Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wait A Second...When Did Romney Become a Conservative?

I love Ann Coulter. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that if it were possible, I would gladly bear her children. Our prospective rugrats would be so exceedingly adorable, so wonderfully smart and sarcastic that they would probably be some of the most dangerous (in an irreverently cutesy kind of vicious way) people to ever walk the face of this great Planet Earth.

I'm also a great fan of one Mark Steyn, a talent so great that the bounds of our Solar System are hardly sufficient to contain it. I sometimes find myself wishing that I had one tenth the sheer writing skill of Mark Steyn, if only because that sort of eloquence would be an acceptable substitute for the hundreds of hours in the gym needed to sculpt myself into a Greek Adonis.

When in doubt, go for brains. Brains will always beat great abs, you know.

However, when I'm listening to or reading either of these two great luminaries of the Right Wing Galaxy of Intellectual stars, these two stalwart defenders of the Conservative Position on All Things nowadays, I find myself somewhat confused and consternated by their support of one Willard "Mitt" Romney to be the eventual Republican nominee for The Presidency of these United States.

Primarily because I just can't figure out what the fuck is so conservative (small 'c' intentional) about Mitt Romney. It's almost as if Ann and Mark have taken leave of their senses when they make the case that Mitt Romney is the 'real' conservative hope in the 2012 Sweepstakes to replace The Gross Mediocrity of Tried-and-Failed Socialism that is Barack Obama.

Now people are entitled to their opinions, and I'm going to admit that there might just be something in this intellectual formulation of Romney As The Next Reagan that I'm missing; stranger things have happened. But just based upon simple appearances, I'm hard-pressed to understand the appeal of Romney to some within the greater Conservative Movement.

Romney possesses, at first blush, none of the core qualities that gets one tagged Hardcore Conservative these days.

Romney has had more positions on the Right to Life Question than I've had hot dinners. In years past, such seeming fickleness on what is supposed to be one of the foundation blocks of Conservative ideology would have discounted Romney as a flip-flopper and political opportunist which would have had 'real' conservatives jumping up and down like schoolboys bursting for a pee, screaming "hypocrite"!

Historically, conservatives have always claimed that while the Left considers hypocrisy to be a virtue, it is a deadly vice which automatically excludes any candidate calling himself 'conservative' from any race, because conservatives are supposed to stand "on principles" which are considered inflexible and unyielding. This formulation has torpedoed many a would-be candidate before, but apparently the conservatives this time around are giving Romney a free ride on this particular failing.

Romney is also, at least in spirit, the midwife of the greatest bugaboo since the Red Scare, which is state-run healthcare. The Romneycare scheme in Massachusetts is perhaps the greatest contraindication of Romney's conservatism; it applies the power of the state to the individuals' greatest possessions, i.e. their bodies and health, and forces individuals to make certain choices (they're called "mandates") against their will. None of this screams "Conservative!" in my mind, and worse, Barack Obama himself has proudly proclaimed that Romney's monstrosity was in fact the blueprint for much of Obamacare.

It's hard to see the conservatism in this, and Romney has not had to do much more than answer a few unpleasant questions in this regard. I'm wondering when it became a conservative principle to use the power of the state to force people into making health and economic choices they might otherwise not make, given the possibility of other free-market options? After all, conservatives are supposed to be all about personal rights, including the choices one makes about their personal care, and against the creeping power of the overbearing state, and all for unbridled economic freedom.

Romney has hit the campaign trail loudly boasting of his ability to "work across the aisle" and "bring Democrats and Republicans together" while he was the Governor of the People's Republic of Taxachusetts, a job I would liken to being president of the Glee Club if only because Massachusetts is such an insignificant little state. It's not like being Governor of Texas, California or New York. Massachusetts, whatever it's virtues in the history and folklore of the United States has, historically, been little more than a socially-retarded boil which occasionally erupts for good or ill. Good when it is the cradle of the American Revolution and Abolitionist Movement, grossly ill when it occasionally vomits up yet another generation of Kennedys.

It has been 'real' conservative boilerplate for decades now that "working across the aisle" is a bad thing. Coulter herself has often said that there is no way that any conservative worth his/her salt can work with the political Left in this country and still be considered a conservative, generally speaking. Compromise with the left, in any way, has always been one of the greatest sins a conservative can commit. One does not, according to Coulter at least, elect Conservatives in order to accommodate Socialists and Communists.

Otherwise, what was the point? I mean, doesn't accommodating the Liberal Left (which is what bi-partisan compromise is) sort of negate the purpose of a Conservative Movement in the first place? Coulter has gotten wealthy, one assumes, by writing a ton of books implying that the political Left has a devious scheme for turning us into something akin to an East German police state, making the accusation that the Liberal is never to be trusted and should be thwarted at every turn by all means necessary. So why would she support someone who boasts of his ability to compromise with her social and ideological enemies? What is it about Romney -- the half-a-loaf-is-better-than-no-bread-friend-of-Lefties -- that strikes you as particularly 'conservative'?

At least Steyn makes a better case for Romney in terms of free-market economics, and one gets the impression that his support of Romney is more a fervent wish to see Capitalism sustained and Obama vanquished than it is a matter of non-priority social/ideological goals being met. Steyn is nowhere near as hysterical in his calls for Romney over Gingrich/Paul/Santorum as Coulter is. One gets the distinct impression that where Steyn's assertion of Romney's conservative chops is tied to policy and possibilities for sustaining the American ideal, Coulter's may be, sadly, childishly tied to personalities and a need to be perceived as right.

