Romney in ’16? Republicans Have No Good Ideas

Mitt Romney - NopeRamesh Ponnuru is one of the best conservative writers around. He beats Josh Barro because (1) Ponnuru is an actual conservative and (2) he is, frankly, a better writer (but let’s give Barro a few years; he’s still young). That doesn’t mean I agree with him much. He is very conservative. But unlike most conservative writers, I believe that he is serious in thinking that conservative policy really is good for everyone and not just his class. As a result of this, I was not surprised when yesterday he wrote, Romney? Again? Please Stop.

His main argument for not bringing back Romney is that the Republican Party really needs a candidate who doesn’t so clearly despise the middle class. According to Ponnuru, especially given that the Democrats are likely to offer a candidate with a very long resume, the Republicans should offer a contrast. “That argues for a candidate who offers fresh ideas and a chance for the public to turn the page.” I agree: that would be a good thing to do. But who might that candidate be?

Today, another Reformish Republican, Reihan Salam was out with an article, Romney 2016! When Ryan Cooper put together his ratings of the conservative reformers, Reihan Salam scored almost as high as Ramesh Ponnuru. And his great idea as a reformer: Mitt Romney.

His argument is shockingly bad, but telling. First, he mentioned the preposterous contention made by Tagg Romney that his dad only ran in 2012 because there were no good candidates. Yeah right: it was altruism that caused Mitt Romney to run for president in 2012. Salam took this at face value and then argued that the Republican field is going to be bad in 2016 too. Hence: Mitt Romney needs to save his party again! (For an alternate theory, see Charlie Pierce, The Return Of The Speechwriter.)

As ridiculous as this notion is, there is something to it. I think it is that Salam knows that regardless of what happens, the Republican primary voters are not going to let anyone more reasonable than Romney get the nomination in 2016. And I think he’s right. That brings us back to Ponnuru’s idea of the Republicans running “a candidate who offers fresh ideas.” Even if the Republican Party had such a candidate (and they don’t), he would never get the nomination.

I think the Republican Party should go all in for 2016. It looks like the economy will hold and Hillary Clinton will get the Democratic nomination. If that’s the case, the Republican Party is sure to lose the general election that year. If I were part of the Republican establishment (and both Ronnuru and Salam are), I would recommend going with a firebrand like Ted Cruz. That way, the base could get their primary delusion out of their system. There wouldn’t be more rationalizations, “If we’d run a real conservative he’d have won!”

Salam made a shockingly bad comparison between Romney in 2016 and Reagan in 1980. If Ted Cruz lost badly in 2016, then that might open up 2020 for Romney. Maybe the appropriate comparison is between Romney in 2020 and Nixon in 1968. G Gordon Liddy is still kicking; maybe he could help Romney with that. Now he might offer some fresh ideas!

H/T: Ed Kilgore

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Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

8 thoughts on “Romney in ’16? Republicans Have No Good Ideas

  1. Salam took this at face value and then argued that the Republican field is going to be bad in 2016 too. Hence: Mitt Romney needs to save his party again!

    By this argument, Romney would probably have to run in every Presidential election for the rest of his life.

    Actually Romney would be the conservative choice in one rather ironic sense — he would save the Democratic party a lot of money. Instead of doing research on a new opponent, we could just use what we already have. Bain Capital, the 47% speech, the dog on the car roof, etc., etc., etc. — it would all work just as well in 2016.

    the base could get their primary delusion out of their system. There wouldn’t be more rationalizations, “If we’d run a real conservative he’d have won!”

    I’m afraid I doubt that. When crazies have gotten nominated for Senate seats or Governorships and gone on to lose in the general, the teabaggers just bleat that the party establishment didn’t give them enough support. The same would undoubtedly happen if a Cruz/Palin ticket got buried by Hillary.

