Friday, January 13, 2012

Mitt Romney and the Threat to the Conservative Brand

One recurring problem conservatives have is that the general public keeps getting them confused with the Republican Party. Oh, occasionally, the two act in concert, and this was most true during the Reagan years. But there's a reason the Tea Party exists, and a reason that 40% of the country calls itself conservative and yet only 30% call themselves Republicans. The alliance between conservatives and the Republican Party establishment is, and always has been, an uneasy one. Suspicion runs deep.

But the public, as we know, is not terribly informed about, well, anything. We don't need to see any more of Jay Leno's Man in the Street segments to figure this out. (My favorite...Jay, pointing to an American flag: "How many stars on that flag over there?" Woman: "I can't tell, it's waving.") The public tends to equate the Republican Party with conservatism, which is rarely the case. Thus, when a Republican president does something stupid and non-conservative, conservatives get blamed, too. This was a problem with Nixon, Ford, and both Bushes. (Think...wage/price controls, ADA, prescription drugs for seniors, Bush 1 tax hikes, etc., etc.)

What happens then is that a Democrat gets elected in response to the "conservative" mistakes, and then we really get screwed.

(A relative of mine, a Republican, voted for Obama based on the logic that McCain would have been a terrible president (true) and would have delivered Hillary unto us. The problem with this logic, of course, is that it delivered Obama unto us.)

And so Romney. I have several friends who know him, and there's always a wink and a nod; he has to pretend to be moderate to win, but when he does, you'll see, he's a good conservative.

I have a number of problems with this line of thought:

  1. Moderate Republicans don't typically win, while conservative ones do. (See a piece I wrote on this here.) BUT, antipathy towards Obama runs so high that this might just be the cycle where it doesn't matter. Still...
  2. When was the last time someone went to Washington and turned out to be more conservative than you thought? (See: never)
  3. There is no evidence, anywhere, that Romney has conservative values.
I will count myself as happily wrong if Romney truly has been quietly harboring a conservative soul all these years. If I'm right, though, the potential consequences are disquieting:

  1. The fundamental problems we face - entitlements, the tax code, public sector unions - will require an enormous amount of leadership to solve. A president without core convictions, a president who wants everyone to like him, won't get it done, and this may be our last chance to get these things right before we turn into Greece.
  2. As things get worse, "conservatism" will get blamed, and we won't have a chance to elect a real conservative for a long, long time. So long, in fact, that a socialism will be the permanent state of affairs.

Looks like Mitt has a lock on things, so here's hoping I'm wrong.


  1. The "Buckley Rule" stated that Conservatives should vote for the most conservative candidate that actually has a chance to win the election.

    Theoretically I think he's right; the practical problem is that too many people look to the mainstream media to tell them who is electable. This cycle, we've been told ad nauseum that Romney is the only electable candidate.

    I personally think any Republican who isn't charged with a crime of moral turpitude during the month before the election can defeat do-nothing Obama.

    And I agree with you, Scott, that country club Republicans do almost as much harm to the Conservative movement while in office as a liberal Democrat would.

    But it looks like the die is cast. I also hope you are wrong about Romney's inner compass.

    1. @JPR: I don't think the die is cast yet. This time, the Republican establishment (RNC) actually did something useful for once in their long and miserable existence: they changed the rules on the primaries to benefit all the states that aren't Iowa and New Hampshire. No primary or caucus before April 11th can be winner-take-all - all such primaries and caucuses must be PR out to at least the 3rd place candidate. As a result of this, we are going to have a much longer and more varied and competitive, and possibly even 50 state, primary season. I still would prefer all states voting on the same day (and then maybe having runoffs afterwards if no one takes enough of the vote) but this is certainly a step in the right direction. It looks like we will probably have at least 4 competitive candidates at this point: Romney is one, the others are Gingrich, Santorum and Paul, who will probably win Virginia.

  2. If you want to just elect the conservative alternative to Obama, then anyone from the Republican field will do. As much as I think Obama has failed, I likely will not vote for Romney. Not only is he a phoney, but he is more of a neocon than G.W. Bush. Any good that he might do domestically, he will more than undo in his foreign policy. There is no way that he will cut the deficit while promising more defense spending. Congress will never allow him to unravel the entitlements sufficiently to offset what he'll want to spend overseas. I also believe that Romney would be quick to arrive with the bailout money the next time Wall Street has a crisis (and we've seen that Wall Street crises keep occurring closer and closer together.)

    If you want a true conservative, then there is only one in the Republican field, and his name is Ron Paul. There's someone I could vote for...

    1. The reason I will not vote for Romney is he has committed a crime against the people of Massacheutsets that should never be forgiven in so recklessly expanding the authority of government there with his ObamaCare, I mean, MassCare. Frankly, Romney should not even be an American citizen - he should be shipped out to the corrupt African countries that are the product of his kind of thinking, Kenya, Zimbabwe, the Central African Republic, where 70% of monetary transactions are bribes. People do not understand how dangerous an overpowered government is. They need to be, but they won't, and they will die as a result of it, by the thousands, maybe not next year, maybe not next decade, but someday very soon this land will be covered in blood and our cities engulfed by the inferno that greets all those who betray the God-given rights of man.

  3. Being forced to vote for Mitt is proving to be as hard as having to vote for McCain. I sure hope Mitt does have a silver lining....

  4. You don't get it. The Conservative brand is a Southern corrupt religious nutjob. A "true conservative" is unelectable.

    There has been one Conservative brand meltdown after another as people realize just what an idiot a true conservative would be. That's why Mitt is going to win.

    1. Actually history shows that the corrupt ones tend to be those Yankees with their Ivy League degrees and massive horde of friends that they absolutely must find jobs for.

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    3. But if you were right, and actual conservatives cannot be elected and our choice is between Country Club Romney types and Socialist/Fascist Obama types, then I suggest you start applying to immigrate because this country is dead and our country will be outpaced by those idiot redneck Canadians with their Stephen Harpers and those idiot redneck Chinese with their Deng Xiaopings and those idiot redneck Germans with their Angela Merkels and giant kegs of Oktoberfest Ale by the end of 20 years.

  5. Why are you recommending that other people immigrate? Why don't you take your own advice?