Saturday, June 04, 2011

Mitt Romney calls for action on global warming, further disqualifying himself from the Republican presidential nomination

Why won't Mitt Romney win the Republican presidential nomination? Oh, where to begin?

A lot of it has to do with his lack of credibility with conservatives. They just don't think he's one of them, and he isn't. He's conservative, but in a 1990s sort of way, or at least in a pre-2008 sort of way.

And then there's his Obamacare-like health-care reform in Massachusetts. That alone disqualifies him, but in broader terms he's simply behind the Republican times. What was right-wing ideological orthodoxy just a few years ago is now heresy. His health-care reform in Massachusetts was once acceptable, and not so long ago, as a market-based alternative to, say, a single-payer system.

Now? Yeah, not so much.

While it's Romney who is accused of opportunistically flip-flopping in order to pander to the right -- and he certainly has done that, to some degree -- it's the Republican Party (and conservative orthodoxy more broadly) that has changed, moving further and further to the right and becoming more and more extreme, shedding what was once mainstream and acceptable.

And Romney, well, he just can't keep up.

But maybe he doesn't want to. Maybe he realizes that it just won't work. Maybe he now thinks that the only way he'll win the nomination, as remote as that seems, is to make a point of distinguishing himself as the only relatively sane candidate in a field of rampant insanity. He'll never be forgiven for supporting health-care reform, nor for supporting Obama's economic stimulus, nor for so much else that mars his record in the eyes of the right.

Or maybe he's just caught between his real views and the need to embrace the views of the far right if he is to get anywhere in today's GOP. Or maybe he's trying to say different things to different people, hoping no one will notice the inconsistencies.

Whatever the case, it's unclear how this helps his chances:

"I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that," he told a crowd of about 200 at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney broke with Republican orthodoxy on Friday by saying he believes that humans are responsible, at least to some extent, for climate change.

"It's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors."

This would have been fine just a few years ago, when relatively sensible Republicans like John McCain and Lindsey Graham were advocating action to combat climate change (and even supporting cap and trade, a market-based approach that was widely popular among conservatives as an alternative to, say, a carbon tax, but it's reached a point now where even acknowledging the reality of climate change is a no-go for Republicans. Recognizing the new orthodoxy, Tim Pawlenty has even apologized for making a "mistake" on climate change. He once thought it was real and that something needed to be done about it. Now he's a denialist, or so we are led to believe, because anything else is heresy.

There's a group of relatively sane (and relatively moderate) Republicans who are just too old-school to win in 2012 (which is no doubt partly why most of them are staying away), with the party where it is and where it will be for the forseeable future: Romney, Jon Huntsman, Mitch Daniels, Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, and Jeb Bush, to name some of the more prominent.

Romney is the leader of this group at the moment, the only one to put himself out there, the frontrunner in a terribly weak field. He could beat Pawlenty (if Pawlenty fails to catch on with the right), but if Sarah Palin gets in the race (however unlikely), or Michele Bachmann, or Paul Ryan, he's in trouble. He's got way too much baggage and is way too much of a heretic on any number of issues. 2012 will be a litmus-test election for Republicans, and Romney, in that regard (if to his credit), is an utter failure. He has his supporters, of course, particularly with the business class and the old-school establishment, but Republicans will do what they have to do to defeat him. As Jon Chait explains:

Romney is evidence that Obama's policies -- on economic stimulus, health care, the auto bailout, and pretty much everything -- are anything but the extreme socialism they now portray them as. His nomination would undercut their claims daily, and demonstrate it is the GOP, not Obama, that is proposing a radical new direction for the country. That's why they can't nominate him. Now, Republicans don't process the thought that way. In their minds, Obama's policies are truly radical, and their party somehow failed to grasp this radicalism until Obama took office. But that is the dynamic at work.

Which is yet another reason why he won't get the nomination. Whether he likes it or not, he exposes the Republican Party for what it is, or rather for what it has become. He's not just too "moderate" for conservatives, for the new conservative orthodoxy, he's everything the GOP used to be but has now rejected.

Actually, he's a lot like Obama, or at least used to be, and it would be awfully hard for Republicans to keep up their insane assault on Obama, their ridiculous claim that Obama is a dangerous anti-American radical, with Romney and his record proving that Obama is nothing of the kind.

Progressives are right to criticize the president for being a Republican-friendly centrist, but one of the consequences of Obama's embrace of the center is that Republicans have had to move ever further to the right to differentiate themselves from him. They were moving that way anyway, to be sure, but he has made it even more difficult for them to embrace anything of their old-school, pre-2008 past. And that includes Mitt Romney.


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  • I think you've nailed it. Romney's smart enough to know he'll never be able to compete with Palin or Bachmann or someone like them for the Nutty vote. His only hope is that the Sane faction prevails, perhaps with the help of party leaders who panic at the possibility of a Nutty nominee, so he's staking his run on that.

    As for global warming, I've long believed that this is a trap the right wing has set for itself -- in a few years the signs of changing climate will be undeniable, even by the kinds of idiots that make up the Republican base now, and the right is so firmly identified with denialism that they'll be discredited. Based on the recent plague of tornadoes, that time may be coming sooner than expected.

    By Blogger Infidel753, at 1:57 PM  

  • Thanks, Infidel.

    And the signs of GW are already there. They're all around us. And it's only going to get worse.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 4:02 PM  

  • It's certainly courageous for Romney to be talking about global warming at at time when he's trying to reinforce his conservative bonafides and appeal to GOP primary voters.

    But it's not going to work.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 4:13 PM  

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