Resisting the Romneybot
The Republican sky is clearing. Amid the self-immolation of Perry's cropduster (oops!) and the tragic loss of Cain's Spitfire to the flak of harrassment charges, Romney's lumbering 747 presses on. (Ron Paul's biplane was last sighted heading for the Bermuda Triangle.) As disgruntled passengers on the right search for a new incarnation of anti-Romney, I would have them stop and ask: what's the problem with Romney, exactly? Does anyone remember? I ask because I too have have reservations, but I have a feeling they aren't the same reservations as the Tea Party crowd.
Ok, Romneycare and the subsequent hand-washing, I get it. Opportunistic, sometimes. Unprincipled, well that's always hard to perceive. Others are more certain. Erik Erickson puts it pretty starkly: Romney wins nomination, conservatives lose, Obama wins election.
I think Erickson is a good indicator of the trends of the conservative base (rather than "moderate" or "establishment" conservatives). People like Erickson blame McCain for the '08 loss and contend Palin contributed positively to his campaign. This is the reverse of what we might call the conventional analysis. But considering Romney to be McCain-redux is odd, considering that a few years back he was the anti-McCain.
Michael Medved weighs in with this excellent point:
In this atmosphere Romney looks suspect to many activists on the right not because he isn’t conservative enough but because he isn’t angry enough. His real problem isn’t a question of ideology, it’s a matter of attitude. Mitt can’t keep himself from looking self-possessed and unflappable, cool and collected, reasonable and restrained. Rage isn’t part of his emotional repertoire: even when visibly frustrated by Rick Perry’s boorish disregard of all rules of debate in the Las Vegas slugfest, he came across as more pained and perplexed than infuriated.
So basically, Romney's problem is . . . successful anger management. Romney is steady, well spoken, and a cool customer (or a state-of-the-art robot, depending on how you look at it). The point is, he's not squalling about birtherism and FEMA camps, and so maybe he won't get invited to Pamela Geller's next birthday bash (Happy 70th, Pam!). To me that is . . . a good thing!
Since the primaries are to the general election what dating is to marriage, the "negative" qualities Romney exhibits right now (not sexy and exciting enough!) may be boons in the general election (experienced with money and dependable!). Conservatives, Republicans, libertarians, and their fellow travelers have to ask what is important in a candidate. Do they want leaders to be constantly in danger of bursting a vein like Arizona's former Senate President (and Killer Tomato) Russell Pearce? Oh yeah, wait, didn't he just lose? Or we could take further instruction from my state, Kentucky - our state governor, the ho-hum Steve Beshear, won handily when Republican David Williams threw himself to the hard right. Are the Chris Christie people going to listen to their boy's political wisdom when he endorsed Romney? Or is the plan to hold out for a messianic anti-Romney until Judgement Day? If this "lack of anger" is the paydirt of opposition, it seems pretty shallow to me. And I don't think it is a full explanation of Romney resistance.
The Left is usually the manufacturer of hyped up righteous indignation, ideological purity, and pie-in-the-sky thinking, but some on the hard right are doing their damnest to follow this doomed formula. By contrast, the Gipper made conservatives confident . . . but went on to deal with reality with a full deck. He was in the American pragmatist tradition as much as its conservative one.
So what do I think the main root of this resistance to Romney is? Looking at this rogue's gallery of Republicans, it is passing strange that the least tin-foil, most electable candidates among them at this point are . . . two Mormons. These two just happen to have the coolest reception from the usual suspects among religious conservatives. Here, I think, is where the paydirt is: straight up, old fashion religious prejudice. Allow me to be blunt for the rest of this paragraph. If I am right (and I know I am partially right thanks to some honest people), then it goes further to prove what a liability the extreme religious right can be to conservatives and libertarians. Old school conservatives like Bill Bennett who are promoters of general morality just don't get it, because they've yet to get it through their heads that for some on the religious right it isn't about morality, about being like Jesus and good to your neighbor. . . no, it's about doctrine. Some conservative evangelicals just plain don't like the LDS for doctrinal reasons (the same reason they still have problems voting for Catholics, Jews, Muslims, whatever that Ghandi guy's religion was, and um. . . etc..). Some of these conservative Christian groups think the Mormons are weird and untrustworthy because Mormons believe a few extra miracle stories than they do. They might not say it out loud like Pastor Jeffress because they're too polite, but they'll bring their bigotry to the polls.
The Latter Day Saints I know are multi-talented dynamos who I respect not just for their great moral acumen, but just for generally being awesome to be around. And I don't mind in the least that they might believe Native Americans were descended from Lamanites who were descended from ancient Jews, because they make positive contributions way out of proportion to their numbers. There should be no religious test for office, but if there were I'd say being Mormon ought to be a plus in most cases.
All that being said, I'm still not crazy about Romney because I think Huntsman is a better choice for Republicans, although both Cain and Paul had their moments. Barring General Petraus appearing in the clouds and announcing his candidacy, what alternatives are there? Republicans will have to take their medicine sooner or later. Meanwhile, the Democrats' inability to control the Occupiers shows they are weak and out of touch with their own base. Whoever the opposition candidate to Obama is, he or she has the opportunity to bring the Tea Party on board without allowing them to set the course.
After that, it's clear skies to 2012.