What problem could Mitt Romney possibly have in his new quest for the United States Senate? He is a shoe-in for the office. He is beloved in Utah. His career has been spectacular. In running for president, he was vetted backward and forward. Every closet was opened to find any lurking skeletons and none were found. As far as elected office goes, Mitt Romney is nearly the perfect candidate, especially for Utah. I will vote for him on his character alone. So, when I say Mitt Romney has a problem, you might want to pay attention.
It begins with a feeling, a gut feeling I always have had about Mitt. He is almost too perfect, too organized and too scripted. He is like us and very much not like us. After all, when I need to retreat from a world of stress and curl up in a ball I do not do it in one of several million-dollar homes. But being Richie-Rich is not his problem. Because everyone aspires to some sort of wealth and prosperity, we easily forgive Mitt for living the One-Percent life. He has earned it.
No, wealthy Mitt is not his problem as a candidate. Neither is his vast professional success a problem. No, Mitt’s problem is less superficial and more fundamental for me – and perhaps only me.
Here is how I might try to express my concern about him: Mitt Romney could just as easily become the new commissioner of the NFL as he could a United States senator. Right? We easily see him running Bain Capital much the same way we find it easy to see him successfully running the 2002 Olympics and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He seems to be able to do anything he sets his mind to. He is bright and he works hard. What Mitt Romney does is not the issue. The issue is much deeper.
The problem with candidate Mitt Romney is that he is transactional. He thinks transactionally and so does everyone around him except, from what I can tell, his wife, Ann. And I am not talking about Mitt the businessman. That is not what I mean by the word transactional.
Nor do I mean Mitt is unprincipled. Clearly, Mitt Romney has and lives by certain principles that mean a great deal to him. For me anyway, when I say transactional I mean he sees the world the same way whether he is starting a business, saving a business, gutting a business or watching a movie with the grandkids. Whether he is running a financial empire or running a political campaign, it is all the same in his mind. For instance, it is not hard to envision Mitt Romney running the NFL or Time Warner or running for president of the United States. In fact, he is so competent at what he does our expectations for Mitt now make running for the Senate seem beneath him. But the reason he fits in everywhere is because, at his core, he holds tight to a transactional worldview.
Again, let me be clear, Mitt Romney is not unprincipled or unscrupulous. He is not Donald Trump. But, perhaps surprising for some to hear, they are cut from the same cloth. Both men are transactional. Mitt just happens to be decent and honest.
Neither man seems to have a transcendent worldview. If we asked both men what freedom means to them, both men would likely say something about living the American Dream. Trump would mean being rich and Mitt might mean the opportunity for everyone to prosper but both men would center their answers on transactional worldviews. And this explains why many of us hate Trump and why many of us remain suspect about Mitt even as we love Mitt.
Like I said, I am going to vote for Mitt in the Utah Senate race. My concern is that being transactional does not work in terms of transcendent goods such as my faith and my freedom. The problem with candidate Romney is that he is transactional, not transcendent, in how he views the world. Neither my faith nor my freedom is a business to be managed, leveraged or sold, especially in the names of my faith and my freedom.
None of this is to denigrate a good man. I share these thoughts only as a political warning. I am concerned Mitt Romney does not understand freedom in its fullest, most transcendent meaning. I trust him to help America prosper. But transactional prosperity will ruin our moral core ultimately. I wonder if candidate Romney can even see transcendent prosperity, let alone deliver it for America.