Mitt Romney may be the last of his kind. No, I don't mean President Obama is turning America into a socialist state and rounding up the Romneys to strip them of their riches. What I do mean is that my generation is simply incapable producing another Romney.
Several people have asked me, how is it possible that Romney could be so highly educated and yet so clueless about the world he inhabits? Doesn't education broaden and challenge the mind, not only through books but also interactions with students from all walks of life?
That would be true today, but not when Romney was a student. At his prep school in Michigan, Brigham Young University (1971) and Harvard (1975), it was easy for Romney to isolate himself within the comfort of his settled beliefs. The number of Hispanic and African-Americans at Brigham Young is currently below 1% - just imagine what the percentage was when Romney attended. Harvard was more diverse, but nowhere near what it is today.
For students of my generation and beyond, going to college means being nudged out of your comfort zone. Just try to graduate without friends who have life experiences vastly different than your own. Wander anywhere on campus - fraternity basements, libraries, athletic fields, music halls - you will bump into other races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, political affiliations, economic classes and so on. Bump into each other enough and commonalities emerge that grow into bonds of mutual respect, friendship and love.
Regardless of your position on affirmative action, it has opened doors so that college campuses and workplaces reflect the diversity of America. We may disagree on the best way to accomplish this, but most of us agree that the result has enriched our society. Studying, working and living together reveals our shared humanity, a lesson more profound than any found in a book. The mashup of the masses has made a distant memory the days when Michelle Obama's Princeton roommate refused to be paired with an African-American. It has also made Romney a relic.
I do not know Romney, so all I can do is take him at his word. Unfortunately, his public statements reflect a person not living in the same world as my generation, and it has nothing to do with wealth. The Kennedys were rich, as most politicians are, but they had empathy. If Romney had personal ties to the 47% of Americans he claims pay no taxes, would he be so quick to dismiss them? If he knew immigrants who risked their lives to come here and would rather die than go back, would he consider self-deportation a viable option? If he had gay friends and family members, would he deny them to right to marry? If he really understood the struggles of working women, would he talk about getting home to make dinner in response to a question about equal pay? Women want equality, regardless of who is cooking dinner. The list of Romney revelations could go on and on, but you get the point.
Now, my generation might not be as fired up about Obama as we were the first time around, but at least we can relate to him. He represents the America we live in. To us, India and China aren't threats but opportunities; environmental issues are real, not punch lines; the founders weren't perfect, and neither is America; making money is great but using it for good is even greater.
At best, we aren't seeing the real Romney. At worst, there is no real Romney. It's not his fault that he is living in a rapidly changing world. However, the fact that he isn't paying attention convinces this voter that he is not qualified to lead it.