Republicans are kidding themselves if they believe Mitt Romney, at least his current iteration, can win the election merely by attacking Barack Obama. Given Romney’s lack of conservative principles, perhaps that is for the best.
Who is Mitt Romney? What does he believe? Where are his core principles?
There is no need to seek penitence if you don’t know the answer to the preceding questions. After all, no one could provide a consistent answer. Romney was for gun control before he was the NRA’s proudest supporter, for health care reform before he championed the repeal of Romneycare (excuse me, Obamacare), for gay rights before he decided marriage was between a man and a woman, a fierce defender of abortion rights before he became the chief opponent of Roe v. Wade, and, well, you get the picture. (It seems Romney learned a lot from his fellow Massachusetts resident, John Kerry.)
Romney is a principled defender of things he finds incredibly important, until he discards those principles the moment the weather vane changes direction.
Eric Fehrnstrom (Romney’s chief campaign adviser) was speaking the truth this spring when he declared the Romney campaign would shake itself up like an Etch-A-Sketch after the Republican primary ended. But Fehrnstrom wasn’t telling the entire truth.
Romney himself is a blank slate, reminiscent of the wax tablets used by the Romans. When a slate’s contents were no longer useful, the Romans would simply wipe it clean and start fresh. Romney has done that in this campaign, he’ll do it again if elected, and he’ll do it again if it helps him win re-election.
This Etch-A-Sketch mentality is how Romney can claim that the positions he took in his 1994 Senate race, his 2002 governor’s race, and his 2012 presidential race are the least bit consistent. The only thing tying these three races together is Romney’s continued willingness to say whatever he believes will better his electoral prospects — principles and beliefs be damned. But that makes perfect sense to Romney.
The Etch-A-Sketch nominee is for repealing Obamacare today, but the moment the polls shift, Romney will shift with them. He defends the right to bear arms today, but he’ll abandon that stance with the release of a single Gallup tracking poll. He’ll be for tax reform until it becomes the slightest bit inconvenient. In fact, he’ll abandon anything the moment it no longer suits his interests, even if that means disavowing himself.
Frankly, that’s a pity, because Romney should be an exceptional candidate. He was enormously successful in the private sector, helping to strengthen weak companies. He was a pragmatic governor in Massachusetts. He is a man of considerable religious faith who is a pillar in his community. In every way, he is a man who should waltz into the Oval Office.
Instead, Romney runs from his record at Bain Capital. His refusal to take credit for the actions of a company he managed isn’t conservative; it’s an abdication of responsibility. His disavowal of Obamacare, which was modeled on his reforms in Massachusetts, signals a lack of confidence, strength, and principle. His kowtowing to social conservatives, who sense a phony when they see one, reflects a lack of conviction.
In the coming months, Romney is going to be hammered by the Obama campaign. The Bain commercials will continue, not because Obama disagrees with Romney’s decisions, but because Romney refuses to explain those decisions. The calls for his tax returns will mount, because Obama knows Americans are fine with wealthy people but hate people who treat them with disregard and contempt. Obama will attack Romney on health care, because Obama has the backbone to stand up for what he thinks is right.
Romney lacks such backbone, and if he won’t stand up for himself and conservative principles, why should conservatives stand up for Romney?
My grandfather, who passed in 2001, was a lifelong conservative Republican. He would have despised President Obama’s leadership (or lack thereof). But I suspect he would stay home this November, and I wouldn’t blame him.
Justin Green is a writer and journalist based in Washington, D.C. You can read his blog at JustinGreenDC.wordpress.com.