She just doesn't like Gingrich, et. al., and although I'm certain that she could give you a hundred reasons to justify this dislike, it still doesn't square with christening a flip-flopping, accommodating, quasi-statist as the best conservative hope to beat Obama. She's been so wrong in identifying the Next Great Hope of the Republican Party so often in the recent past that just this once, you get the impression, she wants so badly to be right that she'll even try to sell you that someone she wouldn't consider conservative on his best day is suddenly the Next Barry Goldwater.

Frankly speaking, a bread mold with a half-assed economic plan and a pledge to do the right thing -- rather than the expedient thing -- and with a history of such behind him, ought to be able to beat Obama next November, and rather handily, at that.

Obama, entering the home stretch of the lamest presidency in American History, is little more than an empty shirt that utters speeches fed to him by brilliant writers. Obama doesn't do anything; he simply floats the idea out there and then expects someone else to do the actual work.  If anything, Barack Obama is set to achieve the impossible, and start a movement to get James Earl Carter's portrait on a postage stamp, or the $4-1/2 dollar bill, as people begin to refer to the flabby malaise of the Post-Nixon 1970's as "The Good Old Days".

It took Barack Obama to make the days of Odd/Even gas rationing, Iranian-held Hostages, stagflation, wear-your-sweater paternalism, and the Pet Rock appear to be a Gilded Age of Great Statesman and Happiness. Anyone could beat that, and Romney not least of all, but the question is not "who will win?", but "what will win?".

If we're talking "what" in terms of hard-core political philosophy and ideology (and here we mean the hard-core social conservatives), then it's hard to see how Romney is your choice of champion. But apparently, Romney must possess some strange power that I'm not aware of, because the greatest advocates -- amongst them Coulter -- of that sort of conservatism are willing to fervently back that which they formerly despised, discounted and discarded, labelling such people with the approbation "not a REAL conservative", and "just as good as a democrat".

Steyn's position is easier to see; he likes Romney because he agrees with him, in the main, and because Steyn thinks in terms of a conservative movement which makes advances where possible under present circumstances, rather than in terms of a all-consuming conservative activism. Coulter, apparently, likes Romney simply because he's not Gingrich, and this, somehow, suffices, even if he does have a problem with telling the truth or staying on the same side of the Pro-Life Street for more than five minutes. Then again, it wasn't all that long ago that Ann Coulter told us that Mike Pence was the Greatest Conservative Evah! and should have been pressed into service as the REAL conservative alternative to G.W. Bush tenure. One wonders what Ann Coulter is smoking, sometimes.

Of course, Pence was never any such thing, and was happily earmarking his way through a lackluster Congressional career, like any good ticket-puncher who's main ability was never much more than to parrot the proper slogans, pretend to believe in what everyone else did, and then do what was good for Mike Pence.

Then again, perhaps this is the similarity that explains Coulter's support of Romney? In any case, it is my opinion that no matter how brilliant she might be, no matter how smart and acute she is in making her case for conservatism, that Ann Coulter is perhaps the worst judge of who or what actually is conservative; her aim, apparently, is not so much to advance a conservative agenda, it's to be one of the shapers of conservative thought and activism. In this regard, she's willing, in my eyes, to drive the Romney bandwagon for the simple reward of having been right and relevant.

There can be no other explanation for this "Conservative Mitt Romney" meme on Coulter's part, at least, except to raise her own profile in "the Movement" by backing the "right" horse, this time, even if it means hypocrisy. Coulter has gone all "Establishment" on us, while Steyn makes a better case in terms of pragmatism: it's better to have someone who espouses and advances some conservative views (mostly economic) where possible, and who then leaves much of the social folderol where it belongs -- for a time when we're not thisclose to starving and living in a Third World State. Only populations which are comfortable, confident, and unthreatened by the impending doom of terrorist  attack or collapse have the time and energy to discuss such matters like Abortion, Gay Marriage, and whether you should be able to own an unregistered Sherman tank and a brace of RPG's to serve all your recreational deer hunting requirements.

Steyn's support  of "Conservative Romney" is easier to explain, then, if your purpose is to set things aright in this country in stages and by priorities, and to work within the framework of what is presently possible: you must first fix the economy and restore some semblance of free-market capitalism in order to begin addressing all the other problems we face, and so Romney, the businessman, does seem to offer more in this regard than any of the other candidates. Romney the social-conservative-lite in the race (discounting Ron Paul's insanity for what it is), the prevaricator, the flip-flopper, the slick used-car-salesman-huckster with a reputation for saying anything he thinks he needs to say and contradicting himself at every turn, is not what Coulter, just three short years ago, would have termed "one of us", i.e a REAL conservative.

Especially since the Pray-All-Day Rick Perry has dropped out of the race, and Ann's once evil arch nemesis, John McCain, has endorsed Romney with gusto.

Go figure.

Steyn's position is more tenable, and understandable; one must fight the conservative fight in much the same way as a military commander would fight a major battle. Columns of troops advance where they can, hold their positions where they must, and the overall strategy is tied to winning and pressing piecemeal incremental strategic advantages, rather than in attempting to annihilate a formidable foe in one fell swoop.

But in either case, is Mitt Romney really all that conservative? I don't see it, but then again, I don't make a fortune writing books, gracing National Review or guest hosting for Sean and Rush, so what do I know? I'm just some dude in his pajamas that asks stupid questions, and then gives half-assed opinions.

I'll give Steyn and Coulter credit (they've earned it) for being smarter than I am, but unless there's some great subtlety that my tiny intellect has missed, I'm hard-pressed to figure out how a guy most said was a shill a few years ago suddenly became the Ur-Conservative choice for 2012, and how it was that they both arrived at this formulation.

UPDATE: Edited, as I've apparently spelled Ann Coulter's last name incorrectly at least fifty times. My apologies.

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