Political Hay

The Last Republican?

Friedrich Nietzsche was right about Mitt Romney.

By 2.3.12

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The earth has become small, and on it hops the Last Man, who makes everything small. His species is ineradicable as the flea; the Last Man lives longest.
-- Nietzsche

So it seems it will be Mitt. And good thing he won't be offering his main rival the second spot on the ticket. "Mitt & Newt" sounds like the name of a comedy act or a network sitcom. Not right for something epic or tragic. Which is to say… not right for the times. Not even close.

When you think about this election -- and you must, there is no escaping it -- you wonder if it is not just the same old, same old. Is this just another "most important election of our lifetimes," or something, actually, a little more important than that? Is it business as usual or are we entering a pre-revolutionary phase of history when, soon, nothing will be the same again?

Who knows? But to ask the question is to point out how unfit Mr. Romney may be to lead during these times.

To begin with, he has never given any indication that he even understands, or appreciates, the mood of these days. You can listen to Mr. Romney debate or speak for hours (some have, poor souls) and never get the feeling that he senses the fear, the uncertainty, and the outright dread that is loose in the land. People, millions of them, are not merely frightened; they are terrified.

Mr. Romney's message of assurance?

"I'll fix things. Trust me, I'm a businessman."

An example of Mitts's insouciance would be that line about how the health care mandate isn't something to "get angry about."

Nah. Geeze, man. Chill.

And on the existential (sorry, only word that will do) choices about just how much government the nation can afford and how much debt it can endure (or visa versa), Romney has never exhibited the slightest sign that he appreciates what a big deal it is. Nothing, he seems to believe, to get your knickers in a twist over. He'll fix it. He's a businessman.

Mr. Romney has captured the Republican flag and will carry it into battle this Fall. If he loses, those people who believed devoutly that the times require something more than a standard-issue Republican for whom all things political are negotiable and to whom there is no dispute that cannot be settled by compromise … those people will be saying, "Never again."

They will have seen it before and one suspects they will be finished with a party that repeatedly sends out for slaughter candidates who do not represent their beliefs, positions, and ideas with conviction. If it is about common ground and compromise, they will say, then the hell with it and leave the Republican Party to people who consider it a boast to say, "I could work with Teddy Kennedy."

If, on the other hand, Mr. Romney wins, what then? Does anyone expect that when he gets to Washington and starts running the government like a business, entitlements will reform themselves, the deficit will shrivel on its own accord, and Leviathan will shrink to a size where it can be domesticated and housebroken? Has Mr. Romney demonstrated, ever, any convictions regarding the proper size and the rightful powers of the government? Does anyone believe he shares the fear millions feel about government power and their angry indignation at its arrogance and overreach? His overriding sentiment about government seems to be that it would be nice if he were in charge of it … so it would be run (all together now) like a business.

In short, does anyone think that Romney will ride into Washington next January determined to tame the town… or die trying?

Mr. Romney's aim will almost surely be to take Washington on its own terms and try to "make it work." Whatever anti-Washington sentiments he might express during the campaign, the odds are they will be discarded and forgotten within weeks of his taking the oath of office in a replay of George H. W. Bush and "read my lips." The people who voted for Romney in the belief that he would take on Washington will be patronizingly told by the political class that "Governing is not the same as campaigning."

"No stuff, Sherlock," the betrayed will say. "Governing is a lot more important and a lot tougher and the guys like Bush, Dole, McCain, the other Bush and, now, Romney never understood that. It is they who govern as though they were campaigning for the approval of Washington and the political class.

"We never thought that electing them was the whole point and that if, afterwards, you got 'Big Government Conservatism' or 'Compassionate Conservatism,' it was no big deal because, praise Jesus, the Republicans were in charge. We always thought that the governing would be the hard part. Look how tough it was to get rid of ethanol subsidies. It is you who are confused."

The betrayed will leave if Romney makes it his mission to manage his way to a second term. He'll have an easier path, this time, getting the nomination. But he will likely be the last Republican.

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About the Author

Geoffrey Norman is the author of Riding With Jeb Stuart and the editor of Vermonttiger.com.