Mitt Romney, Servant of the Right
The American Prospect’s Jamelle Bouie presents a convincing argument: Romney may be a pandering etch-a-sketch flip-flopper without true core convictions, but his malleable nature means something very specific in the wider political context of a Republican Party that is dominated by the Tea Party movement, and that might very well take control of Congress in the Fall. We’re not in
Kansas Massachusetts anymore, and thus we cannot expect a moderate nor a socially conscious President Romney:
What drove the quick embrace of the former Massachusetts governor? It wasn’t love; conservatives aren’t thrilled with Romney, even as they prepare to support him. But they aren’t objecting to a marriage of convenience. Grover Norquist, founder of the anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform, explained Romney’s acceptability in his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. ‘We just need a president who can sign the legislation that the Republican House and Senate pass,’ he said. ‘We don’t need someone to think. We need someone with enough digits on one hand to hold a pen.’
Romney’s appeal is that he can win a general election. The right has controlled the Republican Party for years, and all it needs is a titular leader to implement its policies. If conservatives could elect a corpse, they would, but because the Constitution requires a warm body, they’ll make do with Romney. What they want is a front man for their ideas, and throughout his campaign, Romney has been happy to oblige. His domestic-policy proposals are perfectly attuned to right-wing orthodoxy: ‘Repeal Obama-care.’ ‘Repeal Dodd-Frank.’ ‘Eliminate Title X family—planning programs benefiting groups like Planned Parenthood.’ ‘Return federal programs to the states.’
Bouie goes on to crunch the numbers of the policies championed by Romney and the Right, especially in the context of what they would actually do for the deficit/national debt and how all of them mean substantially slashing social services while doing f-all to “create jobs”. Excerpt:
To meet all of Romney’s fiscal goals—and a balanced budget—policymakers would have to make the most draconian cuts in the nation’s history. Over eight years, they would have to slash $10 trillion from the non-defense discretionary budget, or a whopping 81 percent.
This would pay for Romney’s large tax cuts for the rich—with a little left over—but the cost to ordinary Americans would be catastrophic. Pell grants? Gone. Aid to needy families? Gone. Medicaid? Gone. Environmental protection? Gone. Food stamps? Gone. Unemployment insurance? Gone. Under Romney, the federal government would return to the skeletal state of the pre–New Deal era. What’s more, we could say goodbye to an economic recovery. The shock from these measures would cost the economy more than four million jobs through 2014.
I recommend you read the whole thing.
Also consider this follow-up by Mother Jones’ Adam Serwer: “Would Mitt Romney Be the Most Right-Wing President Ever?”
In terms of figuring out what you’re actually voting for, it makes more sense to think about yourself as voting for a party rather than a candidate. That candidate will pursue the party’s agenda within whatever objective structural constraints exist, meaning even if Barack Obama were the closet radical so many conservatives think he is, his policy agenda would still have been subject to the whims of Democratic centrists in the Senate.
If Mitt Romney wins, he’ll likely be facing fewer of those constraints. The Democratic Party is a coalition of liberals and moderates. The Republican Party is currently dominated by conservatives. Obama had to tailor his policy preferences to appeal Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to beat Republican filibusters, but it’s unlikely Democrats will be able to act with the same ideological discipline that Republicans have displayed over the past few years.
Even so, Romney seems uniquely suited to fitting the “warm body” standard—that all Republicans need is a president ready to rubber-stamp whatever Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) comes up with—that Bouie refers to at the beginning of his piece. The best explanation I’ve seen for the two Romneys (The moderate Massachussetts governor and the conservative standard-bearer) comes from Reason’s Peter Suderman, who compares Romney to a business consultant who views his task as “presenting the customer with a slicker, better packaged, but fundamentally unchanged version of itself.” When the client was liberal Massachussetts, Romney was a moderate. As the leader of the post-Tea Party GOP, he will as conservative as his clients need him to be.