    • There is another dodge that I thought they might use: not pure enough. The Republican base has reached that point where conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed. So they might find reasons to argue that Ted Cruz is not a real conservative. But what I’m looking at is Goldwater. I don’t think that necessarily stopped the crazies from being crazy. But it so disillusioned them that the more reasonable people in the party were able to take control–at least until 1980. But it is very possible in the age of Fox News and Michael Savage that it wouldn’t matter.

        • I don’t think we disagree. In the early 1960s, the John Birch Society was marginalized largely by Buckley and that group even before Goldwater. This time, the conservative establishment reacted to pretty much the same nonsense (Including Fluoridation!) by attacking the rhetoric, but accepting the substance. And with Fox News and so on, I think you are right that nothing is going to stop them except time and continued defeat.

  2. Well, that’s more Reformish Republicans than I’ve read in, since, ever. I’m learning things!

    That was an ass column by Salam, with a few jokes that pretty much anybody could have jazzed up. And colossal blindness to how most Americans saw Romney. A “likable nerd?” Uh-uh. They saw Romney the high-school bully, Romney the guy who strapped his dog to his car, Romney the politician who wanted 47% of voters to eat turds and die. Salam also goes on about messy divorces; Reagan had, like, eighty messy divorces. Nobody cares.

    Rick Perry would have worked, until everyone discovered he’s actually too dumb to grasp the guiding principles of doorknobs. (Perry made me respect “W” a little more — evil, yes, dumb, yes, but not Perry dumb.) It seems like there are two types of Repub Presidential Material — semi-smart guys like Romney/Ryan/Jindal with the charm of maniacal Bond villains, and personable oafs like Perry/Cruz with the brains of flagellum.

    I’d run one of the semi-smart ones and just lie, lie, lie about his record. Romney was cruising for a bruising until the last, post-47% debate, where his handlers decided the jig was up and told him to counter every attack by lying constantly. Before that, he seemed uncomfortable explaining to the public that he didn’t loathe and despise them all, because he loathed and despised them all. It was hard on him, as I imagine it would be. In that debate, he was loosed from the surly bonds of trying to defend his record and policies. He grinned mightily and balls-out lied, and you could tell he enjoyed it. Obama, prepped to attack Romney’s record, resembled a computer Kirk outwits on “Star Trek.” “Your statements are dishonest and illogical.” “YOU’RE ILLOGICAL!” “Does not compute . . . does not compute . . . error . . . error!”

    Note that after this debate, the media didn’t observe how Romney lied like his holy undergarment was on fire. They just commented on Romney seeming confident and Presidential, while Obama seemed outgunned. (Was he feeling ill? A touch of the vapors?)

    Would that work for an entire primary season and election campaign? I suspect it would, if the candidate and his people worked hard at charming the press. (Hillary is noted for her tendency to treat the press with something somewhat less than glowing affection.) Yeah, you’d have fact-checking sidebars on page 14A saying “his statement about Solving Racism With Opportunity varies slightly from his record of Chewing On The Soft Unformed Skulls Of Black Infants” but nobody pays attention to those things.

    It has to be a semi-smart one because the money people are not going to anoint a Perry who might come out tomorrow and say “well, sure, I fuck armadillos? What of it?” And the money people, not the base, decide who the nominee is going to be. The primaries are theater. Romney got the money, Romney got the nomination. The money people may think pleasing the base is important, because the money people aren’t necessarily bright, but all you have to do is get the OK from the leading fundamentalist preachers; they’ll turn out the vote. They’re good at that. (They didn’t love Romney, because Mormon, but they did their part; they focused on demonizing Obama, which was their way of playing along without risking political capital by loving a Mormon.)

    Maybe that’s the real war-within-the-party. Dumb money people who think you need a Dedicated True Believer to win the base (you don’t, you need money) and smart money people who actually want to win. To win, you need to lie, you need to charm the press, and you need to be vaguely good-looking (sorry, Christie!) Charm is the key. When opponents and reporters called Reagan and “W” on their bullhonky, Reagan and “W” doubled down on lying with smiles and folksy anecdotes. This never fails. The dumb money people seem to want someone who flatters their ego by exalting far-right principles; no. Get a charming liar who runs on nothing, and will enact far-right policies. This isn’t rocket science!

