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:
- 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...
- When was the last time someone went to Washington and turned out to be more conservative than you thought? (See: never)
- There is no evidence, anywhere, that Romney has conservative values.
- 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.
- 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.