By some sort of cosmic irony, Mitt Romney’s defeat in the presidential election is now being held up as a sign that the ultra-conservatives exercise too much control in the Republican Party. Critics charge that if the Republican Party wants to become political relevant again, it must subdue its more radical elements and start putting forth more moderate candidates. Social issues need to be abandoned in order to attract more women voters, and the Republican line on immigration needs to be reconsidered in order to reach out to Hispanics.
According to this narrative, Republicans nominated Romney as a result of their “devil may care” attitude toward the broader electorate. And while this may or may not have been true in some of the other races around the country, anyone who followed the Republican Primary, however, knows this is patently false. To the contrary, Romney got the nod mostly because Republicans felt that he was their best chance to beat Obama. That assessment might have actually been correct, at least inasmuch as Romney never promised to spend his presidency talking about the dangers of contraception, somehow resisted the urge to talk about his policy toward U-beki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, and because- no matter how much he loves America- that patriotism never lead him to cheat on his wife. Excuse me: cheat on his wives.
So it wasn’t as if Republicans were ignorantly throwing out the most radical candidate imaginable. On the contrary, Republicans nominated the candidate who they didn’t really believe in themselves: is it such a wonder that the rest of America didn’t either? Mitt Romney, the “etch-a-sketch” candidate, was supposed to be the perfect candidate largely based around the fact that he would say anything, be anyone he needed to be in order to become President.
In the end, it was Romney’s lack of conviction, his lack of authenticity that became his defining characteristic. By the end of the primary, rather than an “etch-a-sketch,” Romney became the “color-by-number” candidate: unhesitatingly trying to give conservatives, then Americans, everything they said they wanted. He became the best facsimile conservative around. He knew he couldn’t become “severely conservative” overnight, but he could be something so close that the untrained eye wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
Romney said all the right things, appealed to all the right groups, and looked the part. To give an example that Romney himself is probably fairly familiar with: he aced the job interview. And as any job applicant will tell you: when you apply for a job, you tweak your resume to fit the position you are applying for, and then you tell them what you know they want to hear. Mitt Romney found out all too late that Americans are suspicious of “cookie-cutter” candidates; in that much, at least, the general electorate is wiser than the Republicans gave them credit for.
After all of the talk of the “lesser of two evils” and all of the nose-holding-while-voting, one lesson from this election should be patently clear: the problem is not that Republicans believe too strongly in their own principles. The problem is that Republicans continually vote for the “lesser of two evils” because they don’t actually believe their principles will work in practice.
When I filled out my absentee ballot, I wrote in Ron Paul for President and I caught hell for it from family members who told me I was “throwing away” my vote. What Romney’s failed candidacy shows, however, is that the real ones “throwing away” their votes are the ones who vote for the supposedly “electable” candidate who in the end stands for absolutely nothing.
Because it doesn’t matter how moderate and pragmatic the Republican nominee is- the Left will ultimately paint him as a radical. The solution to the Republican Party’s electoral woes is not to continue moving toward the center until (to paraphrase Mittens) we allow absolutely no daylight between ourselves and the Democrats, but rather to articulate a clear alternative to their policies. Let’s face it: we’ll never out-pander the Left.