Gerson gives the case for Mitt Romney
We’ve focused a lot on the negatives of Mitt Romney, the man who may very well be the GOP nominee in 2012. There things about the guy I’m not fond of, including RomneyCare and the frequency of which he changes his beliefs on an issue. But the case for Romney needs to be heard, and Michael Gerson offers it up:
Romney’s main political vulnerability is a serious one. Running for Massachusetts’ governor in 2002, he was a pro-choice, economically centrist, culturally liberal, business-oriented Republican. Running for president in 2008, he was a thoroughly pro-life, orthodox supply-side, culturally conservative, Fox News Republican. Romney’s shape-shifting 2008 campaign only reinforced the impression of a consultant-driven candidate.
But conservatives — unsurprised by human frailty — know that great republics are constructed out of flawed materials. Some of Romney’s transformation is explainable as the result of ideological regionalism. It would be a rare candidate who could run and win in Massachusetts with the same message offered to Republican caucus-goers in Iowa. The ideological gap between Beacon Hill and Osceola is among the widest in American politics, and making the stretch is difficult to accomplish in a dignified fashion. But the problem is not unique to Romney. Rick Perry won in Texas with an approach to immigration that is hard to translate in South Carolina. Ronald Reagan, as California’s governor, approved the liberalization of abortion and divorce laws. For a governor seeking the presidency, such tensions often arise.
So are Romney’s current views his most authentic ones? On some issues — say, health care policy — it is difficult for an outsider to tell. In a different political environment, I suspect that Romney would be proud of his Massachusetts health reform instead of struggling to minimize it. But in the current presidential cycle, Romney has an advantage. The main issues of this campaign — economic growth and budget restraint — are in the sweet spot of his convictions. Romney speaks on these matters with ease, authority and evident sincerity. On the largest topics of the day, the charge of inauthenticity doesn’t stick.
Romney also has the potential to allay the fears of many social conservatives. A position change on abortion is always damaging — particularly a relatively recent one. But Romney has converted to a view that seems more consistent with his background. Is it really reasonable to assume that a former Mormon bishop, deep down, is a cultural liberal?
Even conservatives who buy none of these explanations may calculate that Romney is acceptable. Precisely because he has a history of ideological heresy, it would be difficult for him to abandon his current, more conservative iteration. He has committed himself on key conservative issues. Having flipped, he could not flop without risking a conservative revolt. As a result, conservatives would have considerable leverage over a Romney administration.
There is, however, a less-cynical conservative case for Romney. Opponents accuse him of political pragmatism — of which he is clearly guilty. But Romney might put his pragmatism to good use. His economic advisers are solidly conservative. Before the primary season is done, we are likely to see some serious entitlement and tax reform proposals. A leadership team of Romney, Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might be just what the moment requires: prudent adults who are conservative but not too far ahead of the public. They would stand a decent chance at doing what it takes to encourage job creation and avoid fiscal disaster.
Sorry, I don’t buy this. The “vote for Romney because he’ll have conservatives around him to keep him honest” argument is, well, absurd. A President Romney is likely to have a Congress that his party controls. That didn’t go over well for George W. Bush and the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency.
With that said though, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who has endeared himself to conservatives, recently spoke approvingly of Romney on entitlements, an issue that he has drifted to the left on. Ryan also said that RomneyCare isn’t really a concern (at least to him). The more respected conservatives like Ryan say good things about, the more it seems like the establishment is lining up for him.
Personally, I won’t vote for Romney in a general election. I just don’t believe has any real beliefs, other than saying what will get him elected. There are only a few candidates in the GOP race that I could cast a ballot for, obviously Ron Paul and Gary Johnson are among them. At least they know what they believe.