I don’t like Mitt Romney. I think he’s almost a walking cliche of the smooth talking, Country Club Republican. I think he’s about as authentic as a Coach bag bought on a New York City street corner kiosk, and as sincere as the voice one hears when calling a bank saying “Your call is important to us. Please hold.” I’ll even admit to being so shallow I don’t like his first name. Mitt. Newt. Reince. Why do people with weird first names gravitate to the GOP anyway?
I vehemently disagree with his signature health care reform and his position on anthropogenic global warming. I think governing the state of Massachusetts for one term doesn’t provide one with enough experience to govern the entire country for the same amount of time. While he may not be a RINO, he’s in a species that is a close relative. I have spoken to conservatives who will not vote for Romney no matter what. They hate the Republican establishment almost as much as they do the Democrats, and view Romney as the establishment candidate just as McCain was in 2008 and Bush in 2000. I know that as soon as the GOP settles on him as its standard bearer, the Democrats are going to go absolutely nuts on Romney, attacking everything from his “fat cat” background at Bain Capital to his cultish Mormon faith (how many Mormons are in the Democratic party besides Harry Reid?) I expect that we will soon see the nastiest presidential campaign that we have ever witnessed, and President Obama is going to turn Mitt Romney into a pinata.
But as much as I dislike Mitt Romney, I know that he will survive the onslaught and land just as many attacks on Obama as he takes. I have watched him carefully this election cycle and so far he has withstood the blows from his competitors far better than the other Republican candidates have. He almost seems to enjoy himself on stage while the other candidates including my personal favorite Herman Cain seem to hate every moment. He has kept his cool whereas other candidates looked like they were going to lose theirs (Perry, Santorum) or have a heart attack (Paul). While the fortunes of other candidates rise and fall (Cain, Bachmann, Perry) he maintains his, coming in a respectable second or close third. Romney has shown grace under pressure, something that Obama has not. And that is the first reason why I will support Mitt Romney if he is selected by the GOP.
Another reason I will support Romney is that while the conservative party base believes that an ideological conservative can win the presidency against Obama in 2012, I am less sanguine at the prospect. The country could be falling off a cliff in a car driven by Obama, and the mainstream media will blame the Republicans for cutting funding to states to provide stronger guard rails. The New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN, network news outlets, will play up every lie they can about Romney while hiding the truth about Obama. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will be making fun of Romney’s extremism every night. Bill Maher will have serious sounding discussions with other liberals about how the GOP had to appease their fascist base by selecting a far right candidate like Romney. Such statements sound absolutely silly to conservatives, but substitute the name of a more ideological pure candidate than Romney in those statements and see how they might sway an independent voter.
William F. Buckley Jr. formulated what political wonks on the Right like me refer to as the “Buckley Rule:” “Nominate the most conservative candidate who can win.” Charles Krauthammer called the rule a “timeless rule of sober politics,” and wrote after the defeat of Christine O’Donnell in her quixotic Senate bid in Delaware in 2010:
This is no ordinary time. And this is no ordinary Democratic administration. It is highly ideological and ambitious. It is determined to use whatever historical window it is granted to change the country structurally, irreversibly. It has already done so with Obamacare and has equally lofty ambitions for energy, education, immigration, taxation, industrial policy and the composition of the Supreme Court.
While there are limits on this rule, it applies to this election because like m0st presidential elections in recent years the election will be decided by the independents. So far independents prefer Romney over the other GOP contenders, and as long as that remains the case I believe Romney should stands the best chance of winning in November 2012. That leaves open the possibility for Herman Cain and Rick Perry to demonstrate appeal to independents, but it is likely that they are so focused on the primaries that they are steering their campaigns hard to the Right, and hoping that they will be able to moderate their campaigns enough to appeal to the independents later. The problem with this strategy is that it not only allows the Obama camp to paint the candidate as extremist by recycling his or her words from the primaries, the move towards the center will also strike independents as a blatant lie. Independents aren’t idiots no matter how much conservatives and even some liberals think they are. If they don’t think the later moves towards the center are genuine they will not vote for the GOP candidate.
