Inconvenient Truth: Romney Derangement Syndrome on the Right Helped Obama Win

From the outrages he let Barack Obama get away with to the stunning ineptitude of his campaign team, Mitt Romney holds plenty of blame for last week’s dispiriting presidential election. But he’s not the only one, and before we do something stupid like surrender on immigration in a shortsighted bid to woo Hispanics, the Right needs to have a little chat about another key voting bloc that should have been far easier to hold…but wasn’t, for reasons conservatives seem unwilling to discuss.

The single most shocking detail about the results was the pitiful Republican turnout, with Romney receiving 3 million fewer GOP votes than John McCain and 5 million fewer than George W. Bush — a difference that could have overcome Tuesday’s 3-million-person difference in the popular vote or made up the 333,000 additional votes necessary for an Electoral College win.

Yes, Romney’s conservatism was imperfect. But so was Bush’s. And McCain? He was so liberal that, to keep him away from the nomination and ensure a conservative made it on the ballot, the punditocracy told us we had to rally around…Mitt Romney.

So how could Romney — who, for all his flaws, took most of the right positions, had an appealing background, and didn’t share Bush or McCain’s zeal for amnesty — possibly be less palatable than either of his moderate predecessors? Especially while trying to unseat someone widely considered to be the worst, most left-wing president in US history?

A big part of the answer is because somewhere between GOP presidential primaries, half the Right flip-flopped on Romney, recasting their onetime conservative alternative as the new RINO boogeyman we needed an alternative from, with scores of pundits, activists, and bloggers ranting that an amorphous party “establishment” was trying to force Romney on the base. Yes, politics is a tough business and primaries are the place for aggressively vetting our candidates, but far too many of our own crossed the line from “Romney is weak in area x” to “Romney is our enemy.”

Tea Party Nation head Judson Phillips and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said they’d focus on congressional races because Romney wasn’t worth their members’ excitement. Sen. Rick Santorum suggested Romney might not be different enough from Obama to bother changing presidents. Talk radio host Mark Levin excoriated Romney daily, calling him a corporatist of questionable character who couldn’t be supported in the primary without compromising all of one’s principles. Blogger Dan Riehl considered organizing conservatives to oppose Romney in the general election. Free Republic banned all Romney supporters as “enemies of the Constitution.” Blogger John Hawkins warned that supporting Romney would require conservatives to “sell our souls.” RedState.com waged an all-out war against Romney and his sympathizers, the most hysterical examples of which being Erick Erickson’s claim that nominating the bad Mormon would kill conservatism and Thomas Crown’s accusation that National Review “alienated” itself from the conservative movement by preferring Romney to the alternatives. Conservative stalwarts like Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan got torn apart as phonies in popular comment sections for backing Romney. And last month, Personhood USA used an unfair spin on Romney’s words as evidence that he was “insisting on maintaining the status quo of abortion on demand.”

Fast-forward to Election Day, and 5 million Republican voters decide to stay home.

Gee, who could have guessed? (I mean, besides me.)

Again, we shouldn’t completely absolve Romney of responsibility. As the candidate, it was his job to assure the base he could walk the walk. Nor should Romney’s shortcomings have gone ignored or unchallenged during the primary.

But with so many influential conservative voices doing everything they could to convince their audiences that Romney was just Diet Obama and that he posed an existential threat to their very philosophy, is it any wonder that so many of them decided not to vote? How is any post-primary coalescing supposed to fully heal divisions that deep? How are Republican candidates supposed to endure two-front wars against Democrats and their own base?

Rather than protect the integrity of the Republican ticket, Levin, Erickson, Perkins, and company served as useful idiots for the Left, dividing conservatives enough for a weak incumbent with indefensible ideas and hated policies to keep power for another four years. And now we’re all going to suffer for it.

It goes without saying that for 2016, we’ll need to find a candidate with bolder instincts, a deeper affinity for conservatism, and greater skill in articulating it. But by the time his own failings and impurities come to light, hopefully Obama’s second term will have taught our Purity Police that a little perspective can make a world of difference.

