Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney, Servant of the Radical Right?

|

The liberal line about Mitt Romney these days is that he is a closet radical who has managed to convince people that he's actually a mushy moderate.

At The American Prospect, Jamelle Bouie makes the best possible version of this case: that although Mitt Romney may not be a true-believing radical at his core, he is nonetheless functionally an extreme conservative — not because of some preexisting ideological or policy commitments, but because he is, as the piece's title says, "a servant of the right." Romney, the logic goes, allows his outlook to be shaped by those around him, and will be a conservative radical because he'll be serving conservative radicals.

The problem with this argument is that it requires the existence of a dedicated class of conservative radicals in Congress. And while Republicans on Capitol Hill are certainly more conservative than Bouie would like, I'm not sure they're nearly as radical as he suggests in his piece.

The modern Republican party, Bouie writes, aims to "gut government" and "revive the age of Calvin Coolidge," decimating the welfare state in the process:  

When Romney and Obama cast this election as a choice between two competing visions, they're right. The 2012 campaign isn't a case of overblown rhetoric and minor differences; the winner of this battle will either protect the future American welfare state or set it on a path to destruction.

But today's welfare state owes no small debt to Republican governance and policy ideas: ObamaCare was based closely on an idea developed by conservative think tankers and first passed at the state level by Mitt Romney. Medicare's prescription drug benefit — the biggest single federal health benefit expansion since the program began — was passed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by a Republican President. The Medicare hospital and physician payment controls that liberal health wonks now spend so much time trying to tweak were passed and implemented under GOP administrations. 

Nor is there much evidence that Republicans now aim to set the existing welfare state on a "path to destruction." This year's GOP House budget plan made almost no changes to Social Security. Despite the GOP's objections to the president's health law, reports this week suggest that Republicans legislators are, at minimum, deeply squeamish about repealing many of its policy goodies.

Yes, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's proposed Medicare overhaul would slowly transition the program to a premium support system, but that's an idea originally developed by Henry Aaron, a prominent liberal health wonk. And while it's true that Aaron no longer supports converting Medicare to premium support (at least for now), former Clinton budget director Alice Rivlin and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who for years was one of Congress' most outspoken advocates of universal coverage, have both expressed support for versions of Ryan's plan. Supporting Ryan's Medicare overhaul, in other words, does not require one to be a fire breathing anti-entitlement radical.

As for gutting government, Republican legislators may talk a big game about federal spending, but that doesn't mean they vote accordingly. Even amongst the most recent class of House freshmen — the supposed "Tea Party radicals" swept into office in 2010 — seemingly obvious votes against spending cuts, program closures, and corporate welfare boondoggles are far from sure things. As Cato's Ted DeHaven notes, last week gave House members three opportunities to vote against federal spending. Yet only 26 and 87 House GOP freshman actually voted against spending cuts in all three cases. The freshman radicals are, for all practical purposes, no different from their conventional, free-spending Republican elders. As The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, GOP "freshmen voted with the fiscally conservative point of view an average of 71 percent of the time — only slightly higher than other incumbent Republicans, who toed the line 69 percent of the time." When it comes to the practical reality of federal spending, the GOP hasn't changed all that much. 

Like Bouie, I don't believe that Romney is someone with strong personal ideological convictions. As I argued in my March cover story on the former Massachusetts governor , Romney is best viewed as a sort of consultant candidate: Rather than lead on policies and issues, he reflects a slicker version his clients back to themselves. But I see little sustained evidence that the Republican party is quite as radical as Bouie seems to think.

What's more, I suspect that as the campaign continues, Romney will soften his positions even further, subtly shifting toward the center. During the primary, the GOP base was his only client, and he courted them by playing to their biases. But the party faithful won't always dominate Romney's campaign. As the general election approaches, Romney's potential client base will expand and moderate. And if history is any indication, so will Romney's rhetoric and policy positions. 

NEXT: Judge Won't Open the Water Tap in Tombstone's Battle With the Feds

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The port side can convince itself of absolutely anything these days.

  2. I remember that one of the passcodes to that TMNT game (which I discovered by accident) was just 11111111111.

    1. April O’Neil is hot.

      1. Also, it taught me that the way to recover from ninjas was to find an abandoned pizza in the sewer and eat it.

  3. The modern Republican party, Bouie writes, aims to “gut government” and “revive the age of Calvin Coolidge,” decimating the welfare state in the process:

    I wish I could vote for those left-wing fantasy Republicans.

    1. No shit, me too.

  4. Other than Jim Crow and Prohibition (both Democrat policies) the age of Calvin Coolidge was pretty good, no?

    1. But back then people were poor. They’re not now, right? RIGHT?

  5. What the hell else is new. The republicans could nominate Saul Alinsky’s ghost for the presidency, and the vermin would call it a radical right wing apparition.

    1. Alinsky does bear a strong resemblance to an undigested bit of potatoe.

      1. Well played Christmas Carol reference.

      2. I always suspected you were former Vice President Dan Quayle.

  6. first passed at the state level by Mitt Romney

    I didn’t know Romney and the Massachusetts legislature were one and the same.

