As Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered his memorable, and even presidential, opening remarks on Thursday at the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney was preparing for a red carpet entrance before accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for president.
Former governor Mitt Romney was surrounded on all sides – by delegates, fans, friends, photographers, and security guards. With outrstretched hands, and smiles on everyone's faces, the joyous moment was disrupted only by a creeping sense of uncertainty.
Here, in the world of 24-hour news cycles, gaffe-hungry journalists with no moral compass, and a room of professional spinsters ready to do the greatest injustice possible to the slightest of errors – Americans took a deep breath and watched to see if they might be looking at America's next President.
After Romney's speech, I must say that I think we might be.
All good speeches can be reduced; after all, they are theatrical and impassioned and, therefore, simplistic by nature. Here are the three words which can best describe the speech delivered by the Republican presidential hopeful:
As strange as this may sound, Romney needed to show that he was a human being. Not in the usual sense of “he’s just like us,” but more along the lines of having emotion, a sense of humor, showing affection, and being able to speak passionately, without sounding scripted.
The speech began on a strange note – Romney's iPod comment directed at VP nomineed Paul Ryan was admittedly awkward – but his stories of his mother and father, the joys of his children, and the open sincerity of his Mormon faith were fantastic. Romney's joke about “going to Hell” because he was worried about ruining his church’s pension fund was brilliant, and actually even brave!
All of these things were well-delivered, and Romney seemed perfectly earnest in talking about them.
Could he be lying or acting? Of course. But the man’s life is evidence enough of his sincerity and devotion. He nailed it.
By “mores” I mean our different opinions, faiths, lifestyles, principles, and all the rest; the things that make up who we are as a people. In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville described American mores as “one of the great general causes to which maintaining the democratic republic in the United States can be attributed.”
One of the best moments, if not the best moment of Mitt Romney’s speech, came after the description of his parents’ “gift of unconditional love.” What this meant for him was that “they cared deeply about who we would be, and much less about what we would do .”
This is a wonderfully American sentiment. This is the sort of thought that stands behind the old American principle of self-government: a man is honest, works hard, keeps his faith, looks after his family, contributes to his community, feels entitled to little, and ensures that he lives a noble, virtuous life regardless of his wealth or occupation.
Or, to take another of Romney’s great lines: immigrants came “not just in pursuit of the riches of this world but for the richness of this life.”
I would be remiss if I didn’t make note of a slight negative here. Certainly, I can imagine why it would be good for candidates to make their policies clear. I can understand why they would want to lay out a “vision” or a “plan.”
But this was about Mitt the Man, not Mitt the Plan.
So when Romney had finished giving his “5 steps” for creating new jobs, I was hoping that the speech would be coming to a swift end – it did not.
The difficulty of his position came from two separate objectives: In the first place, he had the peculiar task of being more “human” and “relatable” to voters; secondly, he had the usual change of explaining his plan to voters and outlining a strategy going forward. Unfortunately, the transition from empathy, affection, and humanity to a policy outline is probably never a smooth one – as a result, I fell off the train a bit near the end.
Still, as a whole, this should be viewed as a great success for someone who could make an extremely powerful president. In all, he spoke as a human being who truly cares for, and understands, the social mores and private virtues necessary to maintain our peculiar system of government.
If this is the New Mitt, it might be time to sign on.