Many conservatives, including me, have been none too kind and understanding this primary season of Mitt Romney’s many “policy changes” over the years.
The former Governor of Massachusetts has, for all intents and purposes, taken both sides on nearly every major political issue in the past two decades. He has been staunchly pro-choice, now firmly pro-life. Been pro-amnesty, now tough on immigration. He has been strict on gun laws, but now finds himself promoted by the NRA. He has been on both sides of tax cuts, campaign finance reform, and even whether or not he considered himself to be a Republican. He’s hopped over the fence on gay marriage, climate change, and stem cell research.
The problem lies not only in Romney’s seeming inability to have a firm conviction on much of anything, but also in the resulting lack of trust and therefore enthusiasm this kind of political say-anything-to-anyone pandering fails to drum up in the conservative base. Mitt Romney may very well be the Republican nominee, but that in itself is not enough to beat Barack Obama next November. For that, he needs an inspired and excited base willing not only to vote, but to knock on doors, annoy friends, and do the hard work it takes to beat any incumbent, especially one who wields dangerously the vast power of the media machine, as Obama most undoubtedly does.
It is the opinion of this novice commentator that in order for Mitt Romney to both secure the Republican nomination and conjure up the needed enthusiastic support (the latter is more important, as the former is looking more and more inevitable), he needs to flip-flop twice more.
How can this be? Will not another change in form turn off the base further and create even more resentment at his pending nomination? Maybe, but not doing so could be far more damaging to the big picture.
There are two issues, one solidified through time and one that has arisen recently, on which most conservatives differ quite greatly with Romney. First is his refusal to betray his Massachusetts health care scheme now dubbed “Romneycare”. While it may differ from Obamacare in some areas, the idea of government mandated health services is a big no-no with most conservatives. Romney condemns the idea on a national level, but defends his plan in MA, even against vast disapproval from the “not-Mitt” Republicans invested in this primary season. The second infraction, exposed only this week, is Romney’s surprising policy of an automatic raise in the national minimum-wage. These are in stark contrast with the conservative model of less government regulations in the financial sector.
Conservatives advocate for the freedom of the markets, and these two Romney policies are far removed from that core value. His bid for the GOP nomination may be safe either way, but to increase his chances of defeating Obama, Romney should do what he does best: flip-flop.
He needs to denounce these stances in favor of reconciling his economic principles with traditional conservative beliefs. Romney’s two main advantages to those who support him are some sort of campaign competency (what we may call “electability”) and extensive private-sector experience that has lead to economic prowess.
The first point is a propellant of constant arguing between the Mitt’s and the not-Mitt’s.
The second, given the aforementioned stances, should upset any self-considered conservative. In a general election where the economy will be of unprecedented focus, the right wants their candidate to epitomize the opposite of an incumbent who has quite effectively obliterated the U.S. economy and done near irreparable damage that will take years (perhaps several administrations) to fix. Republicans seek to run, essentially, the anti-Obama.
Romney’s current stances aren’t it.
Mitt needs to pull a Romney and reverse his views on both his defense of his failed MA health care system, as well as the inflation-indexed minimum wage. Both are contradictory to the conservative message, and both do further damage to a campaign that will already struggle to instigate the wide-spread eagerness necessary to defeat Barack Obama.
Newt Gingrich, in essence, supported for 20 years what Romney implemented in MA, yet has changed his tune and convinced many that he is against the individual health care mandate that both Romney and Obama have required of their respective constituents. In so doing, he was able to garner a surprising amount of conservative support, even though many of his own policies and much of his political record are to the left of what many in the base prefer. He was able to do what Romney was not: present himself – at least in the case of health care – as the anti-Obama, even the anti-Romney.
Romney must convince the massive amounts of base conservatives turned-off by his moderate policies that he is, at least, a strong free-market capitalist.
Either way, the primary election may not be affected. However, the general election may rest on it.