Dear Belladonna Rogers,
I’ve read comments on PJM and heard my fellow conservatives here in South Carolina say they see no difference between Obama and Romney. Others claim they’d rather have four more years of Obama than “give” the presidency to a candidate whose conservative bona fides are as weak as Romney’s. I’m outraged when I hear Republicans say they’d rather have Obama than Romney. Do you have any suggestions of how to deal with what I consider to be this excessively purist approach?
Harried on Hilton Head Island
You could start by observing that their position is a perfect example of the best being the enemy of the good. No, Romney is not “the best.” Who is the best? That’s for each voter to say, but in election years we usually have a choice of two candidates. Sure, voters can stay home or write in the name of their favorite movie star or politician, but that’s a waste of the great privilege of voting for the president of the United States of America.
I expressed my own tepid response to him in “If Romney needed a transfusion, his blood type would be H2O.” Romney is, however, who we have.
I understand that many PJM readers who prefer other candidates will be offended at the very idea of a January column based on the premise that Romney is the likely candidate. Perhaps your prayers will be answered and he won’t be the Republican standard bearer. However, as of now, Romney is, in the words of our high school yearbooks, “the most likely to succeed.” For that reason, this column is based on that premise.
There are four reasons for a conservative to be content with — if not wildly enthusiastic about –Romney:
(1) The presidency is not all-important. Its significance is understandably overstated during presidential campaigns. The president does not, as is sometimes erroneously stated, “run the country.” He or she presides over the executive branch of the federal government and doesn’t “rule” anything. One reason American citizens may think of the president as an absolute monarch is that the incumbent is behaving like one, as Michael Barone so perceptively wrote yesterday in “Obama Thumbs His Nose At the Founders With One Man Rule.”
According to the plan of the Founders, with which Obama blatantly disagrees, power is divided among the three branches of our government, and through federalism among federal, state, and local authorities. No one person, agency, branch, or governmental level is all-powerful. Most importantly, we have constitutionally-limited government. The personal whims, quirks, and preferences of dictators matter much more than those of whoever is the American president. This is one of our country’s great strengths.
The president does set a tone, however, and the more one is attuned to what the presidential tone conveys, the more one is offended by the one set by the incumbent. He, his wife, and his administration are perhaps the most tone-deaf in American history, as I’ve noted here, here, here, and here, and will continue to note until he’s left office or changes his tone.
(2) Even if one agrees, as I do, that Romney has been an energetic flip-flopper, and may well say whatever he thinks it takes to get elected, he is now running as a conservative. The platform on which he runs will be a conservative one. Platforms aren’t binding, but they aren’t meaningless, either. Presidents usually do try to do what they promise to do. Sharp departures are not unknown once in office, but these usually come in response to major and unexpected events — e.g., the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor or the Islamist attacks on 9/11.
“Trojan horse” presidencies, in which the candidate promises one thing and then knowingly and deliberately shifts entirely once in office, are unknown in U.S. presidential history. In a worst-case scenario, even if Romney were such an unprecedented president, to accomplish his goals, he would still need the support of the Republicans in Congress and they’re not known for their leftist tendencies.
(3) Within the federal government, policy is made by more than one person. Within the executive branch, the president is the most important of them, of course, and he appoints the second-most-important officials. But here’s the rub, for a hypothetically secretly leftist Romney: his appointees will come from a specific pool of plausible candidates and that pool, for the next Republican president, consists of conservatives. Even if Romney is a leftist in his heart of hearts, the men and women making policy decisions throughout the executive branch will be conservatives.
(4) The choice on November 6, 2012, will not be not between a conservative’s dream candidate and Obama, but between Romney and Obama. The situation is akin to that of the two pals sitting at a campfire in Wyoming when a seven-foot grizzly bear suddenly appears out of the darkness. One man rises and begins to run. “Why even try escaping him? No one can outrun a grizzly” says the other man. “I’m not trying to outrun the grizzly, pal” his fleeing friend replies, “I’m just trying to outrun you.”
It appears that the Republican nominee trying to outrun Obama will be Romney. Someone will be president from January 2013 until January 2017. That someone can only be Obama or Romney. A conservative who disdains Romney and refuses to vote for him is effectively voting for Obama.
Anyone who thinks an unfettered Obama, governing without a care in the world about reelection, will not intensify his flagrant attack on the Constitution of the United States and won’t continue arrogantly to disregard the wishes of the American people on Obamacare is making a major mistake.
The incumbent — with his rejection of the spirit of our nation and its history; his bowing to the dictators of Saudi Arabia and China while insulting our most dependable allies; his egregious judgment on the economy, foreign policy, national security, defense, the judiciary, and the administration of justice; his adamant refusal to understand the threat posed by Iranian nuclear weapons, to mention only a fraction of his deficiencies — will continue his unconscionable rampage against all that’s precious to conservatives unless he is stopped. And the only man who stands a chance of stopping him is Willard Mitt Romney.
Whatever Romney is, in his heart of hearts, here’s what he isn’t: he isn’t Barack Obama.
— Belladonna Rogers