I have been trying to figure out what people mean when they say I don't 'know' Mitt Romney.
Of course, on one hand, I don't know him. I highly doubt I will ever meet him, and if I ever do I doubt I will be able to walk away saying 'Man, that Mitt guy is a hoot' or anything. I am not trying to say that I couldn't get along with him — I mean, just because he's a rich white dude doesn't mean he can't carry a conversation — but quite simply he is completely out of touch with me. Seriously, I don't have any way of getting in contact with him and even if I could I doubt I'd be able to talk him into a weekend vacation to a cabin with the family and the dog and really 'get to know' him.
On the other hand, I know a lot about Mitt Romney. I know that he was on a Mormon mission in France (so I know he speaks French and is a Mormon), I know that he has a law degree from Harvard, I know that he was an investment consultant at Bain Capital. I know he was born in Michigan and was the Governor of Massachusetts. I know he has a kid named Taggart — or, at least he's called that.
All of that was off the top of my head. In other words, I know Mitt Romeny about as well as I know the professors I had in my freshman classes in undergrad. I know what he was 'doing' for roughly, oh, about 40 of his 65 years. In fact, the only real gap was what he was doing until he was about 20, and also what he did between his concession to John McCain and when he began revving up his campaign engine once again.
It is probably fair to say that I know slightly less about Mitt than I did about, say, John McCain or Barack Obama or George W. Bush or Al Gore. But it's not like I 'know' them any more than they want me to. The ultimate 'man of the people' elected to the White House, Andrew Jackson, was not known much better to the vast majority of the people who called him 'president.' Even if you argue that Jackson was 'known' by his contemporaries much better than we know our politicians today, they were playing a different game back then. I mean, Jackson fought in duels. On the steps of our own state capitol in Nashville. And killed a guy. And, yes, I believe that, because it's kind of awesome and scary and awesome all at once.
The point of this isn't to say that Mitt Romney is a swell guy, or that he's an out of touch guy, or that I want to know Mitt Romney better. What I am saying is that people who are asking themselves this question aren't really after that information.
I don't actually believe that people are clamoring to know Mitt Romney; given all available evidence, he's probably a boring guy. What they are really saying is that Romney doesn't have any 'real' experiences, that he can't understand urban poverty or what it's like to not have insurance.
These are fine critiques if these things matter to you — I'm sure his supporters don't care and his detractors think they are a key qualification.
Just be careful as you listen to what people are worrying about in reference to the candidate. I think they are as telling as the answers.
— Greg Bearringer is a graduate student in Medieval Studies. He can be reached at email@example.com.