Any conservative who believes that Romney will be Obama-lite hasn’t been paying attention for the last three years. This is the worst administration since Jimmy Carter’s. It is a complete disaster that goes beyond it being a Democratic administration and points to the personality of Obama himself. Our nation has suffered under his narcissism, his slavish devotion to extreme leftist ideals, and his shameful moral equivalence that has damaged our allies and emboldened our foes. The double-speak of this administration would have stunned Orwell. A Nobel Prize winning president starting wars. An administration pledged to transparency opaque as soon as it grasps the levers of power. An administration committed to reforming corruption corrupt beyond all redemption. Romney has the capacity for such treachery?
If Cain, Perry or any of the other candidates can improve their electability with independents, then we can forget Romney. But we must disabuse ourselves of the notion that electing a liberal Republican is just as bad as re-electing a liberal Democrat. This will be difficult because true conservatives abhor the guy and all he stands for.
But the question these conservatives must ask is: Are you willing to sacrifice America’s future to purge the GOP? I have been reading post after post from the right attacking Romney, and some seem to relish punishing the Republican party by sitting out the election if Romney is nominated or worse, running a 3rd party candidate. I sympathize with their frustration with the GOP leadership in Washington and how they have lost site of the party’s principles of small, fiscally responsible federal government. But sitting out 2012 will split the party just as surely as backing a 3rd party conservative candidate. That will kill the modern Republican party.
Republicans must win in 2012 because there is too much at stake. As Krauthammer mentions, Obamacare needs to be gutted and real bi-partisan health care reform enacted. Conservative justices on the Supreme Court must be given the opportunity to retire without fear that their legacy on the bench will be undermined by their liberal replacements. Deficits must be tamed humanely, regulations must be trimmed intelligently, and military action used sparingly. All this can be done with Romney in office, but not Obama.
But the damage will go further than that. Dividing the party will weaken it for a decade or possibly longer. During that time the Democrats will run amok. They have successfully purged their party of most blue dogs through the primary process and retirement, making the party as leftist as it has ever been. Without internal checks by conservative Democrats, they will enact policies that all Republican agree they despise. They will shove “green energy” down the throats of Americans while making the possibility of energy independence a distant dream by killing pipelines. They will bloat the federal government with even more bureaucrats. They will strangle American small businesses with regulations. They will run deficits that will make our currency as worthless as Weimar Germany’s. They will do to America what they have done to California and Detroit. But hey, at least we’ll have a truly conservative party – 100% Ideologically pure – just one that doesn’t have any power in a country that no one wants to live in anymore.
Conservatives have already begun to reform the GOP. The effort began with the Tea Party infusion in 2010 that sent scores of conservatives to Congress. Taking back the GOP can be done just as the Left took over the Democratic party, but it won’t be done overnight. It takes time. Conservative primary challengers to establishment RINOs will change the party even more effectively without sacrificing America’s future to the Far Left.
But in 2012 if Romney is our guy, then he’s our guy. If he can beat Obama we’ll at least have a seat at the table. If he doesn’t, then we can gut the party like a trout afterward and prepare for 2016.
UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson calls Romney the Castor Oil Candidate and writes:
To beat an ever-more-vulnerable Obama, Republicans keep coming back to someone who resembles a Romney, with strengths in just those areas where Obama is so demonstrably weak: prior executive experience as a governor, success in and intimacy with the private sector, a past fully vetted, and an unambiguous belief in the exceptional history and future of the United States.
In short, if Republicans are happy in theory that Mitt Romney could probably beat Obama, they seem just as unhappy in fact that first they have to nominate him.
The more I think about it, the more I believe that it’s time to circle the wagons around Romney and get on with removing Obama from office. Yes we know that we registered Republicans aren’t nominating Ronald Reagan as Obama’s challenger, but for better or worse Romney gives us our best shot at taking the White House. Hanson is right: he is castor oil, but sometimes grandma knows best and it’s the cure we need.