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Oh, Great: Disgruntled Anti-Romney Holdouts Think 1 Branch of Government Is Enough to Save America

At least two grassroots conservative leaders are still lukewarm about Mitt Romney:

“The tea party is not going to coalesce around Romney,” Judson Phillips told The Daily Caller on Thursday. “Most of us will vote for Romney, but we will not be out there with signs for him or in his campaign.”

Phillips said that surveys conducted on the Tea Party Nation website have shown that about 25 percent of tea party activists say they won’t vote for Romney in the general election […] 
“While that number will change as we get closer to the election, Romney has a huge problem with the conservative base of the GOP,” Phillips said. “He had better do something about that ASAP or he won’t have to worry about that moving to the middle nonsense. Without the GOP base, he is a lost cause.”
“Most of us,” he added, “are focusing on Senate and House races now.”
Another conservative leader, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, struck a similar note after former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum dropped out of the presidential race this week.
“It’s difficult for us to back a candidate our constituents don’t believe in and aren’t excited about,” Perkins told CNN, suggesting that social conservatives will instead focus their efforts on helping Republicans win control of the U.S. Senate in 2012.
I would like to remind Mr. Phillips and Mr. Perkins of something called the veto. It lets presidents kill legislation they don’t like, even if a majority of Congress voted yes. Super-majorities of both the House and Senate are required to overcome a veto. I hope as much as anyone that Republicans keep the House and retake the Senate, but it’s far from guaranteed, with GOP super-majorities in both chambers even less so.
I would like to remind Mr. Phillips and Mr. Perkins that the president has much more autonomy in foreign policy and national defense than in domestic policy. While Congress has a certain degree of oversight, it can’t force him to act against Iran if necessary. It can’t force him to pursue missile defense. It can’t force him to rebuild the military. It can’t force him to secure the border.
I would like to remind Mr. Phillips and Mr. Perkins that there still exists in America a massive regulatory and administrative apparatus through which the president can sidestep Congress entirely and implement much of his policy vision.
I would like to remind Mr. Phillips and Mr. Perkins that a Republican Senate can’t confirm good judges if a Republican president isn’t there to nominate them.
Of course Romney needs to work to reassure conservatives. But last time I checked, you two are leaders, too. Where’s your responsibility to remind your members of Romney’s positives, Obama’s negatives, and the stakes of this election? What’s the purpose of conservative grassroots organizations: to defeat the Left’s vision for America, or to indulge temper tantrums that some of their members didn’t get their way?

Would Mitt Romney Shrink Government?

When asked by Jay Leno which federal agencies he’d cut, Mitt Romney said:
I’m going to go through it piece by piece, combine — when I was secretary, excuse me, when I was governor of Massachusetts, and we looked at the Secretary of Health and Human Services, we had 15 different agencies.  We said, let’s combine those into three.  We’re not going to get rid of the work that each do, but we’re going to combine the overheads, we’re not going to have as many lawyers and press secretaries and administrators, and that saves money and makes it more efficient.  And I hope to be able to do the same thing in Washington […] We’ll look agency-by-agency and look where the opportunities are best, but I’ll take a lot of what Washington does and send it back to the states.
Byron York characterizes Romney’s answer as “not less gov’t, more efficient gov’t,” and Mark America takes it as an illustration of “why conservatives do not trust Romney”:
Mitt Romney isn’t interested in reducing the reach of government into Americans’ lives, but instead making it more efficient.  That’s part of the message Romney delivered to Jay Leno’s audience on Tuesday evening, and what you need to realize about all of this is that Romney is not a conservative.  He’s a technocrat, and he’s a businessman, but his interest in making various programs and agencies of government more efficient does not make him conservative.  Conservatives realize that to save this nation, we must re-make the government in a smaller, less intrusive, and less-encompassing form.  We need to eliminate programs, bureaus and agencies, and discard their functions.  Romney won’t do any of that, and in fact, he will likely extend their reach.
Of course, nowhere above did Romney actually say he wouldn’t make government smaller, that he “isn’t interested in reducing the reach of government,” or that he’d extend its reach. At most, he gave one example of how he cut government at the state level which offers a general idea of his approach – and while that could be interpreted by those unfavorably predisposed to Romney as meaning he wouldn’t shrink government, you can’t simultaneously read so much into that statement while completely ignoring the part in the very same interview where Romney says he’d also “take a lot of what Washington does and send it back to the states.”
While the blemishes in Romney’s limited-government record are undeniable, let’s not sell him short on that front – Romney’s been against a federal takeover of healthcare since not just 2007, but 1994(!), he’s spoken about getting education back to the states, and as Ann Coulter explained last week, his governorship of Massachusetts was much more conservative than you may have heard from some bloggers:
He cut state spending by $600 million, including reducing his own staff budget by $1.2 million, and hacked the largest government agency, Health and Human Services, down from 13 divisions to four. He did this largely by persuading the Legislature to give him emergency powers his first year in office to cut government programs without their consent.