    1. Your Romney defense is desperately weak if you have to resort to semantic differences like “passed” and “signed”.

      1. This isn’t Romney defense, it’s poking at intentionally sloppy writing on the part of Mr Suderman. He wants you to draw the conclusion that Romney was a one-man health care socializing force.

    2. Romney didn’t just sign RomneyCare. He developed the plan in conjunction with Ted Kennedy and the state legislature, and brags about having done so.

      1. It appears that Romney’s campaign strategy was to outspend and go extremely negative on all of his Republican challengers and President Obama in order to overcome the distrust the Republican base had about his conservative bona fides.

        Then, in the general election, he would just allow his former self to emerge, thereby not scaring independents. His intention is to use the economy to bash Obama and somehow claim that his business experience would make him a better steward of the economy than Obama has been.

        Apparently, Romney will use his Super PACs to go negative on the President while he does Reagan-like ads about morning in America if he’s elected.

        Obama strategists want to keep tying Romney to the Republican Party that is viewed so unfavorably by the electorate, meanwhile attacking Romney on his jobs-creating credentials. The latter is what Biden is doing. Obama seems to be engaging in the former.

        Most national politicians become corrupt once they step foot in Washington, D.C. They have intentions of doing the right thing, but their overriding desire is to keep their jobs. Therefore, they promise the public whatever will help them keep their jobs, whether that has the remotest chance of being enacted or not.

        1. Whoever this Tyche person is, he/she should comment more often.

          1. Only if he goes back on his meds. The ones that prevent him from imagining Romney’s campaign attacking Gingrich and Santorum.

            1. He said the exact opposite of that…

      2. And John Kerry! Michael Moore! George Soros!

      3. And look who suddenly got all precise in his writing! Now if you’d written that, which apparently was on the tip of your tongue all along, instead of claiming Romney passed the bill, we never would have had to have this conversation.

        1. And look who suddenly is letting slip his partisan mask! Colour me *shocked*! Suderman has been writing this all along, you dope! He simply has been approaching that premise in every avenue possible to leave little doubt that:

          A) Romney is directly responsible for RomneyCare.

          B) Indirectly responsible for legitimizing ObamneyCare and it’s inception.

          C) Has yet to disavow the above two points, and it can be logically deduced he has no interest in either reforming ObamneyCare or outright repeal.

          May I remind you yet again that this conglomerated shitball of legislation effectively commandeers 1/7 of the US economy and makes Kathleen Sebelius a medical demi-goddess. This accomplishes getting medical care, health care, economic health (over an estimated 65-70% of the stupid law deals with taxation mechanisms primarily, not medical care), and social issues all under one convenient umbrella governed by the Executive Branch almost exclusively.

          1. A) Romney is directly responsible for RomneyCare.

            I’ll grant that, but he wasn’t alone and didn’t do it in a vacuum — the legislature was considering more socialist alternatives too.

            B) Indirectly responsible for legitimizing ObamneyCare and it’s inception.

            This has not been demonstrated by Suderman or anyone else. The inspiration for Obamacare has been around for nearly 20 years, and if anything, MassCare provided a cautionary example for how Obamacare would likely fail to fulfill its supposed promise. It certainly didn’t “legitimize” PPACA in the slightest.

            1. MassCare provided a cautionary example for how Obamacare would likely fail to fulfill its supposed promise. It certainly didn’t “legitimize” PPACA in the slightest.

              Horseshit. We didn’t have the piss poor numbers that MassCare is generating at the time and O touted this very plan during the round table discussions. You’re intelligent Tulpa, but it’s maddening that you’re so bucketfuckingly, deliberately obtuse.

              May I also remind you that a one Dr. Donald Berwick and Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel, who had direct hands in crafting both MassCare and OCare, openly endorsed both. MassCare’s skeleton was used to legitimize OCare, and other states that rely on the State Exchange model were used to craft a national model.

            2. the legislature was considering more socialist alternatives too.

              I think this is always important to remember when considering things done by politicians. George Bush gets blamed for Medicare part D but as I understand it, and I certainly could be wrong, they negotiated a less socialist law than a large majority of congressmen were willing to favor.

              Considering the likely very leftist nature of the Massachusetts legislator Romney Care might have been a lesser of two evils…and preferable. Not that the lesser of evils usually means much around here.

              1. If only there was something that an executive could do that might prevent a bill from passing. Like a Veto or something.

                Imagine how they might be able to block or shape bad legislation then…

                what a world that could be…

  7. The welfare state is already on a path to destruction, and the Democrats are the party most heavily invested in making sure nothing changes.

  8. The modern Republican party, Bouie writes, aims to “gut government” and “revive the age of Calvin Coolidge,” decimating the welfare state in the process

    I’m failing to see how it would be a bad thing if these fantasy Republicans managed that.

  9. If only we had the Republican Party Liberals say we have.

  10. The modern Republican party, Bouie writes, aims to “gut government” and “revive the age of Calvin Coolidge,”

    If only!

    1. And since when, btw, is Coolidge a dirty word? Is he the liberal response to attacks on Wilson?

  11. In fairness to liberals, Romney is likely to keep spending growth under 10%, reduce the budget deficit somewhere a little south of a trillion dollars, enact a partial repeal of Obamacare, and only add a volume or two to the CFR. And to liberals that is outright anarchy.

    1. Likely? Maybe 5% likely.

    2. enact a partial repeal of Obamacare

      That’s not going to do shit, John. The most popular aspects of ObamneyCare (the insurance mandates) also happen to be the most expensive, and the most onerous and redundant (the state exchanges) deprive the States of sweet, sweet Fed lucre. And by proxy of this fact, the most difficult to repeal.

      Either gut it all, or don’t bother.

  12. Here’s an example of exactly how much the GOP wants to slash into government.

    The House on Friday ignored a presidential veto threat and passed a $642 billion defense bill that abandons the deficit-cutting agreement that President Obama and congressional Republicans backed last summer.

    On a 299-120 vote, lawmakers backed the spending blueprint that adds $8 billion for the military for next year. The bill calls for a missile defense site on the East Coast that the military opposes and restricts the ability of the president to reduce the arsenal of nuclear weapons under a 2010 treaty with Russia. It also preserves ships and aircraft that the Pentagon wanted to retire in a cost-cutting move.

    Lawmakers also rejected the military’s request for another round of domestic base closings. The White House has threatened a veto, as Republicans made wholesale changes in Obama’s budget proposal.

    1. So if you do not want to cut every area of government, you therefore must not want to cut any area of government. Got it.

      1. Also, there is no reason to honor any previous agreements you may have made.

        1. There is not honor among thieves.

      2. Tell me what Republican politicians are willing to cut.

        Name one thing.

        Just one.

        1. Here you go. Maybe he is lying. But this is what he says.

          http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=viewid=3658

          1. Does “budget cut” mean actually cutting the budget, or lowering the rate of increase?

          2. And if Boehner tries this, Republicans will look as though they are trying to hold the country’s credit rating hostage so Republicans can make a point.

            I don’t trust Republicans as far as I can throw them. They have not proven themselves to be budget cutters when they are in charge. They are desperate to take over again because they want the reins of power. Their only priorities are to give “job creators” tax cuts, allow oil and gas companies to drill everywhere without regard for safety, and start a war with Iran.

            Democratic Party priorities are almost as odious (big government, unions get goodies, etc.), except they seem to care more about the environment and civil liberties.

            1. Not sure why you would say they care about civil liberties. I haven’t seen anything that would lead me to believe so.

              1. The Democrats’ favored tactic of promoting the “rights” of various “groups” – gays, women, immigrants – and their support of abortion rights makes them appear more favorable to civil liberties. But, many did vote in favor of the Patriot Act, kept voting to reauthorize it, and go along with all of the other infringements on civil liberties that supposedly support the War on Terror, which they’ve continued.

                The Republicans, meanwhile, seem opposed to all of those various “group” “rights” plus are heavy-handed on the fighting terror rights-taking.

            2. “Their only priorities are to give “job creators” tax cuts, allow oil and gas companies to drill everywhere without regard for safety, and start a war with Iran.”

              The US has just announced that they have a plan in place to attack Iran. I had no idea Barack jumped to the Republican Party. Does that mean Biden switched parties too?

              1. I’m talking about differences between the parties in emphasis. There’s no question that Republicans, including Romney and people like Lindsay Graham, John McCain, others, have been much more focused on stopping Iran – no matter what – and promoting the idea that Israel’s interests are our interests.

        2. They can’t cut anything without the Senate and Prez cooperating, and if they say out loud what they want to cut the Dems will parade every sob story who will be adversely impacted into congressional hearings.

      3. By that logic John you could call a lot of liberals spending-cutters because they would gladly reduce the military budget.

        If you’re not willing to cut everywhere, you’re a dirt-bag.

        1. So if I’m spending $500 a month on rent and $500 a month at the casino, I have to cut both equally to be considered serious about saving money?

          1. Are you saying defense spending is like rent or like casinos?

            1. It’s more rentish than the EPA, that’s for damn sure.

              1. Bad analogy to begin with. The point is that politically viable cuts need to be balanced (to a degree). Otherwise, it’s just a lot of team posturing.

          2. Go live at the casino. They tend to have rooms.

            1. For free?

              1. Sure, if you spend enough.

          3. If you’re monthly income is $450, I’d say yeah.

      4. If you are unwilling to cut military spending, then you can’t be taken seriously as a budget reducer.

  13. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden

    Didn’t he play bass for the Stones?

    1. Wyden is not undead. But then, he is a member of Congress, so tests thus far have proven inconclusive. It’s unknown if ObamneyCare has mandated coverage of the undead as of yet.

  14. Riggsy and Lucy are going to have to write books, just to keep up.

    1. Oops, wrong thread.

  15. That fudge picture cracks me up every single time. His facial expression is perfect.

    1. Me too, I immediately thought of that “How do I tell my friends what I do for a living?” cartoon, of a guy working in a fudge factory, and he is packing a box of fudge.
      What’s one to think when seeing someone with rubber gloves and fudge?

      1. Hi, I’m Mitt, and I’ll be packing your fudge today!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.