What I DO know a thing or two about is authoritarianism (especially of the christian fundamentalist variety) and how that affects one's personality. And whatever Romney's religious beliefs are, its clear to me that his Mormon faith is of the authoritarian variety.
Let me give you an example of how that works.
I was having dinner one time with someone who - as an adult - is still mired in christian fundamentalism. In a moment of absolute honesty, she told me that she has so much trouble making decisions these days that she can't even figure out what to chose on a menu.
I was so struck by that statement! What I heard is that she has become so dependent on God, parent, pastor, church, bible, etc. to tell her what to think and what to do that she no longer had the ability to even contemplate what SHE wanted. In other words, she had lost the ability to think for herself.
Stepping out to think for yourself when you've always relied on others for your grounding is a terrifying thing to do. Back in 2006, Sara Robinson wrote a 3 part series on the Orcinus blog about authoritarians. In the second of the series, she talked about listening to the leavers and said this.
We must never, ever underestimate what it costs these people to let go of the beliefs that have sustained them...Internally, it requires sifting through every assumption you've ever made about how the world works, and your place within it; and demands that you finally take the very emotional and intellectual risks that the entire edifice was designed to protect you from. You have to learn, maybe for the first time, to face down fear and live with ambiguity.That is why, as I've written about before, revelation is so terrifying.
Its clear to me that Romney has never had the courage to face that terrifying moment. It also seems clear to one of his biggest supporters...Peggy Noonan.
Romney is not over-managed by others—he isn't surrounded by what George H.W. Bush called "gurus"—but he over-manages himself. He second guesses, doubts his own instincts. Up to a certain point that's good: Self-possession is a necessary quality in a political leader. But people don't choose a leader based solely on his ability to moderate himself. They're more interested in his confidence in his own judgment, or an ease that signals the candidate has an earned respect for his own instincts.This is how Romney earns labels like wimp, flip-flopper, etch-a-sketch, etc. He doesn't know his own mind and is left to simply do as he's told in the moment. And so he is progressive when governing a blue state and "severely conservative" when he needs to win over the Republican base.
I'm not suggesting that Romney needs to leave his Mormon faith in order to find his core. I know plenty of christians who have a mind of their own but don't adhere to authoritarian fundamentalism. Where my lack of knowledge about Mormonism shows is that I don't know whether that kind of thing is possible within that religion.
But if Romney ever wants to be a real leader, its something he'd have to do.