We know it. They know it. And probably Mitt knows it too. He is not the candidate that the Republican Party wished for in regards to the upcomming battle with President Obama this November. And even though the GOP have tried their best to make him look like a modern Reagan; charming, likeable, international experienced, down to earth, a man of the people, Romney falls short on almost everything Reagan stood for, including his in light of today’s Republican Party platform, quite moderate policies.
Truth is that Reagan, a rare favorite among both Democrats and Republicans, wouldn’t stand a chance in today’s Republican Party. A party more radical and more extreme than probably ever before. And where does that leave Romney?
Unfortunately trapped between his moderate past as Governor of liberal state Massachusetts and his present-day desperate attempt to cater to the newly revitalized conservative right. A balancing act he has yet to manage successfully. Truth be told, Mitt was chosen as the lesser of the many evils that competed for the Republican nomination in last year’s primaries. A race that showed just how radical the Republican Party has truly become.
Ever since Tea Partiers in 2008 took to the streets and evidently revitalized the conservative movement in America, moderate Republicans, including Mitt himself, have been challenged by politicians and commentators emerging from what can only be described as a new radical rightwing within the Republican Party.
Let’s just quickly revisit some of these political figures and begin with the woman who in many ways started it all.
Tea Party queen and former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin has seen her share of controversy ever since she rose to the top of the Party as John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election. Leaving aside her many ridiculous statements like being able to see Russia from her window, Palin’s real contribution to the radicalization of the GOP has been her many vicious attacks on President Obama socialist agenda.
Remember the health care debate where she accused Obama’s health care plan of creating death panels. Palin charged that the proposed legislation would create a "death panel" of bureaucrats who would decide whether Americans - such as her elderly parents or child with down syndrome were worthy of medical care – a statement that PolitiFact named the 2009 lie of the year and the American Dialect Society called the most outrageous term of 2009.
Rick Santorum, long a close combatant of Romney in the Republican primaries and still a huge favorite among evangelicals, has also seen his share of controversy. During the primaries he argued that the separation of church and state shouldn’t necessarily be absolute thus breaking with a founding principle of the Constitution. He also brought the abortion issue back on the table when he outlawed a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion and pushed to ban all funding for contraception. As he argued at the time:
“It’s not OK. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”
Santorum has also been an outspoken supporter of the military’s former “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. His comments about homosexuals serving in the US Military have shown his concern with the idea of men “living in close quarters” and showering together. Oh, and Santorum unsurprisingly also denounces global warming as a “hoax.”
Ron Paul, another contender in the primaries, who’s libertarian vision of an America with a minimal functioning government, prompted him to present a fiscal plan that would cut a trillion dollars in public expenses while closing down six governmental departments and cutting 134.000 public employees.
Makes you wonder whether Ron Paul read the unemployment statistics lately. In the process of shutting down the government, Paul also argued for the abolishment of the Fed and a return to the Gold Standard.
And still we haven’t even mentioned Romney’s newly appointed running mate Paul Ryan. A favorite among conservatives, Paul Ryan combines fiscal hawkishness with social conservatism to the point where radicalism is starting to lose its meaning.
A sworn opponent of the welfare state, Ryan’s initial budget plan to cut more than $5 trillion from projected federal spending in the coming decade was labeled both radical and dangerous by several commentators. This is a man who in his determination to deal with America’s huge debt is prepared to dismantle large parts of the American welfare state by turning Medicare into a voucher system and adding massive cuts to all government programs in order to pay for tax breaks.
Did we mention that Ryan also supports the no exception rule to the question of abortion, even in the case of rape or incest? Indeed, Paul Ryan is a conservative pundit’s dream candidate because he doesn’t have the “moderate” baggage of Mitt Romney. Probably why Romney selected him in the first place.
There were other Republicans making headlines this past year. Pizza king Herman Cain surged briefly to the front of the pack in the primaries due to his plan to cut personal taxes to 9%.
Tea Party favorite Michelle Bachmann wanted to strip away all Wall Street regulations no matter its content and desired effect.
Texas Governor Rick Perry urged to stop all federal regulations with no exception including those that eventually protects the air we breathe and the water we drink. And still we haven’t even mentioned the many conservative commentators who to much dismay of many moderate Republicans, truly made a mess of things.
Who doesn’t recall radio host Rush Limbaugh’s public assault on Georgetown University Law student Sandra Fluke, referring to her as a slut because she argued that contraceptives ought to be tax funded?
Or what about reality TV show host and multibillionaire Donald Trump, whose relentless investigation into Obama’s birthplace continued to cast doubts about the President’s true origins even after a team of investigators returned from Hawaii empty handed.
