Johnson: Mitt Romney and the Republican Party Lack Originality
- Nov. 7, 2012
- 0 Comments
I’d like to say a few unwelcome words to the disenchanted, fulminating Romney supporters in America: Your candidate simply wasn’t original enough. A presidential hopeful has to be compelling and inventive to challenge an incumbent as politically savvy as President Obama. Gov. Romney was certainly compelling, but he wasn’t inventive. In fact, he was stultified.
I’ve discussed Romney’s rehashed foreign policy at length, but there are a few other important issues I’d like to mention.
Take a look at the first two points of Romney’s “5-Point-Plan.” According to his soon-to-be-defunct campaign website, “Part one of Mitt’s plan is to achieve energy independence on this continent by 2020.” He planned to do this by increasing domestic oil and natural gas production, decreasing government subsidization of renewable energy and relaxing regulatory pressure on the private sector. If this sounds familiar, it’s because George W. Bush proposed something vastly similar in 2000.
The core of Romney’s energy policy is interchangeable with Bush’s – an unwavering reliance on readily available fossil fuels coupled with a private sector that handles energy innovation independently. But the Mitt Romney who governed Massachusetts had a different perspective. He imposed restrictions on the most pollutive power plants in the state, championed “climate protection” measures and instituted a cap-and-trade program to control emissions. Nowadays, the sort of moderation Romney would have once applauded is, instead, disparaged (often disingenuously). In an August policy report, Romney accused Obama of trying to “shut down oil, gas and coal production in pursuit of his own alternative energy agenda.” This is false. Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy has embraced alternative energy, but it doesn’t entail the destruction of traditional industries.
The second portion of Romney’s plan is concerned with international trade. He wants to “crack down” on China and open new avenues of trade with countries in Latin America. While both of these ideas sound reasonable, they face a pair of insurmountable problems. First, a president can’t just decide to trade with other countries; there has to be an agreement on terms and conditions (no easy bargain with two of South America’s largest, most suspicious economies – Brazil and Argentina).
Second, Obama’s China policy virtually subsumes Romney’s. Obama has persistently held China to account through the World Trade Organization while maintaining his distance from irresponsible rhetoric (such as labeling China a “currency manipulator” and flirting with the possibility of a trade war). Then again, Romney had to prove he was “tough on China,” so the prospect of common sense diplomacy was eagerly set aside. In July, Obama said, “As long as we’re competing on a fair playing field instead of an unfair playing field, we’re going to do just fine.” Romney’s website reads, “Mitt believes that trade can offer enormous opportunities for American businesses and workers, but only if they are given a level playing field on which they can compete and win.” It takes more than regurgitated slogans and nervous whining about Chinese “cheating” to convince voters that you’re ready to be president.
This article may seem diminutive in the shadow of such a momentous election, but these shortfalls are so very typical of Romney’s campaign. They’re also worryingly indicative of the Republican Party’s new direction. The Tea Party movement gained momentum because people are desperate to see something – anything – different. And this yearning spawns either flaccid, pointless divisions or, in some cases, a willingness to cause harm for the sake of divergence (for instance, the protracted debt ceiling debate and Romney’s erratic positions on Afghanistan and Iraq). A few of Romney’s finest characteristics — his former bipartisanship and objectivity, to name two – were crushed by the pressure of a Republican base that refuses to compromise.