Mitt Romney’s Mind

I’d like to make a little foray into Mitt Romney’s mind. I recognize this is a few years late: Romney has departed the political scene. But still I think it will be fun and instructive.

Here, at bottom, is Romney’s mind: it is rationalistic. It’s not particularly penetrating. He is intelligent without being clear-sighted. He is more clear-sighted than the average politician, but that’s not saying much. For the most part, he is a calculator, as described in my post on knowledge.

As such, he gets his facts from others and draws lines between them. He does not make up his mind on his own. It’s a well known fact that he gathers together people that he trusts, has them talk it out, and simply notes their opinions and manages the conversation. He has been described, not as a leader, but as a chairman of the board. This is exactly correct, for it’s how he thinks. He does not depend on himself to furnish facts. He depends on others for that. What he does is measures them against one another, and forms his plans off of the result.

This is what separates him from the average American. It’s also what doomed him with the electorate. Let me explain:

What Romney does is gathers information from people he trusts, and then calculates an answer. The average American does not do that. The average Joe is more intuitive about what he does. Things have a certain “feel” to them when they’re right or wrong, and John Doe tends to go with that feeling. He is not “intuitive” through and through. But he’s more intuitive than Romney.

This, without overstatement, horrifies Romney. His world consists of solid information, furnished by trusted sources, which is connected by logic. The idea of intuiting anything is unstable and reckless to him. The only sensible course, in Romney’s mind, is to work out everything rationally. That is why during debates, he practically looked like a mannequin: everything about him, from his clothes to his words, was methodically laid out. There was no spontaneity to him at all.

To Romney, the average American is slapdash. Since to Romney the only way to think is in the manner described above, he considers the average Joe to be unable to run his life. Only logic – cool, mathematical logic – can show the way. Anything else is just emotion and personal taste. It’s subjective, self-serving fancy.

This had two very large effects on Romney’s mind.

First, he never trusted that the American people would understand what he was saying or doing. We all tend to see things from our own point of view. Now, if it’s true that Americans are emotional, then they’ll interpret Romney’s actions from an emotional standpoint. They wont say to themselves, “What cool, logical motive made him do that?” Instead, they’ll say, “Hey! What self-serving, egotistical motive made him do that?” In short, they wont understand where he’s coming from. They’ll look at his acts and words, and draw the wrong conclusion because they have the wrong starting point.

This caused him to say and do as little as possible that wasn’t pre-thought out. He figured that the supposedly emotional, volatile American people must be handled with extreme care if they were to not run away with emotionally charged misconceptions.

This distrust showed through. People could see he was uneasy any time he talked to the public. He was always double cautious not to say anything that wasn’t scripted. The audience picked this up, and rightly concluded that Romney wasn’t like them. He wasn’t. And that’s why he didn’t understand them.

The American people are not emotional grenades waiting to go off. But Romney thought they were, and it kept him from ever connecting with them.

The second effect on Romney’s mind was this: thinking the American people emotional and unsteady, he thought they couldn’t run their own lives. As such he thought it was better to have what he considered rational people run the people’s lives. That is why he never really attacked Obamacare: he agreed with it in principle, because he thought the people unable to govern themselves.

This is another thing that caused distrust. The audiences he spoke to could feel that he didn’t really consider them sensible people. The fact that he never spelled out his plans proves this.

Consider Trump as a counter-point: he streams his thinking out to the audience because he fully believes they can understand what he’s saying. He takes little verbal short-cuts, uses slang, and stops himself mid-sentence sometimes because he trusts the audience will get his meaning. He also frequently makes faces and uses hand gestures to convey his meaning. Again, because he trusts they’ll understand him.

With Romney, it was much more of a “I’m an expert. I’ll make your life better” approach. He would never delve into his thinking or his plans at all. He didn’t think people could actually understand him. This did not take any emotional form. He was never overcome with a sense of contempt for his audience. But all the same, in his cool, mathematical way, he thought they couldn’t understand. As such, he never tried to bring them into his thinking. He never told them what he thought. He just spelled out in some detail what the results would be: more jobs, better foreign policy, and so forth.

Romney acted more like an insurance salesman that believes his aged customers can’t understand their policy. He tells them it will be good for them. He tries reluctantly to remove their fears. But he never delves into the policy at all. He doesn’t go along, point by point, and talk to them about the policy. He’s not trying to railroad them into it: he simply thinks they can’t understand it. Romney acted that way, and people frequently came away feeling a little stupid after hearing him speak. They felt like they’d been treated as if they couldn’t understand political goings-on.

Thus Romney was handicapped from the start. He won the primary with only a small amount of support. And he never stirred up the country to vote for him in the general election. By thinking that his mind and the voter’s minds were so different, he never approached them as trustworthy people. There was always distance – coldness. If there is anything that is universally disqualifying in politics, it’s distance.