Mitt Romney's plastic and philosophically vapid campaign secured an easy victory in Florida on Tuesday night. Sunshine state GOP voters swallowed his "electability" argument whole, according to the exit polls.
It appears that country club Republicans have succeeded again in duping the GOP electorate into crowning a "centrist" Republican. Never mind that "centrist" Republicans rarely win the center. They usually lose the center while sapping the spirit of the party's conservative base.
Out of Bob Dole's and John McCain's tattered Big Tent steps another "reformed" RINO, Mitt Romney, who will receive, should he win the nomination, a similar thumping from the Democrats.
But let's say that he is "electable," for the sake of argument. Who cares? The purpose of politics in a republic is not simply to win but to win on sound principles. A party that pursues victory by scrapping or sidelining its platform will have no truth left with which to govern once it does.
If "electability" is the goal, why don't the politically correct plutocrats of the GOP just call for a one-party state? That way they could win every time.
The "electability" argument is bankrupt on both philosophical and practical grounds. It destroys the party's soul and guarantees defeat.
Even though Romney paid for this Florida win on his debit card -- outspending Newt by millions -- he still couldn't nail down the rank-and-file vote. Seven out of ten self-described conservatives didn't vote for him. This foreshadows the boredom and disgust that will keep conservatives home in the fall.
Visions of a former Paul Tsongas voter and Planned Parenthood supporter won't exactly blast them out of bed in the morning. The confederacy of weasels that is the GOP establishment couldn't even find a moderate with an engaging personality to run. They settled on a robotic bore.
His high-priced strategists -- the ones who bragged to the New York Times about engineering his post-South Carolina comeback -- wind him up and then find photographers to capture him "doing his own laundry," buying a Big Mac, or woodenly tossing bags of potato chips to media jackals on his campaign plane.
This pitifully plastic campaign is what passes for winning politics in the GOP. Newt, Romney supporters crow, is a loser and "embarrassment." But what about their own candidate? Romney's teleprompter-dependent drivel is far more risible than Newt's grandiose opining. Romney comes off as the blinkered technocrat whose idea of wit is to compare his opponent to "Lucille Ball at the chocolate factory." All one can say for Romney is that he looks presidential. If Newt looked like Romney and Mitt looked like an overfed blowhard, Gingrich would be winning.
That Romney is a corny businessman of narrow learning and culture wouldn't be so deadly if he harbored conservative convictions. But he doesn't. He has been taught how to play a semi-conservative Republican on TV, but his deepest instincts remain liberal. Hence, his dogged pride in Romneycare, legislation that Barack Obama himself would have fathered had he governed the Bay State.
What's notable about the rise of Romney is not the extent to which he has pandered to conservatives -- the usual media narrative -- but the ease with which he has left his liberalism open for all to see and still won. In the debates, he has defended statist mandates, extolled gay rights (short of marriage), and waxed nostalgic about FDR's New Deal. Remember his rebuke of Rick Perry for even contemplating a system other than Social Security? Good Republicans, Mitt let Perry know, don't entertain such impure thoughts.
Almost two years after energy from the Tea Party swept Republicans back into congressional power, a politician who embodies the antithesis of that spirit stands on the verge of victory. This is regress, not progress, and the GOP will pay a severe price for the Faustian bargain of "electability" that it entails. A party that chooses power over principle will lose both.
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