It seems as if, in true Republican fashion, an old name is resurfacing as a potential presidential candidate. None other than former Massachusetts governor and losing 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney is not denying rumors that he’s considering a third try at the one piece of real estate in the country he covets but hasn’t yet been able to purchase. As some faction of the GOP, certainly not the Tea Party, and certainly not the so-called moderate wing, anxiously awaits his decision, one might speculate on just what version of Mr. Romney would be presented this time around. The term ‘flip-flop’ was used repeatedly to describe him during the last election campaign, and this does not seem to be a unfairly- applied appellation.
Walter De Vries, who served for several years as an aide to Mr. Romney’s late father, George Romney, a Michigan governor who sought the Republican presidential nomination in in 1968, said this about the son in 2012: “While it seems that Mitt would say and do anything to close a deal – or an election, George Romney’s strength as a politician and public officeholder was his ability and determination to develop and hold consistent policy positions over his life.” Mr. De Vries further said: “George would never have been seen with the likes of Sheldon Adelson or Donald Trump.”
Yet despite Mr. Romney’s frequent shifting on positions (Mr. De Vries counted 30 major policy shifts), the nation may once again be subjected to a Romney candidacy.
This is a very puzzling development, if it is a development at all. There is speculation that Mr. Romney is feeling restless, and after visiting 27 states to speak on behalf of candidates for election and re-election in 2014, he just needs something to do. Some people like Mr. Romney, sixty-seven years old and retired from a commercially-successful business (we won’t discuss here the morality of that success), might content themselves with travel, or perhaps take up a new hobby. For others, spending time with their grandchildren might be sufficient. But no, Mr. Romney seems to have another retirement pursuit in mind: becoming president of the United States.
While few people beyond his own inner circle see current President Barack Obama, who defeated Mr. Romney in 2012, as a great and courageous statesmen, bringing radical and much needed change to the country and the world, fewer still seem to regret Mr. Romney’s defeat. Candidates around the country may enjoy his endorsement; after all, he controls a sizeable checkbook, and his extremely rich friends all seem more than willing to dip into their own vast bank accounts to support candidates and causes he espouses. Yet to actually vote for him, especially in 2016, when in all likelihood his opponent will be white, may be asking just a tad too much.
We might consider, just for the fun of it, the constituencies that would support a Romney candidacy, and those that would not. This is, of course, all just speculation, since Mr. Romney has not yet announced a decision, and even if and when he does, it will take some time to determine which incarnation of the candidate is being paraded out for inspection this time around.
First, the demographics with which Mr. Romney may have some problems.
* Minorities. Every one of Mr. Romney’s opponents will broadcast his statements about getting immigrants who may be in the country illegally to self-deport. His disdain for everyone not white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant will be on full display, much as he may try, in his awkward way, to mask it. With the Hispanic and African-American populations now strong enough to influence elections, starting a campaign with minimal, if any, support from these groups will not easily succeed.
* Women. Can anyone ever forget Mr. Romney’s magnanimous statement in the third debate with Mr. Obama, when he referred to his time as governor and, when looking to fill cabinet positions, was presented with ‘binders full of women’? He may have been unfairly tainted to some degree in the 2012 election by some really extreme Republicans running for office and making bizarre and sexist statements, but his own record is hardly sterling.
* The Middle Class. When he told a gathering of super-rich supporters that 47% of the country was dependent on the government, didn’t pay taxes and only wanted handouts, he was referring to, among others, senior citizens on limited incomes, and soldiers deployed in the U.S.’s many war zones. When he suggested that young adults borrow money from their parents to start companies, he demonstrated his complete ignorance of the struggles many middle aged and older couples are facing. Mr. Romney also, oddly, stated that he ‘likes to fire people’. It will be hard for this demographic to forgive and forget these statements, especially when they will be repeated by his opponents at every opportunity.
* The Poor. Mr. Romney’s history of gutting companies, throwing their employees out into the streets and reducing or eliminating their pensions is well known. His disdain for any public assistance programs, such ‘wasteful’ things as aid to dependent children, food stamps and so on, is also as famous as it is infamous. While Republicans often convince the citizenry to vote against their own best interest, something as basic as the need for food will be difficult for them to overlook.
But Mr. Romney must not despair; there are some other groups that will welcome his candidacy.
* The wealthy. People with million-dollar-plus incomes know that Mr. Romney will act in their best interests. He won’t constrain them by requiring stringent health and safety standards at their factories, and will assist them in sending work offshore, to be performed at slave wages, thus maximizing profits. And since he sees corporations as people, those who own corporations will always have a friend in Mr. Romney.
* People who hate Barack Obama. Although Mr. Obama will not be on the ballot in 2016, there are many who resent the fact that an African-American dared inhabit the White House, and will express their wrath by voting against any Democrat. Also, many of these people seem to believe that there is just so much health care available, and by providing millions more people with it, they themselves somehow have less. Such behaviors must be punished, and Mr. Romney can count on the support of these people.
* Certain aspects of the misnamed Christian right. Some members of this faction will never countenance voting for a Mormon, and will also remember that Mr. Romney favored health care and same-sex marriage before he opposed them. But others, believing that any Democrat is Satan incarnate, will vote for whomever the GOP puts forth, no matter how odious the voter may find that candidate.
Time alone will tell what happens. Any extremely rich man with a history of running for elective office, may decide take the ride again (this too, is just speculation. One would think that most people would recognize reality and give it up at this point, but Mr. Romney would be highly insulted if he were lumped in with ‘most people’). Mr. Romney may have grown bored overseeing the transformation of his 3,000 square foot California home into a 12,000 square foot one. That is a short-term project, and the presidency, if he played his cards right, would occupy him for eight years, right into old age. Certainly, that is a more appealing prospect than house renovations.
Whatever the decision will be, he must make it soon. There is no dearth of candidates about to get into the GOP race, and since most of them are from the lunatic fringe wing of the party, he will have to bob and weave through their extreme positions to carve out his own. By the early part of 2015, many announcements can be expected to be made, and many ‘exploratory’ committees established.
Whoever wins the dubious prize of the Republican nomination will have to face a general election in 2016; all the fun doesn’t end with the primaries. The Democrats, at this point, appear prepared for a Hillary Clinton coronation, although she, like Mr. Romney, is being coy about her plans. But regardless, the bigger of the two circuses will be the one run by the GOP; their base is more activist, more zealous and more extreme than that of the Democrats, so that is really the one to watch.
Until then, the public awaits the word of Mr. Romney, a potential candidate who definitely has what it takes to get elected in the U.S.: money. Fortunately, he didn’t have sufficient to purchase the election in 2012; let’s hope it is still beyond his reach in 2016.
Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).