    • On the Rick Perry issue, I think we should be clear: it wasn’t his stupidity that lost him the nomination; it was his humanity. I was watching the debate when he said that not sympathizing with undocumented children meant, “You don’t have a heart.” I couldn’t believe that. I knew his campaign was over then. The Republicans will accept any level of stupidity, but they won’t accept any level of humanity. Now Perry has made up for that, so he might have a chance.

      I think the problem with the fact checking is not that it doesn’t get much coverage. It is this bizarre theory that fact checkers can only be effective if they are unbiased. And they can only be unbiased by always finding three things the Republican lied about three things the Democrat lied about. So they are useless. See PolitiFact. Or maybe that should be, Politi-“Fact.”

      That would make a great bumper sticker, “Rick Perry 2016: I fuck armadillos!” You might be right about the dumb-money and smart-money people. The truth is, however, that Perry could finance his entire primary campaign with a single donor. That’s one of the big problems with wealth inequality in this country. A hundred rich people deciding who is president is terrible. But one rich person deciding is far worse.

      • I assumed the money boys deep-sixed Perry because he was so colossally dumb. You’re probably right, though; it was probably because he showed some sliver of a soul. These money people want to be utter assholes and, still, be loved for it. (If Rand was serious about believing that people should be independent islands, why did she write books and form a mini-cult? She wasn’t serious. She wanted approval from others, like all of us do. She just wanted approval from others while claiming that approval of the Wrong Others is garbage. OK. Ayn, you’ve contributed to the legacy of vast recorded opinion. Now please stay away from me at the checkout line in the grocery store, because you would cheat and get in line first, because you’re a psycho.)

        Inequality isn’t bad if the ceiling is low and the floor is high. You do have to pay sewage workers quite a bit to be sewage workers, rather more than you pay bankers to be in by 3, loan at 4, and go golfing when Mr. Clock hits 5. (If only banking still was that boring!)

        To some degree, in a better world, we need inequality. You do really have to pay sewage workers more, since that is an unpleasant job (albeit probably kind of interesting.) Some people with a desire to buy extravagant things like snowmobiles would choose to be sewage workers, because it pays more and they want to have snowmobiles. (Also, because being a sewage worker would be kinda interesting.) The rest of us would do less difficult jobs, like banking, because we are lazy, and don’t want to buy snowmobiles.

        Incidentally, I don’t get snowmobiles. The sole virtue of snow, to me, is how it dampens noise; suddenly everything gets quieter. Why fuck that up with an engine? Because some people want to, and that’s fine. We just should be paying sewage workers who want snowmobiles more than financial workers who want snowmobiles.

        • I think that the big money is fine with an idiot in the White House. It just makes him easier to control. Have you seen Silver City? If not, you really need to. In addition to being an attack on Bush the Lesser, it’s really quite a good film with a clever plot.

          I think the only reason sewage workers make a decent living (assuming they still do) is because they still have their union. My experience in the work world is that the less they pay you the poorer they treat you. You would think that if a company paid you minimum wage, it wouldn’t expect much. But it is just the opposite. If you are working for minimum wage, your boss will act like you are taking food right out of his kids’ mouths.

          I don’t get cars, so I’m totally with you on snowmobiles. I don’t like noise. Of course, I also don’t like snow. Growing up in California, my only experience of it was on television. It seemed so soft and pleasant. People also made up pleasant sounding phrases like “blanket of snow” and “powder snow.” Then when I got to experience it, I found that it was primarily just cold. It soon turned to ice. And before that, it was terrible to walk in. But even if I hadn’t already hated snowmobiles, I would hate them now because I associate them with Sarah Palin.

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