Political Hay

Mitt Romney, Conservative Cultural Icon

Precisely because he's not Mr. Cool, the self-regarding incumbent and caudillo wannabe.

By 5.9.12

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Obamunistas are saying that Obama is cool, and Romney is not. But cool to whom? Cool is in the eye of the beholder.

I have to admit that if you are an aging hippie who never grew up, still think that the counterculture of the 1960s was the highwater mark of American civilization, reject America's capitalist economic system as inherently unfair and uncool in the grubby pursuit of profit, see America's historic world-leading prosperity as crass materialism causing global poverty, and regard America's world dominating superpower military as the tool of global imperialism, you would see Obama as very cool for bringing your values into the White House. Ditto that if you are a mental infant throwback stuck in the last century who thinks global socialism and Che T-shirts are cool.

But social and cultural conservatives would have just the opposite view. For them, Romney is the personal embodiment of their values. His personal life is right out of Ozzie and Harriett, Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best. The practical relevance of his Mormonism is that he is personally devoted to these values at his core. The offbeat theology of Mormonism is not at issue because he is not a Mormon theologian.

Moreover, his professional life involves the core of entrepreneurial capitalism. It has been all about the finance of struggling smaller and mid-size companies so they can grow into successful larger, national companies, creating boomlets of real jobs in the real world. Romney's whole business life has been about the capital in capitalism, which means he knows first hand how the system works, and how to fix it. This is why he should personally appeal to the Tea Party as well as to social conservatives.

To the Left, therefore, Romney represents the personification of everything they hate (the precise word for today's Left). A straight-laced Mormon who personally deeply believes and lives out traditional family values who is also personally a successful businessman, himself a card carrying member of the top 1%, from Wall Street to boot.

That frankly makes this election even more high stakes. For Romney is personally carrying the flag for cultural conservatism like no other candidate could. If he wins, he completely shatters left-wing mythology and demonology regarding social conservatism, the top 1%, and Wall Street. This is why social conservatives and Tea Party conservatives should now come together and enthusiastically support Romney.

Add to that the rejection that would involve of the personal embodiment of the Left, Mr. Cool himself, the product of a 1960s hippie and a self-avowed African communist. Indeed, for the Barack Obama/Nancy Pelosi/MSNBC Left to rise to power, and then be repudiated by the voters, would be far more of a defeat for the Left, and victory for conservatism, than if the Left and Barack Obama had never won at all. For their ideas would then have been tried and failed and repudiated by the American people.

How ironic it would be for the anti-Reagan, who did everything just the opposite of Reagan in power, to end just the opposite of Reagan. Instead of reelected in a historic landslide, with his political progeny going on to dominate American politics for nearly 30 years, a generation, he is defeated for re-election, possibly by a landslide, with his party quite possibly routed in Congress, and nationwide. That would quite possibly inaugurate another generation of Reagan conservatism, as the nation goes back to basics with the three Rs, Romney, Rubio and Ryan, restoring the American Dream, traditional American prosperity, and superpower peace through strength.

Given the alternative, Obama's re-election and the continued decline and fall of America into Hugo Chavez style socialism, or worse, in a second Obama term, this election is among the most critical and consequential in American history, rivaling 1860, 1932, and 1980, a true Paul Revere moment for the American people.

A Historic Veep Pick
In this context, Romney's pick for his vice-presidential running mate will be highly revealing as to how he intends to govern, and highly consequential as to whether he can reconstitute the Reagan majority coalition. Romney needs to recognize that the country is so polarized and so ideologically divided that he cannot gain by trying to appeal to liberals and slice off a few votes from the Left. Liberals and the Left are going to vote for Obama in any event. Yes, Romney should try to appeal to votes in the middle, but he also needs to recognize the best kept secret of American politics -- half of independents are independent not because they are in the middle, but because they are to the right of the Republicans. They are independent because they think the Republicans are too liberal, not because they think the Republicans are too conservative. That is why the Reagan coalition could dominate American politics for a generation.

