Much has been made of Mitt Romney's comments this morning that Republicans should back a minimum wage increase. Here at AmSpec, for example, Ross Kaminsky and Larry Thornberry have expressed their disappointment at Mitt's pandering. I'd like to jump on the pile in asking why we should have expected anything else. Mitt was the governor of a liberal state who developed the prototype for Obamacare. Romneycare should have been enough of a sign that Mitt has a strong progressive streak--and a poor enough understanding of economics--to support a minimum wage.
The real sin, though, is that in making his reckless and economically misguided comments, he has provided ammunition to smug liberals. Pundits, pols, and internet chatterers alike will now be able to keep a straight face when calling Republicans who do not support the wage hike--i.e., those who took Econ 101 in college--backwards. The most recent standard bearer of the GOP is on board with this progressive gem of a policy, after all.
But that's just it. Mitt Romney is a progressive Republican in the mold of Nelson Rockefeller or John Lindsay. I can hardly feign shock when a big government progressive makes a suggestion that is... big government progressive. There has been idle speculation in the media as recently as yesterday of a Romney run in 2016. While this will likely turn out to be false, one can't help but wonder if Romney's comments were an attempt at image rehabilitation. He was tarred as being insensitive to the poor, after all, for making the quite sensible comment that the 47 percent of the voters who don't pay federal income tax are less likely to support Republican candidates.
If Romney is not running for president again, and I assume he is not, it would be nice if he'd shut his mouth and stop sowing the seeds of division within the GOP. Hamilton warned in the Federalist Papers that ex-presidents would wander around like "discontented ghosts" and make mischief. This is apparently true of ex-candidates as well.
Mitt's a likable enough guy who was handed a bum rap in 2012, and surely we would be better off today if he was in the big chair. But that doesn't mean his bona fides as a conservative have ever been secure. He has always governed from the center, not from the right. His personal philosophies are demonstrably not conservative in the way we typically understand the word. Keep that in your back pocket when dealing with liberals who try to assign broader implications to Romney's comments.