You might dismiss this, as a few nutjobs that by no means represent the official Republican Party line, but the real story here is that the aforementioned individuals are not just some marginalized insignificant figures within and around the GOP. These are prominent politicians and commentators who have come to represent not only the Republican Party but also the conservative movement in America.
Truth is that radicalism has now embodied the Republican Party to the point where moderates have been completely sidelined and the real economic issues facing the country have lost out to abortion, gay marriage and whether the President is truly ”homegrown”. And no one exemplifies the transition of the Republican Party better that Mitt himself. In 2002 Romney identified himself as a moderate with progressive viewpoints.
Today he identifies himself as a hardline conservative. In the past, he protected women’s right to choose. Today he is firmly pro-life. As a gubernatorial candidate in Massachusetts, he refused to sign a pledge that he would not seek tax increases. As a presidential candidate, he signed it. In the past Romney also supported Cap and Trade, and as Governor of Massachusetts he oversaw a health care reform that bears close resemblance to Obama’s national plan for health care. Today, the Republican Party have distant itself from both policies and so has Mitt.
Time and time again he has accused Obama of socializing the country by means of government takeovers of private enterprises even though he himself supported the economic stimulus that eventually saved troubled industries including the entire car industry. Really, in his desperate attempt to cater to the new right, Mitt has flip-flopped so many times it is impossible to make out what he really believes in or who he truly is as a person. What happened to you, Mitt?
Well, one could argue that Romney merely exemplifies a long-lasting trend within the conservative movement. One that is characterized by a Republican Party that has continued a nearly unbroken march to the right through the last half-century. Just imagine for a moment how Republican Presidents of the past would fare in today’s conservative waters. Richard Nixon created the environmental Protection Agency, an agency Republicans today want to abolish.
Ronald Reagan, who did little for the pro-life lobby and raised taxes when he had to, would never be nominated today. As Governor of California, Reagan signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act in California in 1967 and put his signature on what at the time were the largest tax increases in California history as governor and the biggest peacetime tax increase in American history as president.
Indeed, hailed as he might be as a fiscal conservative and small government advocate among today’s leading Republicans, data shows that government expanded heavily during his presidency and although income taxes were cut, payroll taxes to pay for Social Security and Medicare were markedly increased. Furthermore, during the Reagan presidency, the deficit soared from $74 billion in 1980 to $220 billion in 1986 and America turned from a creditor into a borrower. Adding to this, when Reagan left office, the federal government employed more people and spent more money than when he took over from his Democratic predecessor Jimmy Carter.How’s that for a small-government conservative?
George W. Bush pushed up spending more than any president since Lyndon B. Johnson and as a result, federal spending far outstripped economic growth at a rate not seen in more than a century whilst spending on social programs rose faster than at any time since the 1960s. Truth be told, Nixon, Reagan and Bush wouldn’t last a day among today’s leading GOP figures.
There are people within the Republican Party who worry that the radicalization of the conservative base might pose a problem come Election Day. By pushing the Republican Party to the far right and unwillingly having radical politicians and commentators headline the public debate, Mitt might have lost the small chance he had convincing swing voters that he is their next President.
Still, there seems to be no way back for a man who has done everything in his power to convince fiscal and social conservatives of his conservative credentials whilst changing his views on issues that once characterized him as a pragmatic moderate. And still the thought everybody is left with remains the same. They’re just not that into him.
A few weeks ago, another Republican sparked controversy. In an interview with St. Louis television station KTVI-TV, Todd Akin, member of the House of Representative from Missouri, claimed that women were able to shut certain parts of the female body down in the unfortunate event of a rape.
The GOP were quick to condemn Akin’s outrageous remarks and Mitt himself had to affirm that in his opinion abortion was rightly justifiable in the case of incest or rape. Well said Mitt, but this case shows exactly why you and the GOP don’t meet eye to eye. While your view on abortion might be clear, there is a growing number within the Republican Party that doesn’t necessarily agree with you.
Last week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida showed just that. This was where the GOP platform, We Believe in America was officially adopted and here are some of the highlights: A ban on same sex marriage, a ban on gay military service, a ban on women in combat AND most importantly, the adding of a human life amendment to the Constitution, which would eventually ban abortion even in the case of incest or rape.
Mitt Romney disagrees with this platform. His delegates and own running mate do not, which once again has left Mitt at odds with the party that chose him as their presidential candidate. Here’s the cold fact. For a platform that has been called the most conservative in history, Mitt just doesn’t fit the bill. But give him time and he might just come around. Given his recent track record, there is good reason to believe that.