This is why Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is such a unique, historic opportunity for Republicans. He would enable Romney to bring together and maximize the Reagan coalition again of Republicans and independent conservatives because he is such an appealing conservative. But he brings an added ingredient that is so critical to the future of conservatism and the Republican Party -- a powerful, grassroots appeal to the burgeoning Hispanic vote that is not committed to the ideological Left.

The truth is that America's Hispanic population is growing rapidly and will become a bigger and bigger proportion of the electorate in coming decades. Bottom line, there is no meaningful future for conservatives or Republicans without an appeal to the Hispanic vote. Rubio does so well in appealing both to Hispanics and conservatives, including social conservatives and Tea Party conservatives. He consequently presents the embodiment of opportunity to change the future course of American politics for decades.

That change would start this year. In 2008, Obama took the Hispanic vote by 66 percent to 29 percent. But that vote is deeply alienated from Obama now after his miserable first term performance for Hispanics. They have suffered a depression under Obama, with unemployment well into double digits for his entire term. The disaffection is so broad that the latest data shows a net outflow of illegal immigrants from America, as real people vote with their feet to flee Obama's economic oppression.

Imagine the alienation that suggests among the Hispanic population of American citizens that remain here, for surely they are aware of the hardship suffered by their ethnic brethren, if not personally experiencing it themselves. They are already living the nightmare of the American Dream receding before their eyes like the Cheshire Cat. They are ripe and ready for change with the right appeal.

Rubio on the ticket would draw much needed attention as well to Romney's own Hispanic background. While Romney has the demeanor of a WASP, he in fact is not a Protestant, not an Anglo-Saxon, and actually not even white actually but a person of color in fact with his Hispanic heritage back to his family's roots in Mexico.

I predicted in this column the 2010 Tea Party landslide a year and a half before it happened! You can go look that up. I am now predicting a Romney-Rubio ticket would beat Obama by more than 10 points. That is based on the precedent of the Reagan-Carter 1980 race. Obama has been on a worse trajectory than Carter since 2009. Obama's polls versus Romney are already much worse than Carter versus Reagan at this point in 1980. But I picked the actual 1980 election result state by state in the summer of 1980 when the polls had Reagan losing by high double digits. My prediction for this year's race is no longer so far ahead of the curve already. Dick Morris is also predicting a 10 point win for Romney.

But even with 41 percent of the vote going to Obama, which is the same final percentage that Carter got, and what I am predicting for this year, that would still be a sad result for America. That 40 percent of America would vote for such an openly far left extremist as Obama, after a whole term of experience with him, and be fooled by Obama's cheap, transparently false and dishonest, Latin caudillo rhetoric, means we will still be a nation in trouble even after such a sweeping victory by the conservative party. You can take the percentage of the vote going to Obama as a dangerous infection of the body politic by lethal Marxist or at least neo-Marxist antibodies. Can America survive with such a high percentage of the voting public, albeit a distinct minority basically nuts?

But I have to inject at this point an endorsement of Bret Stephens' May 1 Wall Street Journal column on the Veep sweepstakes, "Anyone But Condi." He addresses there the floated name of Condoleezza Rice for Romney's VP. Stephens notes, "A mid-April CNN poll finds that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has unmatched name recognition and a favorable rating of 80% among GOP voters. She's also the person Republicans would most like to see on the ticket."

But Stephens goes on to accurately describe the problem:

Ms. Rice was a bad national security adviser and a bad secretary of state. She was on the wrong side of some of the administration's biggest internal policy fights. She had a tendency to flip-flop when it came to the president's core priorities and her political misjudgment more than once cost Mr. Bush dearly. She was a muddler of differences at the national security council. Her tenure at State was notable mainly for the degree to which the bureaucracy ran her, not the other way around.

