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What’s so bad about Mitt Romney anyway?
President Obama was cruising to re-election at the start of October. His (biggest) opponent had focused on making the election a referendum on his handling of the economy (which was recovering), had picked a running mate who was the poster child for scaring seniors (a core constituency of the republican party), and had recently managed to offend a significant portion of the electorate (47% to be precise) by effectively labelling them losers. Apart from this, Mitt Romney had provided sparse details about his own economic plan for America, and came across as a person who was unable to connect with the majority of the electorate. One horrific debate performance later, where the president was unable to articulate the accomplishments of his administration and effectively counter Mitt Romney’s charges against his administration, and the structure of the race altered significantly. In a few short weeks, Mitt Romney was tied with, or leading, the president in national polls. He was also pulling ahead in key swing states such as Florida. All due to his success at being able to make American voters ask one simple question: What’s so bad about Mitt Romney anyway?
Let me let all of you non-voters in on a little secret (a secret I suspect the Romney/Ryan camp is aware of): very few voters base their decision on the details of a candidate’s plan for the country. How could they? Most voters (I include economists in this pool as well) do not understand how the economy works. How could they possibly make an informed choice between supply side and Keynesian economics without such knowledge? Even ardent supporters of the Affordable Care Act (unofficially known as ‘Obamacare’) are ignorant about most of its provisions. We simply don’t have the time to pour over all these details. As a consequence, when (independent) voters (who don’t follow the primary season with as much enthusiasm as I do) saw Mitt Romney make an eloquent case against the president and the president stumble in defence they asked themselves, ‘What’s so bad about Mitt Romney anyway? We gave the new kid a try, but jobs are hard to come by. Everybody is saying my health care premiums are going to go up. Gas prices are high. Why not go with this guy? He was a business man, maybe he can do better. I don’t really understand how he’s going to do everything he says he is, but 12 million jobs is a big number, and he wouldn’t just be making that up. I mean, I like Obama, but republicans hate him. They’ve blocked everything he’s tried to do for four years, and maybe it’s time to just give up and vote for Romney. He sounds reasonable on stage. He isn’t that crazy person the Obama people have tried to make him out to be. He’ll probably be a moderate social president like Bush was, but smarter on the economic side of things.
It amazes me to say this, but Mitt Romney is a genius. Anyone who has followed him since 2007 cannot deny that he has taken positions firmly at odds with his positions in the past (whether they are years, months, weeks or even days in the past). His genius lies in the fact that he has made everybody believe that he is pandering to a different side. Conservatives think he is now pandering to moderates while moderates and liberals think he previously pandered to conservatives.
Since people have now proven themselves to be immune to blatantly dishonest politicians, most going so far as to rationalise their dishonesty, let me articulate exactly what is so bad about Mitt Romney. And since none of us really care about policy anyway, let me simply base my case on character.
Firstly, presidents do not possess legislative authority. We don’t select presidents to lovingly craft the minute details of complex legislation. We elect presidents to fight for our best interests through the outlining a vision that Congress can craft into a solution or through use of a veto. I can be confident of the type of solution that president Obama will propose and the sort of thing that he would oppose through a veto. He has proved that he is willing to fight unpopular fights: see the Affordable Care Act, the repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ and the (failed) Dream Act. Based on the Mitt Romney I have followed in the campaign trail, I do not know what Mitt Romney would fight for. I do not know what side of a cost-benefit analysis my interests will land on in a bill that comes before Mitt Romney. To be confident that someone will fight for you, you must first be confident that he or she feels as strongly about your position as you do. I don’t know where Mitt Romney really stands on signing bills restricting access to abortion, raising taxes on the middle class or reforming Medicare in a way that burdens seniors (I doubt anyone but he does either). I can however, be confident that his flexibility on such issues reflects his apathy towards those issues. Surrounded by a Republican house majority, other Republican advisers and donors, I can be confident that he will not fight for moderate solutions. After all, would you fight for something you don’t really care about?
|Secondly, the president of the United States of America has enormous control over matters of foreign policy and the military. There is a vocal portion of the Republican Party that believes that any sign of unrest occurring in the world is an opportunity for the US to show international leadership through flexing its military muscles. Mitt Romney, even though he now claims to love peace, almost certainly still holds this view. Mitt Romney’s worldview would probably have America rushing into any sign of unrest in the Middle East. President Obama’s decision to wait for international consensus, regional support and military support from allies, when situations of unrest arise, should be commended. There is a fundamental disagreement here about what ‘leadership’ is. President Obama favours an approach where he seeks international and regional support. This is not because the US needs the military support; it is because it gives US military missions the aura of legitimacy. Mitt Romney would sacrifice this legitimacy and a comprehensive mission plan in favour of quick action. While this approach has its merits, I suggest you consider how wise it is to send US military assets to attack another country (for whatever reason) without planning or support in everysituation.
Mitt Romney doesn’t have principles and values that he believes in deeply enough to fight for. In the absence of such beliefs he will most likely make decisions based on how politically popular something is and how easy it is to pass through congress. He will respond to crises based upon the vocal cries of action. Knowing the right answer to a question is a small part of the president’s job. He needs to convince congress to pass legislation; he needs to convince the country that his answer is right; he needs to lead! President Obama has fought many battles driven by the conviction that it was in the best interests of the country. Mitt Romney on the other hand, seems comfortable with doing anything, as long as it’s popular and has a majority of congress supporting it. What’s so bad about Mitt Romney? He is a bully who, like all other bullies, is a coward at heart.
The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and are independent of The Literartist.