Although Romney was not able to get any income tax cuts past the Democratic Legislature, he won other tax cuts totaling nearly $400 million, including a one-time capital gains tax rebate and a two-day sales tax holiday for all purchases under $2,500.

He also vetoed more bills than any other governor in Massachusetts history, before or since. He vetoed bills concerning access to birth control, more spending on state zoos, and the creation of an Asian-American commission — all of which were reversed by the Legislature.

As Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, said, “What else could he do?” 

Maybe a President Romney would capitulate to big government. But what he told Jay Leno isn’t evidence of that.

For the Sake of the Conservative Movement, Romney Deragement Syndrome Has to Stop

The phenomenon of Romney Derangement Syndrome hasn’t gotten nearly enough attention during this election cycle, but it’s real. 
RedState.com has engaged in a smear campaign against Romney supporters and National Review for not being sufficiently anti-Mitt. Dan Riehl rants and raves about how conservatives should let Barack Obama win a second term if Romney is the nominee. Marco Rubio gives an awesome pro-life speech, and half the commenters at Hot Air can’t do anything but whine about Rubio being a phony because he’s too nice to Romney. Ann Coulter defends RomneyCare (in an admittedly flawed column that deserves a separate post), and Mark Levin can barely keep the contempt out of his ever-rising voice. Newt Gingrich engages in the most despicable distortions imaginable, and yet he’s still the victim in too many observers’ eyes. Jennifer Rubin is too sympathetic to Mitt for some, so she’s caricatured as a fraud and a joke.
People are whipping themselves into such a frenzy over Mitt Romney that they’re declaring friends enemies and deluding themselves into staying home on Election Day. (And many of them, incredibly, are doing it for a candidate who more effectively styles himself as a conservative, but substantively is no more conservative or outsider than Romney.)
Look, I get that Romney’s past is worrisome and his electability is problematic. I’m a Santorum guy. I get that the Republican Party needs to be taught a lesson. But now is not the time for an experiment in winning by losing. The stakes are too high.
The hope that a GOP defeat will finally shock the party into reforming itself is much, much too big an if to seriously weigh it against the damage Barack Obama would do in a second term. And I’m not even talking about the daily spending of money we don’t have, the continual erosion of liberty by unelected bureaucrats, or the burdensome regulations and tax increases (though all that alone would be enough to warrant replacing Obama with Romney).

Consider that his judicial appointments will further shape the American court system and shred the Constitution for decades beyond his presidency. Consider ObamaCare, most of which doesn’t take effect until 2013—if a new federal healthcare apparatus takes root, with brand-new entitlements Americans will be dependent on, it will be virtually impossible to dismantle. Consider that if the Left is allowed to import & regularize a permanent underclass through amnesty, before long these experts of voter fraud will have a brand-new pool of voters to ensure statist government for the rest of our lifetimes. Consider that an Obama who doesn’t have to worry about re-election will be more willing to consider any number of UN erosions of American sovereignty. Consider that Eric Holder will continue corrupting the Justice Department and persecuting states that try to crack down on vote fraud while allowing the fraud itself to go unpunished.

