This Tuesday, close to seventy million people are going to vote to elect Mitt Romney president. It is easy to dismiss these folks as either (a) mouth-breathing guv’m’t-hating Militiamen with confederate flags hanging in the rear windows of their pickup trucks or (b) hedge-fund-managing filet-eating country-club Protestants named Bunky and Missy, and to chalk up their votes to self-interest or ignorance. But, to argue ad populum as Elvis did back when Eisenhower was president, can seventy million people all be stupidly wrong? Inspired by a friend who asked her Facebook mischpucha to state a reasoned argument in favor of Romney for President (no one responded), here is my answer.
The argument against Obama
First, of course, is the argument that Romney hoped would be sufficient to carry the day: The referendum on Obama’s first term.
If this election were simply about Obama’s performance as president, even we Obama supporters have to admit, it’s been a rocky road since those heady Audacity of Hope days four years ago. Those four years seem to have had a clear arc: Like other presidents (think FDR, Reagan, Johnson), our guy front-loaded his term with a slew of policy initiatives. Although we cheered his audacity, it seemed that Obama trampled Congress by ramming through the Affordable Care Act, the closure of Gitmo, and the attempted cap-and-trade legislation, when those issues seemed so much less important than rescuing the free-falling economy. Then, after a rumpus of Tea Party candidates won their mid-term elections and threatened to hold the debt ceiling increase hostage to their demands for lower spending, our guy backed down meekly, agreeing to cut $917 trillion from the budget through the tragically ill-considered “Super Committee.” Since then, he has been a nondescript centrist with a seemingly fireless belly, leading finally to his what-me-worry performance in the first presidential debate last month.
So, the first defensible reason for a vote for Romney: Our guy seems to have lost his fire; time to try a fresh horse.
Second is the general argument from fear and concern. Yes, housing starts are up, unemployment is lessening steadily, and the stock market is at record highs. But, if you’re out of work, or upside-down on your home’s value, or just frightened that the national debt will threaten Medicare, Social Security, and national strength, these Budget Office statistics are no more meaningful than the rosy agricultural news that used to be announced in Pravda. Admittedly, Romney’s plans to boost the national economy are either naive (we’ll force China to normalize its currency!) or mundane (we’ll eliminate wasteful spending!) or nonexistent (I’ll figure it all out with Congress!); but, the top-line claims of lower spending, lower taxes and twelve million new jobs speak directly to people who are afraid for the future. (And, credit has to be given to Romney for even whispering that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are not sustainable in their present form, which is the dirty little subject no politician wants to touch).
Third is the argument for Romney himself. True, it is difficult to argue in favor of Romney’s policies, because he has proved himself to be the Don E. Mobile of politics. (Perhaps because he is indifferent to policy when it interferes with ambition; but more likely because he is trying to serve so many interest groups at the same time). After an entire primary and campaign season of mouthing the lines of the hard social and fiscal right, he showed up at the first presidential debate as a moderate.
But, then, most voters are not policy wonks. It would not be stupid to look at Romney as follows: He is an energetic and enthusiastic politician; he has experience running things, from Bain Capital to the Olympics to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Obama, of course, ran nothing other than the Harvard Law Review until he took office); and, he has some history of being able to build a consensus between political parties. A person could sensibly conclude that Romney will be a businesslike president who will bring new energy to the job and might even break the logjam in Washington (especially if we Democrats continue to accept every unctuous one-sided offer of compromise from the other guys).
Perhaps the Argument for Romney is best summed up in the Orlando Sentinel he-ain’t-great-but-give-the-guy-a-chance endorsement, excerpted below:
Romney is not our ideal candidate for president. We’ve been turned off by his appeals to social conservatives and immigration extremists. Like most presidential hopefuls, including Obama four years ago, Romney faces a steep learning curve on foreign policy. But, he has a strong record of leadership to run on. He built a successful business. He rescued the 2002 Winter Olympics from scandal and mismanagement. As governor of Massachusetts, he worked with a Democrat-dominated legislature to close a $3billion budget deficit without borrowing or raising taxes, and pass the health plan that became a national model. This is Romney’s time to lead, again. If he doesn’t produce results — even with a hostile Senate — we’ll be ready in 2016 to get behind someone else who will.
So, there you have it. Translated into a bumper sticker: Romney. Hell, It’s Worth A Try.