Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Conservative Vote for Romney - Reluctant at Best?

One of the aspects of the Republican Party that I find interesting is that it is deemed the "conservative" party. That, I suppose, is because it is devoted to cutting taxes for the wealthy and gives sufficient lip service to various lines of conservative thought to keep the votes rolling in. But other than the tax cuts, it's history of governance isn't what I would call "conservative".

At the Volokh Conpsiracy, (libertarian) David Post summarized his views on the candidates, and was in some senses easier on both of them than I would have been. He gives "Obama maybe a B or B+", noting that Obama inherited a "global economic meltdown" from which we're recovering, adding, "For some reason I cannot even fathom, many otherwise reasonable people seem to regard this as a terrible failure on Obama’s part."

Mitt Romney? "The guy’s as light a lightweight as I can imagine – he makes Bush look like Schopenhauer. "The guy’s as light a lightweight as I can imagine – he makes Bush look like Schopenhauer." Post is concerned that he has no sense of how Mitt Romney would respond in a crisis situation, but his impression is that "reacts the way Bush reacted when something he couldn’t imagine happening actually happened... and it’s not a comforting thought".

My personal thought is that if the Republican Party were able to nominate a centrist, pragmatic, fact- and issue-driven businessperson, this election wouldn't be much of a contest. That type of candidate, I think, could pull in 60% of the vote. But thanks to the nomination process, the need to pander to certain elements of the base to get a shot at the White House, that's not going to happen. It's difficult to get somebody better than a G.W. Bush, and frankly now that the Tea Party Movement has recognized the power of the primary it may be difficult to do better than a Romney - somebody who seems to hold no core values or beliefs, and will say and do anything to advance his own self-interest.

Had Romney articulated the positions associated with his latest self-reinvention, the centrism he outlined during the debates (more or less "I'll do exactly what Obama's doing, but better - and I'll cut taxes") it's unlikley that he would have been any more successful than Huntsman - a guy who made the mistake of taking actual positions early in the primary process, and thus ended up being one of the first guys shoved out of the clown car. When you consider that the last three men standing were Romney, Santorum and Gingrich... wow. But Romney can attest that if you survive the nomination process, even if you willingly surrender your soul to achieve that goal, it's enough for most of the base to simply not be the other guy.

There's an interesting assortment of takes on "how I'm going to vote" from various flavors of libertarian and conservative at The American Conservative. Some of the comments are insightful, some are odd or shallow, some are witty, others serious, and some mix and match, offering an insight in one sentence and a head scratcher in the next. Sometimes you get to the end of the comment, read the author's claim to fame, and... "now it makes sense" - not necessarily the reasoning, but why the author is taking that particular view. For example, "Within 30 years, the U.S. will be majority non-white and will cease to exist as we’ve known it," came from a editor, and the snark, "on the economy, unemployment is too high, growth is too slow, and Barack Obama is too 'green'" came from a Fox News contributor. There's a lot of hand-wringing about, of all things, feminism and yes, the absolute horror that churches be required to offer birth control to employees of their secular operations. Okay, I can't resist taking a shot at this one:
For me, there’s never even been a possibility of voting for Obama. The Democratic Party history is one immersed in slaughter: removal and abuse of the American Indians, the desire for a national police force to return escaped slaves, and the concentration of loyal Americans of Japanese descent into camps.

Obama has embraced this wretched tradition. Indeed, no president has overseen a loss of civil liberties more dramatically than the current one since Franklin Roosevelt disgraced the once august executive office. Not only did Obama fail to close Gitmo and reverse Bush’s policies promoting “national security,” he’s not-so-slowly Gitmoizing the entire United States. As the great Robert Higgs has argued, if you don’t believe we are living in a police state, you must be blind.
Yes, it's all one unbroken history, with Obama being the worst president since FDR due to his failure to overturn the atrocious policies put into place by... George W. Bush... and due to his adherence to the Constitution when Congress - with overwhelming Republican opposition to Obama's plan - refused to fund the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center. Let's all sing along, "Don't know much about history...."

What's interesting is how many are unwilling to vote for Romney, declaring that they'll either abstain from voting or support a third party candidate. More than a few prefer Obama.

It's easy to get discouraged with our system and its two parties - it's difficult not to feel taken for granted, to not feel like you're choosing the lesser of two evils. I don't know what a Romney victory would mean for the Republican Party, although it's difficult to imagine that it would lead to the party being more conservative. Many of the authors on the American Conservative website are concerned that Romney is ignorant of foreign policy and that his advisers will push him to involve the nation in new, large-scale military conflicts. If anything weighs against that possibility, it would be that Romney appears to be exceptionally risk-averse. It's difficult for me to imagine that he would push the country toward war, unless the polls were telling him that the nation was eager to go there. On the other hand, given how spineless he has proved to be on economic issues, it's easy for me to imagine his pushing through his proposed tax cuts with an associated explosion of debt (but recall: he's not going to balance the budget for a decade, so he takes no responsibility for either the starting or ending points of his economic "reforms").

What bothers me most about Romney it not his foreign policy ignorance. It's how freely and easily he lies. How it doesn't even seem to bother him to dramatically change his message, his supposed core values, from day to day, from audience to audience. To the extent that his quest for self-advancement is likely to lead him down a path he believes will get him reelected, it's still difficult to take comfort in the notion that his cautiousness and focus on his own popularity might moderate his agenda. From an economic standpoint the path of least resistance is apt to look like Bush's first term. I agree with those who see the most likely lesson of a Romney victory as being "You can brazenly lie your way all the way into the White House," and I would prefer that the lesson be, "You can fudge the truth, as politicians do, you can spin, you can demagogue, but there's a point at which your deceit disqualifies you from elected office."

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