We are often asked about the claims made by some Massachusetts conservatives that Gov. Romney isn’t really the social conservative he says he is. The claims out there–amplified in the last cycle by Gov. Huckabee and his allies–basically revolve around the idea that Gov. Romney failed to fight same-sex marriage hard enough and is responsible for taxpayer-funded abortion. These ideas are false, but like weeds in your garden, they’re remarkably hardy and they keep popping up no matter how many times we pull them out (as David did in a comprehensive treatment of the marriage issue).
That’s why I’m thankful for the cover story in the current issue of WORLD Magazine, which contrasts these hysterical claims with what the actual conservative leaders in Massachusetts–both social and fiscal, and yes, they exist–think.
Ask Kris Mineau about his work as a social conservative in liberal Massachusetts, and the director of the Massachusetts Family Institute quips: “We’re fighting back the Huns at the gate.”
Ask Mineau about working with Mitt Romney during the Republican’s tenure as Massachusetts’ governor, and Mineau offers an unflinching assessment of the now-presidential-candidate: “He was a startling breath of fresh air.”
Voters looking for sound-byte answers may be disappointed: Significant support from notable Massachusetts conservatives who worked with Romney while he was governor undercuts the notion that Romney is merely a fair weather conservative. Mineau—a conservative evangelical—says Romney was a consistent ally: “We sorely miss him.”
Meanwhile, the often-overlooked support of some national conservatives for Romney’s healthcare legislation during its passage undercuts the notion that the idea was a blatantly liberal scheme. Three months before Romney signed the bill, Edmund Haislmaier of the conservative Heritage Foundation called the governor’s plan “one of the most promising strategies out there.”
Romney’s stint as Massachusetts governor began with a blunt plea from a local conservative. Barbara Anderson of the Massachusetts-based Citizens for Limited Taxation told The Boston Globe she remembers leaving a phone message for Romney when he was trying to salvage the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics from financial ruin: “I know you’re really busy now with the Olympics, but when you’re finished, please come back and save Massachusetts.”
By most accounts, Romney did help save the 2002 Olympics, using the same brand of corporate savvy that made him a multimillionaire while leading Bain Capital in Massachusetts. Could he apply that savvy in a state suffering fresh economic losses from the bursting of the dot-com bubble and a budget deficit projected to approach $3 billion?
Four years after Romney’s single term in office ended, fiscal conservatives in Massachusetts don’t say that Romney saved the state, but many do admire the Republican’s fiscal accomplishments in a state with a Democratic-controlled legislature.
Jim Stergios, who directed Romney’s office of environmental affairs, now leads the conservative Pioneer Institute in Boston. Stergios says the private research organization applauded Romney’s narrowing the state’s budget shortfall while preventing a broad-based tax increase.
Indeed, Romney proposed cutting the state income tax from 5.3 percent to 5 percent. The legislature blocked the plan, but the governor succeeded in pushing a bill to prevent the state from applying capital gains taxes retroactively. That gave taxpayers a $275 million rebate on capital gains taxes the state had collected in 2002.
The conservative Beacon Hill Institute gave Romney a B- for his first state budget. David Tuerck, the group’s director, says the governor’s policies helped bolster business in the state. Those policies included economic incentives to streamline regulations and ease burdens on local businesses. Small business advocates are generally positive: Jon Hurst of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts calls Romney “pro-employer,” and Brian Gilmore of Associated Industries of Massachusetts says Romney was “overall, positive toward business.”
Okay, indulge me one more time:
Mineau from Massachusetts Family Institute said Romney and his staff were helpful on issues related to life and marriage while he was governor. While some critics say Romney could have done more to block gay marriage in the state, Mineau says: “Nobody did more to fight same-sex marriage than Gov. Romney.” (A group of eight Massachusetts social conservatives signed a letter supporting Romney’s record in 2007.)
That letter, of course, was released by EFM.
In Massachusetts and many states, it seems to me the political class boils down into three groups: the establishment, the leaders, and the screamers. The establishment is generally the folks who like the prevailing dynamic of more government and less morality. The leaders are the folks who take intelligent steps to reverse that prevailing dynamic. And the screamers are the ones who loudly proclaim that nothing is acceptable except a total rout of the establishment, even if that’s completely impossible.
The people quoted here by WORLD are the leaders, the ones who understand that you use the political process our Founders gave us to get done as much as you can, whereas the folks the New York Times and others like to amplify are the screamers, the ones who think Gov. Romney should have simply refused to enforce court rulings he didn’t like on things like marriage and abortion. In my experience, the establishment and the screamers generally raise a fair amount of money and cause a lot of trouble, but leaders are the ones who get the most good things done. Gov. Romney’s friends back home are the leaders–and the screamers hate him–because he is a leader himself.