As intensive as the campaigns of 2012 were, it never seemed as if we got to know the real Mitt Romney. A new documentary, however, fills in those holes and gives us a moving description of the man who almost became president.
Some might say, why focus on Romney now? His time has come and gone. He’s old news, damaged goods.
But the new documentary Mitt, released in January on Netflix, offers a fresh perspective of the candidate that we never really got to see. “Audiences really get to see a certain vulnerability and weakness to Mitt. You look at someone like him who is wealthy, but being a part of human life you see his worries in those small moments,” said director Greg Whiteley to Fox411.
As a result, we see Romney sleeping on the floor between seats in the campaign airplane, riding in the backseat of a 15-passenger van, ironing a shirt while wearing it, and scarfing down Chinese food before a debate. It’s a glimpse into Romney’s life that contradicts the media narrative that he was a pretentious, wealthy snob who didn’t understand the lives of average Americans.
Mitt also shows the Romney family praying together, sledding, and having dinner – just as any other family in America might.
Yet, exit polls showed the biggest reason people didn’t vote for Romney was because they didn’t think he cared about “people like me.”
In my opinion, the biggest failure of the campaign was not developing Romney’s family character. At the Republican National Convention, the campaign decided to open primetime with a comedy routine by Clint Eastwood instead of a short, but effective video of Romney and his family.
Recognizing what we didn’t understand about the failed presidential candidate can teach us a great deal about Romney, but it also should change how we examine all presidential candidates. In light of the 2012 failure, campaigns will likely strive for more family moments, using all means available to portray their candidate as an average American. The more we resist these efforts, the more intrusive the campaigns will have to be into the lives of candidates’ families.
Mitt offers a brief portrayal of how tough a presidential campaign can be on family members. We are privy to family discussions about whether Romney should run again. In unfiltered comments from Mitt’s son, we see how difficult a presidential campaign can be on those closest to the candidate.
But if the documentary teaches us anything, it is that, despite our judgments, even the candidates who seem most distant, stiff, or detached can be loving family members. Looking back, we should not have been so quick to judge Mitt Romney as a pretentious corporate executive who couldn’t relate to average Americans.
Danny Huizinga | Baylor University | @HuizingaDanny