Among her blunders was the 2006 Iraq Study Commission which brought Jim Baker back to advocate yet another strategic surrender to the Left; the Bush Administration's strange Jimmy Carter style cave-in to North Korea's nuclear program (lifting key sanctions "in return for exactly nothing"); her mishandling of the notorious 16 words in Bush's 2003 State of the Union, giving life to the narrative that Bush lied about the intelligence; the premature ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon that allowed Hezbollah to declare victory; and opposition to a U.S. attack on the nuclear reactor North Korea had built in Syria, leaving Israel to do the job. In other words, she was at best a confused liberal academic behind the scenes that never got anything right, not a second coming of Jeane Kirkpatrick.

She won't bring any black votes to the ticket, and may alienate the base as the truth comes out enough to boot the whole election. Leave her in the pasture at Stanford.

Is This Cool?
While Romney is quite cool for conservatives, Obama's gross mishandling of the anniversary of the killing of Bin Laden indicates his potential to tarnish his cool even to liberals by Election Day. Obama made the killing of Bin Laden all about Obama in a classless display of uncool, nerd-like misjudgment. We heard all about the great courage showed by Obama from the safety of Washington, D.C., where only his political bacon was at stake, while the killing of Bin Laden was actually due to the great courage showed by the Navy SEALs in their perfect execution of one of the most daring raids in world history, risking their very lives on the ground in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

After rising politically by assailing Bush's intelligence policies in the harshest possible terms as illegal war crimes, he was more than happy to take credit for the results of those policies, which led American intelligence to locate Bin Laden so he could be killed. Never even the slightest tip of the hat from Obama to Bush for his actually more central role in the ultimate killing of Bin Laden.

Also in the May 1 Wall Street Journal, former Attorney General and federal judge Michael Mukasey notes Lincoln's grace right after Robert E. Lee's surrender taking no credit for himself, but noting the bravery of those who risked and lost their lives for their country, then focusing straight away on reconstruction and the civil rights of liberated blacks. He notes Eisenhower's address once the success of the Normandy invasion was established. Again taking no credit for himself for the invasion he led, Eisenhower addressed the troops who had actually risked their lives instead, saying, "One week ago this morning there was established through your coordinated efforts our first foothold in northwestern Europe. High as was my preinvasion confidence in your courage, skill and effectiveness…your accomplishments…have exceeded my brightest hopes." He mentioned himself only to personally congratulate the troops, saying, "I truly congratulate you upon a brilliantly successful beginning…. Liberty loving people everywhere would today like to join me in saying to you I am proud of you."

Mukasey noted as well George Bush's address after the capture of Saddam Hussein, in which Bush again took no credit for himself, but attributed the victory to "the superb work of intelligence analysts who found the dictator's footprints in a vast country. The operation was carried out with skill and precision by a brave fighting force. Our servicemen and women and our coalition allies have faced many dangers…. Their work continues and so do the risks." Bush again only mentioned himself to personally congratulate the those who had actually demonstrated the courage, "Today, on behalf of the nation, I thank the members of our Armed Forces and I congratulate them."

Obama, in sharp contrast, explained the killing of Bin Laden to the nation like this:

I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing of Bin Laden the top priority… even as I continued our broader effort….Then after years of painstaking work by my intelligence community I was briefed…. I met repeatedly with my national security team….And finally last week I determined that I had enough intelligence to take action…. Today at my direction….

Mukasey observed that it was hard to imagine Lincoln or Eisenhower taking credit for the heroic actions of others.

Was Obama's crass obtuseness in this event cool? It took a caller to a Washington radio station to cut to the full truth of the matter: Obama was responsible for the killing of Bin Laden the same way Richard Nixon was responsible for America landing on the moon.

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About the Author
Peter Ferrara is Director of Entitlement and Budget Policy at the Heartland Institute, General Counsel of the American Civil Rights Union, Senior Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, and Senior Policy Advisor on Entitlements and Budget Policy at the National Tax Limitation Foundation. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States under President George H.W. Bush.