Nothing like a general election to give people a bad case of amnesia.
A few months ago conservatives were bashing Mitt Romney with such vigor they made a Mongol invasion look genteel. To Deroy Murdock of National Review, "Willard Mitt Romney's latest flip flop" reminded him of Andy Warhol's quip: "That's not fake. It's real plastic." Compared to Romney, Murdock wrote, "I have seen mannequins in less empty suits." Mona Charen, another National Review regular, spoke on behalf of all right-thinking people when she said positions such as Romney's "make our hearts sink." Victor Davis Hanson, also of National Review, termed Romney the "castor oil candidate."
At TownHall.com – a clearinghouse of conservative opinion – Ben Shapiro compared Romney to Harold Hill, the "big city con man" of musical fame: "Romney has somehow suckered much of the conservative world into believing that he is a solid fiscal, social and foreign policy conservative" when, in reality, Romney is an "all out liberal." Romney is "about as strong a social conservative," he went on, "as RuPaul" – the country's most famous drag queen.
On the same site, you could read "The Conservative Case Against Mitt Romney," which argued that the Mittster "is a deeply flawed candidate. . . . this IS NOT someone conservatives should want" as their nominee. "You can't fall in love with a weathervane," agreed John Hawkins of Right Wing News, who offered "7 Reasons Why Mitt Romney's Electability Is a Myth." "Romney is not a conservative," declared Rush Limbaugh. "He's not, folks."
What a difference a nomination makes.
Limbaugh recently confessed Romney is still not his idea of an ideal nominee. But that hasn't stopped him from sticking up for the GOP's standard-bearer. For example, he says Romney's speech to the NAACP left the listeners unimpressed because it was "over these people's heads."
Other conservatives have fallen in line, too. As Romney was wrapping up the Republican nomination, The Washington Post helped solidify Republican support by running a hit piece about Romney's youth. "New 'Scandal': Romney Pulled Pranks, Bullied Someone in High School," scoffed Guy Benson on TownHall.com – along with just about every other card-carrying conservative in the country.
Some conservatives have gushed so effusively about the candidate they make North Korea's news agency sound like a model of restraint. Romney's views on immigration are "wildly popular with Americans," according to Ann Coulter. "In his passionate affirmation of the American can-do spirit," ran a piece last week on TownHall, "Governor Romney is a man who has found his moment." The noble greatness of our heroic champion inspires tears of boundless joy in all the people.
Romney is "all about winning the future," according to Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review. Just "take a look at his successful business decisions, his 'turnaround' of the scandal-crippled Olympics, or his time in Massachusetts." His undying feats will live on in our hearts forever.
Some of this is to be expected. Politics is a team sport, and cheerleaders are supposed to root for their team regardless of the starting lineup. Still, politics also is supposed to have some meaning beyond merely racking up wins – and the sudden, marked shift in tone on the right has about it a certain whiff of "We've always been at war with Eastasia," no?
True, not all conservatives are writing mash notes to Mitt. The rest of them are dashing off screeds denouncing the perfidy of Barack Obama or defending Romney from the "demonic" left ("Romney Fights Back" – Victor Davis Hanson, National Review; "Target: Ann Romney" – ibid). Likewise, those liberals who aren't busy glorifying the record of their own Dear Leader are obsessing about what's hidden in Romney's tax returns.
Visit any political website these days, and you'll find a cornucopia of news and commentary aimed at exposing just how terrible Those People are. As Jonas Kaplan, a professor of political psychology, puts it: "In the political process, people come to decisions early on and then spend the rest of the time making themselves feel good about their decision."
Conservatives aren't going to vote for Obama. Therefore they have to vote for Romney. Ergo, they need to find a reason to. That isn't easy. And it's especially hard because it requires them to do the one thing they most revile Romney for: change positions for the sake of political expedience.
"Willard Mitt Romney" is making flip-floppers of them all.