13 April 2010

The case against Mitt Romney

Daniel Larison sets it out.

If you're even considering voting for Romney -- and I'm not even sure the pure "electability" argument (which is, quite truthfully, an excellent reason to vote for someone who might not be your particular brand of vodka) works anymore, as Romney couldn't even convince Republicans to vote for him in 2008, despite a massive cash advantage -- you ought to read Larison's piece.

There is no doubt that the GOP's opposition to Obamacare will continue to drive the discussion in the 2012 primaries -- and remember, the campaign will already begin in earnest next summer. The Republican base is clearly quite unhappy, at times hysterically so, with the president's agenda, so I can't imagine health care being any less of an issue in August 2011 than it is in April 2010, barring some sort of unforeseen catastrophe (e.g., a terrorist attack, Iran detonates a nuke, the market collapses again, etc.).

Romney is facing a very stiff set of circumstances. As noted in a prior post, the central feature of Obamacare -- an individual mandate to purchase health insurance -- was the centerpiece of the health care bill passed while Romney was governor of Massachusetts. In fact, Romney built his entire case for the presidency around a sort of pseudo-conservative pragmatism argument, one of the implicit highlights of course being a very Obama-like health care bill.

Without taking up the merits of either Romney or Obama's legislation here, the fact remains that this will be an albatross around Romney's neck in the primaries. Mike Huckabee absolutely disdains Romney, and if he enters the race, you can bet that he will reprise his role from 2008 -- Romney's pesky antagonist, taking shot after shot while the frontrunner (McCain in 2008; perhaps Pawlenty in 2012) sits back and grins.

Romney's attempts to distinguish the Massachusetts bill from last month's bill are laughable. His argument has been based upon federalism -- he has attempted to argue that Obama's bill is an extremist government takeover of an entire industry because the federal government did it; he is thereby implying that his bill was acceptable simply because the takeover was being perpetuated by the state. But this is a fallacy, and I think -- I hope -- most conservatives can see right through this. First, the Due Process Clause applies the entire Bill of Rights to the states, so in theory, the states are equally constrained under the Constitution. Second, if a conservative's view of the world is that the government should stay out of one's life, freedom and liberty are no more enhanced in the event a state government takes a particular action, vis-a-vis the U.S. Congress. Freedom, liberty, etc. are similarly curtailed in either event.

Don't get me wrong -- I actually think Romney would be a very good president. He is nothing if not savvy and pragmatic, and would bring a level of competence to governance we haven't seen since Clinton, if not Reagan. Put simply, he would be a superb improvement over Obama.

But at this point, I'd like to think conservatives can see right through Romney's facade. Although some analysts believe this could play right into the hands of Sarah Palin, I don't think conservatives are dumb enough to nominate her. Typically, the GOP establishment tends to fall in line behind candidates with either extensive track records (Nixon in 1968, Reagan in 1980, Dole in 1996, McCain in 2008) or loads of money (Bush in 2000, Romney in 2008). I highly doubt Palin will garner the support of much of the establishment at all -- these folks realize she is completely unelectable and instead will fall in behind Romney or Pawlenty -- and they are the kingmakers in Republican politics.

Rather, Romney's health care debacle plays right into the hands of Pawlenty, who has Romney's best attributes -- a pragmatic, competent Republican governor of a blue state -- without the pesky baggage -- primarily, the fact that he flip-flops enough to make John Kerry blush.

No comments: