GOP Disillusionment Is a Good Thing

On the off chance that Mitt Romney prevails, the public will expect very little.

"Every hero becomes a bore at last," wrote Emerson. It is Mitt Romney's bad luck that he has taxed the patience of the GOP without the pleasure of passing through the hero stage first. He has risen to the top like Budweiser—everyone's second choice, who becomes No. 1 by default because your first choice isn't available.

Republicans would prefer stronger stuff. But Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie aren't running, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry flamed out, and Ronald Reagan is still dead. So GOP voters are holding their noses and going with Romney, for the funniest of reasons: They think he has the best chance of beating President Barack Obama. Follow the logic: Democratic voters will renounce Obama to cast ballots for someone Republicans can just barely stand to vote for themselves? Seems iffy.

On the other hand, what other choice do Republicans have? The three remaining contenders are Newt Gingrich (an egomaniac), Rick Santorum (a monomaniac), and Ron Paul (a plain old maniac, from the conservative perspective).

Faced with this situation, some are making the best of it. Ann Coulter has gone out for Romney as she goes in for every issue, with guns blazing. William McGurn of The Wall Street Journal quotes news clips from 1980, predicting that Jimmy Carter would beat Reagan in a rout. Rush Limbaugh says the conservative alternative to Romney might be … Romney. Good cheerleaders root for the team even when it's hopeless.

But the fans in the bleachers—the GOP rank and file—clearly wish they had a better quarterback. And for those who view politics as a team sport, which is a lot of folks, that's perfectly understandable. Beating the other guys is the name of the game.

To grind the analogy into the dirt some more, right now Republicans are still picking their team roster. But wait until it's settled and the general election commences. Many of those who can't think of anything good to say about Romney, other than that he is not Obama, will soon find that is all the reason they need to say all manner of wonderful things about the Republican nominee come fall.

Still, being disillusioned about a candidate before you vote for him beats being disillusioned about him afterward. The latter, alas, is the more general rule. Just look at Obama: During the 2008 campaign he railed against the excesses of the war on terror—Guantanamo, indefinite detention, warrantless wiretapping, military commissions, the Patriot Act. Then he embraced every single one of them. Occasionally you run across a Democrat who stills tries to sell you on the idea that the president can raise the dead and turn water into wine. The vast majority, however, are long past the Obamagasms of 2008.

Democrats certainly aren't unique. When George W. Bush accepted the GOP nomination for president, he told a cheering Republican convention that "big government is not the answer." Then he launched two wars and hiked federal spending 55 percent. While he was in office many Republicans defined "conservatism" as "anything Bush said or did" and "liberalism" as "any criticism of the president." Once he left Washington, though, many of them—particularly in the tea party movement—acknowledged that while his administration was many things, minimalist it emphatically was not.

Bill Clinton promised the most ethical administration in history. He ended up producing one of the most embarrassing. (It's interesting—and too little noted—that so far the Obama administration has produced not one scandal worthy of the name. Operation Fast and Furious and Solyndra don't count— they're the result of bad policy, not a lack of integrity.)

Presidents always disappoint. It's partly their fault, since they routinely overpromise. But that's not the real problem. The real problem is that so many Americans believe the promises, time after time. Like Charlie Brown, they think this time Lucy really won't yank the football away at the last second.

Americans are fooled again and again because they have an inflated sense of what government can do for them, and what government should do for them, which unfortunately diminishes their sense of what they can do for themselves. And politicians encourage this—witness Gingrich's laughable promise to wrestle gasoline prices back to $2.50 a gallon, for example, or Obama's boast (on winning the Democratic nomination in 2008) that "this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." Having promised to work miracles, politicians then set out to deliver them. More often than not they create an unholy mess in the process.

It's actually a good thing that Republicans don't view Romney as a man on a white horse with a halo and a pair of wings. On the off chance that he prevails, the public will expect very little. And that's probably what it will get—whether Romney wins or not.

A. Barton Hinkle is a columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, where this column originally appeared. 

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  • ||

    !

  • Phil||

    Any piece that begins with a quote from that Goddamned old bore Ralph Waldo is off to a bad start...

  • shrike||

    There is nothing else like a Romney article to silence H&R.

  • The Pointer-Outer||

    Why? Should we be praising Romney? What's the point of this post, shrike?

  • Socialistic Individual Sparky||

    Come on, there's a dead black kid and a meeting at the Supreme Court. Nobody cares about Romney right now.

  • PHAT INDIAN||

    Even if there wasn't either of these things no one would care about Romney.

  • ||

    I would love some nice pleasant nothingness from our Federal Government for a while.

    Romney doesn't seem like the unnecessary war starting type. He's pro-business so hopefully he would get the regulatory apparatus under control.

    And, if Republicans can take full control of Congress, I assume he'll sign any decent budget and tax reform they put in front of him.

    I'm not a big Romney fan, but hell yeah he's better than the alternative.

  • Apatheist ಠ_ರೃ||

    Pro-business =/= pro-free market. Plus that's a lot of ifs you got there, the biggest laugher being the proposition that a Republican Congress will pass anything close to a "decent" budget.

  • MattyP||

    Damn, you beat me to the "Pro-business is not pro-Market" line.

    And here I was thinking I was clever :-P

  • 16th amendment||

    The best we can hope for is the semi-socialist Paul Ryan budget.

  • Tony||

    But if government does nothing, it's still doing something.

  • thirtyandseven||

    I mostly agree, but I think the jury is still out on whether he is pro-business or pro-the-right-businesses. IN other words, will he cut regulation and taxes across the board, or will he give targeted tax breaks to favored industries?

    I'm hoping it's the former, but I'm not holding my breath.

  • thirtyandseven||

    Maybe I should refresh more often so I could see my point was already made twice.

    lol

  • ||

    I mostly agree, but I think the jury is still out on whether he is pro-business or pro-the-right-businesses.

    I don't think there's much question about that. Why would anyone think he's pro-business/market in some kind of principled way? He's a status quo guy, and the status quo is pro-the-right-business.

  • thirtyandseven||

    Well for one thing, I have to try to convince myself of it so I can pretend there is hope for the Republic yet.

    Also, and secondarily, it seems to me his record shows him valiantly and hopelessly trying to steer Marxachusetts away from the ledge to the greatest extent one can, being that it is Marxachusetts and all. I think the conventional wisdom about him being a "liberal" governor, while maybe accurate in some ways, greatly underestimates the degree to which the Massachusetts public is dead set on their own fiscal ruin. There's only so much one can do for a state intent on becoming a third world country stat.

  • MattyP||

    He's a pro-Business (which, I cannot stress enough, does not mean pro-Market) guy with a deep, loving relationship with Wall Street. If you loved TARP, you'll just love the corporate welfare this guy can cook up!

  • ||

    Can't stand Romney or the GOP. They just keep doing the same thing over and over. Had to leave the GOP this year and join the Libertarian party. Every hardcore GOPer I meet likes our foreign wars and bases. They seem to think being pro military means being pro war.

  • o3||

    remember tho, peter, that the first mission of the military is deterrence.

    as sun tsu wrote, the best victory is the one you didnt have to fight to win.

  • PHAT INDIAN||

    Triple Anus...we have nuclear weapons. Who is going to attack us? I mean seriously attack us...not 9/11 nonsense!

  • o3||

    nukes made the world safe for conventional war since utter destruction is the alternative.

  • T||

    For the GOP to be disllusioned with Mittens, wouldn't that mean at some point they had illusions about him? From where I'm sitting, the rank and file of the GOP has him pegged. Nobody is enthusiastic about a Mitt nomination.

  • ||

    He was slightly better than McCain 4 years ago. Maybe they were excited when he beat truly awful Democrats in MA.

  • UvalDuvalCuckoo||

    I'll take Mittens over AssJuice or Newt any day of the week.

  • Rockatansky||

    Another article based on the phony premise that mitt is unpopular with republicans. If he's so unpopular then why is he getting the nomination? It's not just electability, he has proven to be a competant and decent man. also, ron paul seems to like him which means a lot to me.

  • ||

    its cuz ron paul empathizes with his on-camera awkwardness.

  • ||

    You can be friends with people that you disagree with. And people with different religions. And people with other outlooks on life. Otherwise, most Libertarians would have no friends.

  • Can Mitt spell||

    "competent"?

  • hopsing||

    I'm not disappointed by Obama since I never expected anything but malfeasance from him.

  • Liberal Griefer||

    Racist!

  • ||

    On the off chance that Romney prevails, writes A. Barton Hinkle, he'll find it impossible to be a bigger disappoinment than Barack Obama.

    Exactly.

    This election isn't about putting Romney in power; it's a referendum on Obama.

    Obama is like a sugary sweet candy that you crave when you're a kid, it but makes you sick to even think about it once you get older.

    That's right. Obama's a friggin' SweeTart.

  • ||

    He's a fucking Jolly Rancher.

  • ||

    He's a cocksucking motherfucking Now & Later! Just try to get one of those down!

  • ||

    "Operation Fast and Furious and Solyndra don't count— they're the result of bad policy, not a lack of integrity."

    Fucking WHAT!?!

    Seriously?

    Selling guns to Mexican cartels and getting a border patrol agent killed so that you can gin up support for a re-enstatement of the assault weapons ban you championed in the 90's (yes, we're talking about Eric Holder) is not a lack of integrity?

    That's saying nothing of the insider enrichment involved with Solyndra and a half dozen other now-bankrupt energy companies.

    What game are you watching? Because it obviously isn't this one!

  • shrike||

    Are you thinking what we're thinking?

  • wen||

    I'll say it again... only the GOP must be destroyed.

  • Mr. FIFY||

  • wen||

    Vote for the fascists! It's important!

  • ||

    What liberals don't get is their policies of regulation and taxes send manufacturers elsewhere. Then the idiots blame evil republicans.

    Romney understands what is needed to get the economy moving and Obama is a complete fool.

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