In March, I wrote an op-ed titled “Robotic Romney too fake to support,” in which I might have been too harsh on Mitt Romney. I called him a robot. And maybe his stiffness on the campaign trail isn’t symptomatic of rusted joints that need WD-40, but rather introversion.
Introversion isn’t shyness or the desire to be a loner as it is often interpreted. It could better be described as the comfort taken with your own thoughts and feelings more so than with the company of others. I’m an introvert and, apparently, so is Romney.
The New York Times_ printed an article titled “Legislators Recall Governor Who Didn’t Mingle” on March 9, in which former legislators bemoaned the fact that Governor Romney didn’t schmooze and hardly remembered names. They seemed to think it attributable to his past as a corporate executive who wouldn’t place himself with his employees, the plebeians.
“Hello, Senator,” Romney called to Kaufman, remembering the Democrat and legislative veteran who served in the state house of representatives where he was a committee chairman. Sitting in his office five years later, Kaufman still seemed wounded by the slight.
“No name, wrong title,” he said. “Give me a break,” continued Kaufman in his lamentations in the article.
However, maybe it wasn’t that Romney was pompous and felt himself better than others. Instead, perhaps he just didn’t want to socialize. He doesn’t mesmerize like former President Bill Clinton. And much of the criticisms of distance from lawmakers that have been made of Romney have also been made of President Barack Obama.
In an article titled “Bipartisan Agreement: Obama Isn’t Schmoozing,” that was published by The New York Times on Dec. 11, in which Democratic strategist James Carville added to the perception of President Obama as a recluse who doesn’t put supporters and donors into the Lincoln bedroom.
“Mr. Obama, in general, does not go out of his way to play the glad-handing, ego-stroking presidential role,” continued the article. “While he does sometimes offer a ride on Air Force One … member[s] of Congress, more often than not, he keeps … official Washington at arm’s length, spending his down time with a small – and shrinking – inner circle of aides and old friends.”
To put both accounts into perspective, if Romney and President Obama both had Facebook accounts (not updated by staffers), they’d have around 65 friends on their list. They wouldn’t be encircled by the extrovert’s usual of more than 200.
President Obama might be a much better public speaker than Romney, and probably a better politician as well, but, as political commentators often say, he fails to “connect” with voters just as Romney does. Unfortunately, America doesn’t always appreciate her introverts. Voters often desire an intimacy with their leaders introverts don’t often provide.
The Gipper, President Ronald Reagan, was often aloof, a trait of many actors and, conversely, introverts who often feel like actors when they socialize in order to seem more personable or affable. President Calvin Coolidge and President Richard Nixon were also introverts; the latter admitted, “I am an introvert in an extrovert profession.”
Regardless of how you might feel about Tricky Dick or Silent Cal, introverts often make successful leaders. They think before they speak, a trait all too often considered synonymous with a deceiver.
They ask the more thoughtful questions, and listen intently. They have a focus that allows them to respond to crises with calmness and better articulate their actions.
I still think Romney’s mendacity is shameful, but as a fellow
introvert, I have more sympathy for his awkwardness as he tries to “connect” with voters. For Romney, to connect with voters is a difficult task, not due to his status as a millionaire, but as an introvert in an extrovert profession.