At a recent tea party gathering outside Portland, a high-ranking Multnomah County Republican official asked for a show of hands from people who were satisfied with Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee. About 75 hands went up among the 400 or so in attendance, including mine.
The official looked taken aback and said, “Wow, I’m surprised there’s that many.” He went on to announce the goals for the 2012 election and beyond, “to hold the House, win the Senate and undermine the presidency.”
I was thinking I might have shown up at the wrong event. I can understand undermining an Obama presidency, but what if Romney wins? Will some elements on the right work to undermine even a Romney presidency? Or was the rallying cry a simple face-value admission that many of the attendees don’t think Romney can win?
This is no way to win an election. Those 75 people who raised their hands for Romney, doubtless likely GOP voters, weren’t having it.
Some on the tea party right think that while Mitt Romney might be incrementally better than the current occupant of the Oval Office, his election will be nothing to celebrate. There’s talk of sitting it out.
Big mistake. Granted, Romney may not be the best man to debate Obamacare, and he is undeniably the embodiment of the GOP establishment and the financial 1%. There is fair reason for concern about some of the moderate-to-liberal positions he’s proven all too willing to vacillate on.
But that was then, and this is now.
Later in the evening a special guest, Breitbart.TV’s Larry O’Connor, took to the podium. In an edgy presentation unlike the usual rousing or self-congratulatory tea party fare, O’Connor talked about how he originally met Breitbart and then came out with his conservatism from the uber-progressive world of the theater arts industry.
When the subject turned to November 6, 2012, there was a marked urgency in O’Connor’s tone, an urgency that was not in evidence during his retrospective and memorial remarks. That urgency seemed to emanate from the speaker’s own aura of proximity to the house that Breitbart built.
And the word was: Get behind Romney.
In the dark days after Barack Obama’s 2008 victory, conservatives may have looked for a silver lining. Perhaps with the election of our first African-American president the left — seething for eight years over the Bush v. Gore decision — would moderate. Perhaps liberals would not be so angry anymore, so divisive, so pernicious in their partisanship. Perhaps their new commander in chief would live up to his promise to govern from the middle and seek ways to heal the polarization that plagues American politics.
It didn’t happen. In fact, things got much worse. The left is angrier than ever and pushing envelopes that surprise even members of the Democratic Party. Anyone who is paying attention knows that.
Andrew Breitbart knew things. And now, from the cradle of the citizen journalist comes the mantra that anyone concerned about the trajectory of this nation should start repeating, be they Republican, Independent, traditional Democrat, or tea partier.
Get with the Romney program. 2016 may be too late.
Update: Jeff Reynolds, the Multnomah GOP official referenced in this article, has submitted this response: “I certainly never intended to relay the thought that I would do anything to undermine a Romney presidency or work against his campaign. I am fully committed to doing everything in my power to defeat Barack Obama and roll back his disastrous policies. If Mitt Romney is the nominee, I will dedicate myself 100% to his campaign.”
Mark Ellis is a journalist and writer from Portland, Oregon.