Simon Williamson

Sincerity free

2012-11-16 07:33

Simon Williamson

The USA would be a far worse place if Mitt Romney had won the presidential election last week, and for a good long time. I say this not because of Romney's ideology - anyone who can work out precisely what that is should win a medal - but because of the way he went about attempting to win the presidency, and the ramifications if had he won - mapping a route for generations of pandering insincere candidates to follow.
 
Romney was not your average candidate. He was little more than a people-pleaser, and that dovetailed at times with being an outright liar.
 
Every political candidate has embellished their achievements and tried to assuage their failures. But throughout a politician's career, there is usually an identifiable thread of consistency. For Mitt Romney this is untrue, and a litany of bizarre 180-degree swings on significant political points was a significant indicator of the type of campaign he tried to run.

'Severely conservative'

When Romney ran for Senator and governor in very liberal Massachusetts as a Republican (implicitly conservative) candidate, he tacked to the left on policy. When he ran for the Republican nomination for president, he all of a sudden became "severely conservative".

Let's see: On the hot political topic of abortion, Romney went from "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country" when running in Massachusetts to "I think I've said time and again, I'm a pro-life candidate" in October of this year.  That's not evolution as much as it is a brand new species of animal.

Gun rights is another massive bunfight in America - Romney went from signing an assault weapons ban in Massachusetts to keep his liberals happy (and alive, to be fair), backing tough gun laws and pushing for a federal ballistic fingerprinting programme...all the way to claiming no new gun laws are required in the USA (in spite of his assault weapons ban on Massachusetts being designed to outlive a federal ban).

On healthcare, Romney signed legislation as governor that guaranteed healthcare coverage for all Massachusetts citizens, yet he campaigned this election on repealing the federal execution of a programme he basically designed (on day one, nogal!)

In 1994 Romney said his ideology was independent of the successful Ronald Reagan administration, but a few years later said, "I've said since, and continue to reiterate, that one of my heroes is Ronald Reagan."

He backed gays and lesbians serving in the US army until he started running for president in 2007. His views on climate change have flipped around; his opinion on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 has pranced around like a mountain goat.

On immigration, Romney in 2005 believed that the 12 million illegal immigrants in the US should be provided a path to citizenship (although it wasn't a blanket amnesty) but in 2012 he floated this idea of "self-deportation" which aimed to restrict the ability of illegal immigrants to live (no education, no drivers’ licences, no jobs) and force them out through misery.

'He did it by lying'

This is not someone who moved from civil unions to gay marriage (like Obama) or lessened his views on gun control like George W Bush.
 
Some candidates have changed one or two points of view in order to be more palatable to the electorate - such as John Kerry on the Iraq War, or John McCain on cap-and-trade legislation to reduce carbon emissions. But comparing them to Romney is apples and oranges, as he has changed his mind so often it can be measured in RPMs.
 
Romney didn't pander as much as make himself fit into the cookie-cutter he thought the base of his party desired.
 
And he did it by lying, right from early on in the campaign when he blasted Obama for going to Harvard (implicitly accusing him of being an elitist) - did Romney think the American people were too stupid to work out he was there for a year longer than Obama? Romney also cut an advert allegedly quoting Obama saying, "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose," - implying Obama was admitting to terror over a weak economy - but failed to mention Obama was quoting John McCain in the clip.

Right near the end of the campaign, Team Romney cut another advert about US car companies shipping off jobs to China, which also turned out to be bull. At one point during the campaign Romney decided to tell everyone that Obama waived the work requirement for those receiving welfare (the prospect of people living off the government is more reviled in the USA than almost anywhere else, so Romney was pushing a big button here), which was nonsense: waivers to the work requirement only applied if states could prove they could get people working again better than the federal government.
 
A nasty template

Had Romney won the election, the entire electoral system would have seen its remaining dignity ripped out - a nasty template for future elections would have been drawn whereby it would be possible to change all of one's political positions to one that fit the electorate, and off one would go.

If Romney, with all the nonsense he spoke throughout the campaign, could call himself president from 3 January, having not genuinely or at least somewhat consistently believed in the positions he took (which happened either in Massachusetts or during this campaign), then any sincerity would not be a prerequisite to leading the world’s most powerful country. There would be a tested method for anyone with cash to run, without having to have any solidity to their career positions. That is a poisonous precedent, and was thankfully rejected by a slim majority of Americans.
 
In the 2016 election, Republicans will likely have some serious heavyweights in contention, including Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Mitch Daniels, Nikki Hayley, Bobby McDonnell, Susanna Martinez and middleweights like Rick Santorum.
 
For goodness' sake, let them stay true to what they believe in, and not sully the race to be president like Romney did. 

- Simon Williamson is a freelance writer.

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Read more on:    barack obama  |  mitt romney  |  us  |  us elections 2012
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