The EFM Feature

There’s a story in the Boston Phoenix today, plugged by Ben Smith (whose writing I enjoy), that claims Gov. Romney is, by way of preparing for 2012, “making a wise move away from the social issues, toward the ‘real’ Romney” and that, according to “close observers,” he “doesn’t care much about social issues.” Or, as the accompanying image puts it, Gov. Romney is reinventing himself as a more moderate Republican.
This piece says more about what Gov. Romney was up against in Massachusetts than it does about him.
What do I mean by that?
Look. There is no way Gov. Romney would run in 2012 the campaign he ran in 2008. The biggest reason for that is simple: It’ll be four years later. Even if his old strategy was the best possible option at the time, things have changed. With full-scale control of Washington, the Democrats have turned President Bush’s deplorable deficits into their own abominable ones, and if not for Sen. Scott Brown (how I love to write that) they would be destroying 15 percent of our economy via ObamaCare. Meanwhile, the President is broadcasting an image of weakness abroad, while Iran et al. watch with glee. Accordingly, economics and foreign policy have become salient in a new way. Of course it would make sense for Gov. Romney to emphasize them more. To point this out is not news.
Moreover, emphasizing them more doesn’t at all mean a lack of concern for social issues, or that Gov. Romney doesn’t care about them. The Phoenix piece wrongly implies this. First of all, as the article itself points out, he’s a devout Mormon. This is an admittedly rough measure, but how many Mormon bishops do you know who are social liberals? Secondly, you don’t have to rely on rough measures, and you don’t have to rely on hot air from the campaign trail; there’s empirical evidence. As leading Massachusetts social conservatives have publicly attested, Gov. Romney stood and fought on issues such as life and marriage during his time in the State House, when it really mattered and when South Carolinians weren’t paying any attention.
Finally, talking about fiscal and foreign policy in the way Gov. Romney has since Election Day 2008 (and in the way I imagine he will continue to do) can only be considered a shift to the center in a place like Massachusetts, where social conservatism is by far the black sheep of the right-wing family — the quality, in the eyes of many, that you don’t exhibit in polite society. If you look at the facts, Gov. Romney is not going around preaching the gospel of Rockefeller Republicanism. Read his recent talk for the Heritage Foundation, in which he called for a strong missile defense system, in stark contrast to the Obama administration. Or read the Boston Globe‘s take on his recent meditations on the economy; it says he “minced no words in blasting President Obama‚Äôs economic policies.” These are not the musings of a milquetoast moderate; they are strong affirmations of conservative values. The only way you can miss that is if you’re blinded by disdain for social conservatism (or, more likely, disdain for a stereotype that has very little basis in reality).
The Mitt Romney who’s going around the country right now isn’t some retooled moderate. He’s a conservative who’s talking about things that are relevant, applying the principles of the different legs of the “stool” he spoke of in 2008 to the problems of 2010.

About Charles Mitchell

EFM's resident Yankee, Charles Mitchell, works in the non-profit arena in his native Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Charissa, live near the state capital of Harrisburg with their daughter, Adeline, and are members of a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

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