You mean to tell me stopping all that isn’t important enough to warrant holding your nose and voting for Mitt Romney? Really?

Besides, it hasn’t been that long since it was Mitt Romney who was the “conservative alternative” to John McCain (who we still managed to rally around), according to many of today’s RDS sufferers like Erick Erickson and Mark Levin, who told us that Romney shared our values and would uphold them in office. And as Ramesh Ponnuru writes:
He has not moved left since that time. His positions on policy questions are almost all the same as they were then. On a few issues he has moved right: He now favors a market-oriented reform to Medicare, for example. 
If Romney was to McCain’s right then, he is still. He’s to George W. Bush’s right, too. Bush never came out for the Medicare reform Romney has endorsed. Bush never said that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, either. Romney has.
Romney’s platform is solidly conservative on fiscal, social, and defense issues. Serious conservatives like John Bolton, Maggie Gallagher, John Willke, Robert Bork, and Jay Sekulow vouch for him. Supporting him won’t require us to sell our souls, but merely to hold him accountable to his promises afterward we oust Obama. He’s no Reagan, but he’s a step up from everyone we’ve run since then – John McCain, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, and George H.W. Bush.

Granted, maybe he’ll lose the election. Maybe he’ll be a disaster as president. I don’t know. But y’know what? Neither do Mark Levin, Michael Reagan, Sarah Palin, Erick Erickson, Jeffrey Lord, Dan Riehl, William Jacobson, John Hawkins, Thomas Sowell, Jeff Emanuel, or anyone else. Maybe he’ll destroy Obama and save the country from the brink of Armageddon. (And maybe, just maybe, the vote will be close enough that the RDS pouters like Riehl will be enough to cause Obama’s victory.) We simply won’t know unless we try.

Beyond 2012, this spectacle has revealed a deeper sickness within the conservative family. For all we’ve mocked liberals for the cult of personality they developed around Obama, too many of us have done the same. Too many (in most cases Perry and Gingrich backers) have rashly proclaimed their guy the Reaganite, the outsider, the true conservative savior, and therefore anyone not onboard (in most cases Romney backers) is either a pretender or a sellout, no matter how reasoned their argument or how genuine their past contributions to conservatism.

We shouldn’t be enemies. There’s no reason for us to be at each other’s throats. We’re all working to save our country, and we’re all just trying to weigh the relative strengths and weaknesses of three fallible men. Coming to different conclusions than one another about that is no sin, and can’t be allowed to divide us during such a critical turning point in our nation’s history.

Rick Santorum, Individual Mandates, and Why Gingrich Apologists Deserve Romney (UPDATED)

Especially since the field narrowed, a big part of Rick Santorum’s appeal is that he’s the only serious candidate who has never supported an individual mandate to purchase health insurance, and he’s darn good at explaining why. Earlier this morning, the Right Scoop posted a story which initially threatened to undermine that by suggesting he had supported one in 1994. Fortunately, the Right Scoop updated the original post with more information revealing that the initial characterization of Santorum’s position was incorrect, and then with a 1994 video of Santorum passionately arguing against any such mandate.
Last night, David Freddoso said he “will never understand how Newt became a more acceptable not-Romney than Santorum.” That’s easily the biggest, most tragic absurdity of this entire primary: People are desperate for a more reliably conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, which is understandable, but instead of the obvious choice right in front of them, so many rally around a candidate that’s just as ideologically compromised as Romney, far more personally compromised, and is arguably running on a less conservative platform than Romney. And they’re not only rallying around him, but making support for him into an idiotic grassroots-vs.-establishment litmus test. If Romney winds up as the nominee, these shortsighted hypocrites will have nobody to blame but themselves. They certainly won’t be able to blame me – I’m voting for the conservative.

UPDATE: The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson says Santorum has misrepresented Gingrich on healthcare, because the mandate isn’t his current position. But I think Santorum’s point is that, if Gingrich has repeatedly expressed support for the idea at the federal level and even endorsed RomneyCare in 2006, then you have to wonder just how sincere his current position is. Or are last-minute flip-flops only wrong when Mitt Romney does them?