That really caught my attention. Soul. That’s a serious word if there ever was one. When you hear the word “soul” what do you think of?
I think that Mr. Romney is entirely wrong that our American soul is based on Free Enterprise. It’s not. The first word, "Free," or "Freedom," is certainly closer, but that's not it entirely, either. I think that the Moderate Middle Majority sees America’s soul as our shared experience and beliefs, made up of many things: shared experiences of immigration (most, not all); of hard work; of love of family; of freedom; of good governance by the people, for the people; of pride in a country that has saved the free world from tyranny and destruction several times in the last century; America as an example for the oppressed of other lands to rise up and be heard, as we ourselves first did several centuries ago; of religion that speaks less of “don’t tread on me” and more of “doing unto others what we would have them do unto us;” of religious tolerance; of fairness; of the spirit of free enterprise, of competition (with regulation in place to protect Americans from human frailties like dishonesty and greed); of hope, including hope for safe cities and towns; of equality; of social justice.
He learned his trade at Harvard Business School. HBS follows the case study model of learning. The assignments were clear: come up with up with the best business decisions based on the facts of the case. I reveled in such case studies in my own business school experience. Believe me, the impact on workers, their families and communities in case studies we studied were seldom taken into account in our deliberations, either. It was more like playing Monopoly: do I mortgage my railroads to buy more hotels, or not. Miss the mark and you get a "C" grade. We considered the facts of the case, determined the best outcome for the organization, wrote it up, presented it, learned about the actual outcome, received our grade, and moved on to the next case.
The stakes were certainly higher at Bain. The companies were real. The money was real. Investor expectations were real. And, the consequences for the businesses acquired were real, too. The investors, wealthy individuals and institutions - his clients - saw excellent returns. Americans should applaud that. The issue will be that he was more like the puppet pulling the strings; seldom at ground level, in the trenches and working shoulder to shoulder with others building a dream. that's what most Americans can relate to. Instead, he was two steps removed, deciding fates, based on numbers.
Since his days in leveraged buyouts and venture capital, candidate Romney has led an Olympics, ran for he US Senate, was elected governor of Massachusetts, and has been running for president for some time. He's seen more than his share of living rooms; shaken a million hands. But we still wonder how connected he is to real, ordinary people like you and me, the busy and trusting Moderate Middle Majority; the managers, workers and families who sacrifice their time, careers and energy into building their own, perhaps more modest dreams, hopeful that their elected officials do the right thing.
The sooner he moves to favor the center, the better are his chances in November. If that means giving his Republican primary opponent(s) more far right votes through Super Tuesday and beyond, then so be it. Risky? Yes. It is such defining moments, filled with risk and uncertainty, and led by the soul, not by the poll, that create the great leaders. Candidate Romney needs to pitch his tent near center, and stay. The battle will be fought, and the victory won, there.