|Source: Gage Skidmore|
Sometimes you hear a piece of news that you simply know in your gut can’t be true; but then you hear it again and you keep on hearing it from different people, perhaps people who you know are generally truthful, intelligent and rational human beings, and who’s opinions you would normally value. That’s when you tell yourself that they must simply be mistaken, or that they’ve been duped by some elaborate spoof, and that when they find out the truth most of them will laugh at how gullible they’ve been; but they don’t start laughing, and they’re still telling you the same thing. Then you don’t laugh either, because you realize that what they’ve been trying to tell you was right all along; Mitt Romney really will be the Republican candidate for President in 2012.
Only Ron Paul still stands between him and an outright coronation at the GOP convention in Tampa at the end of August, and to be realistic, a lame donkey has more chance of winning next year’s Kentucky Derby than Ron Paul does of miraculously pulling off an upset that would see him capturing the nomination. For most conservative minded people it raises the question of how such a situation has been allowed to arise. Unfortunately, it is perhaps a question to which there is no simple or palatable answer.
Conservatism Wins Elections
Certainly since the nineteen eighties, the Republican Party has enjoyed greater electoral success when its message to Americans has most clearly reflected the conservative positions held by the majority of its supporters. Ronald Reagan, probably the father of modern day American conservatism was supremely popular and trusted during his two terms. So much so, that the momentum created by him was sufficient to deliver the more equivocating George Bush Senior a term in office following him. George W Bush learned from his father’s mistakes and projected a positive conservative agenda that took him to the Oval Office in 2001, and kept him there four years later. The ‘Republican Revolution’ of 1994 led by the avowedly conservative Newt Gingrich gave the GOP control of the House of Representatives for twelve years, having been in the minority since 1954. With the arrival of the ‘Tea Party’ on the electoral scene in the 2010 midterms they have a majority once again, largely due to their stance against big government and the promotion of conservative social values.
Romney – The Most Liberal of Conservatives
Mitt Romney makes claims to be a conservative politician, but many people question which of those two words is the most important for him. Is he in politics because he wants to advance conservative ideas, or does he simply label himself as a conservative because it offers him the best prospect of being elected to office? Many who favor the latter explanation would argue that his past record is such that you could drive a truck through his conservative credentials; whilst his worst critics would advise you to get fleet insurance for the huge number of vehicles you could drive through those holes.
In his 1994 run for the US senate against Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, asked about his views on abortion he said that, “I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it, and I sustain and support that law, and the right of a woman to make that choice, and my personal beliefs, like the personal beliefs of other people, should not be brought into a political campaign", and in his successful campaign for the Governorship of the state in 2002 he reiterated his position when he told voters,"I will not change any provisions in Massachusetts' pro-choice laws." Many also believe that the “Romneycare” legislation he introduced as governor helped encourage abortion through a co-pay arrangement that saw tax dollars funding terminations.
The “Romneycare” legislation he introduced as Governor 2006/07 provides for universal private health insurance provision across Massachusetts. It is amazingly similar to the “Obamacare” plan that came into law in 2010, and yet Romney has tried to distance himself from the idea of socialized medicine, describing Obama’s Act as "an unconscionable abuse of power", and only in April asserted that, “With Obamacare fully installed, government will come to control half the economy, and we will have effectively ceased to be a free-enterprise society.”
Romney also has form for his views on civil liberties and upholding constitutional rights. During the 2002 Gubernatorial campaign he was unapologetic in saying that, "We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts; I support them. I won't chip away at them; I believe they protect us and provide for our safety." In office, two year later he introduced an extensive ban on assault weapons. However, with presidential ambitions in mind he has since tried to project himself as being supportive of the right to bear arms. In 1994, asked about his support for the Brady Bill he said, "That's not going to make me the hero of the NRA. I don't line up with the NRA", and yet this April he spoke at the organization’s annual convention in St Louis and told delegates that, "If we are going to safeguard our 2nd Amendment, it is time to elect a president who will defend the rights President Obama ignores or minimizes. I will."
The list of policy areas on which Romney has flip-flopped is almost endless, ranging from tax cuts to gay rights and beyond. It is an issue that nearly all his opponents in the GOP nomination campaign have highlighted at some point. Newt Gingrich has perhaps been the most hostile, and began by describing him as the “Massachusetts Moderate”, although by January he was going much further, and quoting left wing opinion when he told a Florida rally that “George Soros gave us the perfect answer yesterday. He told us flatly that there’s no difference between Romney and Obama, he doesn’t care which one wins.”
Who to Blame?
Many of us like to believe in the power of redemption. That having recognized and confessed to their erring ways, any man or woman can re-commit themselves to following a better path in life. Yet, try as they might, given his past record, many will find it difficult to believe that Mitt Romney really is a born again conservative. However, with him almost certain to be the GOP candidate, will conservatives be willing to vote for him?
Well in truth conservatives have no one to blame but themselves for the conundrum they find themselves in. Some of the leading lights in the party such as Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush refused to take up the baton this time around, probably hoping for an easier run in 2016. Meanwhile, in their absence conservative supporters spent their time looking for someone with a bit of sparkle, flitting from this candidate to that candidate, only to find that nearly all were flawed in some way, wasting time and energy instead of solidly getting behind a champion in the early stages of the race. Now they find that Mitt Romney will soon be the last man standing, and there is nothing much can be done about it.
Making the Most of a Bad Choice
For some conservatives his past mistakes, doubts about his candidness and trustworthiness, or indeed questions about his religion, will mean that they don’t feel able to vote for Romney, but in the absence of any real alternative, most they will probably follow Newt Gingrich’s pointer. Having very recently pulled the plug on his own bid for the GOP nomination, he gave a less than resounding endorsement of the man who will face Obama in November, saying that, "I am asked sometimes, is Mitt Romney conservative enough? My answer is simple: compared to Barack Obama?” He then added that, "This is not a choice between Mitt Romney and Ronald Reagan. This is a choice between Mitt Romney and the most radical, leftist president in American history."
So like Newt Gingrich, most conservatives will probably vote for Romney in November, but they will do so without a great deal of enthusiasm, and unfortunately for the GOP it is usually the gusto of the conservative base of the party that is the driving motor in a successful electoral campaign. However, for the sake of America’s future it is important that they work as hard as possible to keep a strong measure of control in Congress. Primarily this would act as a brake on Obama’s ambitions for his second term should he be re-elected; but also, unlikely as it may seem from the polls at the present time, should Romney actually snatch victory, it will be up to conservatives in Congress to put his feet to the flames should he begin to turn back to his old liberal ways.
Sources: Reuters 05/02/12, LA Times 04/13/12 & 04/30/12, Mail 01/31/12, clerk.house.gov