Mitt Romney is in Iowa today stumping for Republican candidate Joni Ernst who is running for Tom Harken’s senate seat. Do you remember Mitt Romney? He’s the white guy who ran for president two years ago and got white guys to vote for him. In fact…no one but white guys voted for him.
I want to let you in on a little secret….do you promise not to tell?……closer…….let me whisper in your ear….I don’t hate Mitt Romney.
I still agree with a majority of my liberal friends who see him as out of touch with the average American, and I believe the life of privilege he inherited justifies, in his mind, an oligarchic view that destroys economic prosperity, but I don’t think he’s without compassion for the Middle Class or the poor.
To understand the personal and political Mitt, you have to go back to his parents. The Romney name in politics begins with his father, George, but I’ve also been learning about his mother, Lenore, and I have a healthy respect for that political legacy.
And there is a progressive narrative in the Romney story. George Romney, while running for the Republican nomination for President in 1967, took a bold stand after visiting Vietnam. He returned to say that his previous support for the war effort was due to “brainwashing” by U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Vietnam and his campaign faltered as a result. Nixon exploited the word “brainwashing” and Romney was viewed as unstable.
Romney quickly fell from being the front runner and Nixon was elected. As consolation, Nixon gave Romney a fairly benign post as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, but Romney made the best of it and developed ambitious plans for housing production for the poor, and for open housing to desegregate suburbs. He was successful, but that success led to an even greater lack of credibility with the right wing and he retired from the political spotlight.
His wife suffered even more. She was a Republican, like her husband, and a conservative, but she was also progressive in many ways. When Lenore Romney ran for the Senate she expressed her views against the Vietnam War and in support of women’s involvement in politics and business. Although she was staunchly against the Women’s Liberation Movement, she moved in contradictory ways and asked, “Why should women have any less say than men about the great decisions facing our nation?” She added that women “represent a reservoir of public service which has hardly been tapped.”
For these views and a lingering anti Romney sentiment, the party establishment abandoned her.
Both she and her husband dedicated their lives, after agonizing defeats, to public service and charity and distinguished themselves with compassionate work. Mitt had to absorb this. He campaigned with his mother and was devastated by her loss and saw both of his parents stand with integrity and demand honesty from party rhetoric and simultaneously saw both of them fall from attacks by ultra-conservatives.
As Governor, Romney closed many corporate tax loopholes to the chagrin of Republicans. While he has always been against same sex marriage, he supported domestic partnership benefits for gays and lesbians, again, contrary to the will of the majority of conservatives in Massachusetts.
As Governor, Romney also supported a women’s right to choose and while critics on either side can argue the motivation for his change to a right to life position, I for one, can allow in my ideological platform for people to change their views. I don’t agree with Romney’s flip, but I can respect its sincerity.
The big progressive Kahuna, however, is “RomneyCare,” his near-Universal health care reform for the state. Romney observed that since people without insurance still received expensive health care, the money spent by the state for such care could be better used to subsidize insurance for the poor.
He flipped again as he chastises ObamaCare even though he once said his version of the same plan should be the template for the country. But I don’t hate Mitt Romney! I think I understand because his political character is the result of the scars created from his parent’s defeats and they cauterized his clarity. He carries the betrayal of the Republican establishment toward his parents and he navigates closely to that reality. You can see his wounds in his guarded platitudes and his willingness to bend his ideas to fit party populism in order to gain favor in the national spotlight.
Mitt Romney is no longer absent from national politics and that is affirmed as his appearance here was greeted by cheers and fond remembrances of his candidacy. His endorsement of Ernst will likely generate thousands if not millions of campaign dollars.
He is clearly a force to be reckoned with, but at the inevitable crossroads of character and politics he has consistently chosen the path that has been trodden by an intolerant populist movement that allows their fears to author their ideology.
He turned his back on, even betrayed, many of his own principles, and this is where my evaluation of the man begins to drift with regard to his credibility.
But…I still don’t hate him.