged him to omit any explicit discussion of his Mormon faith, and he has complied with that suggestion. George Romney, his father, a successful automobile magnate and one-time Governor, displayed a similar paradoxical belief structure, one in which he oscillated on Civil Rights and the Vietnam War, made some striking statements and gestures on each, but fell into line whenever the cards were stacked against him. This may be the Romney curse, as little Willard 'Mitt' has traced his father's exact steps, even down to a failed Presidential bid (George ran against Nixon and failed miserably; Romney ran against McCain and failed miserably).

George's dutiful fourth son Mitt does have a story to tell, but it seems he rests his laurels on his business acumen alone. You've gotta have something more than your successes to brag about. Sometimes what sets you apart are your convictions, and on that count, Romney seems afraid to reveal what they really are. That's a tough scenario for any candidate to emerge victorious from. It also results in a fractured narrative, in which achieving consistency comes at the price of abandoning a compelling personal narrative.

Romney's only really striking narrative bullet point, apart from his family legacy, is his missionary work in Europe, and yet that's something the focus groups tell us is political kryptonite. Then, there is the business acuity he demonstrated as financier and as Governor. All the same, those successes were mainly on behalf of Corporate interests. In that sense, his professional career path has continually placed him at odds with whatever populist sentiments he now strives to tap into. This has cursed Mitt Romney with a strikingly disingenuous political spirit, one cultivated by years of living up to others' expectations and railing against his family's mixed legacy of unpopular religion, great wealth and middling political fortunes.

There may be something innate about Romney's persona that compels people to want to interrupt him. Few voters - not even those who have pledged to vote for him - take him very seriously or on his own terms. On Romney's best days - giving practiced speeches and attending town hall meetings in vital swing states - he fails to connect with people on a personal level. He lacks the intuitive empathy that the best politicians possess. Consequently, in an interaction with candidate Romney, whether you are an opposing candidate or a citizen voter, he is the least considered variable in the equation. He codifies this by failing to insert himself into the dialog, instead inserting his positions and views as if he were running a tape of speeches behind a cardboard cutout of himself.

For Tea Party Republicans who hate him, Romney is a secret moderate who stands against their uncompromising extremism. For moderate Republicans, Romney is merely NotObama, a political mechanism through which their worst fear - an alleged Socialist Kenyan Jihadist Spy - may finally be ousted from office. This is a 'just adequate' political scenario, one that has yet to face the General Election against Obama, whose personal narrative still carries much weight and will probably end up in those gilded history books.

Romney's striking primary performances, especially in New Hampshire, may feel like stunning landslides to his supporters, but in the grander scheme, they are pyrrhic victories. Romney's die was cast a while ago, and it will take a miracle - a fresh narrative, miraculous oratory, grander speechifying - for Romney to break from that mold and transcend his role as foil.

Just don't interrupt him.


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