The 'real' Mitt
Green is flip-flopping Romney's true color
By Barry Gordon 03/08/2012
A s I write this, I have no idea what will happen on Super Tuesday, but you readers will. As we’ve watched candidate after candidate march to the precipice of success only to throw themselves off of a cliff, the March of Mitt Romney continues with its painful, awkward but seemingly inevitable climb.
The only alternative most Republicans are talking about is that Rick Santorum and others might do well enough to deny Romney the nomination at the convention, at which point some savior from the sidelines will rush into the fray (maybe in Chris Christie’s case, “rush” is the wrong image) and save the party from a November debacle.
So if the pundits are right, Romney will ultimately be the Republican nominee. And, of course, then he can show his true colors and be the good centrist he needs to be to win the hearts of moderates and independents, those voters he must have if he is to defeat President Obama, or not.
Throughout this campaign, there has been a fairly steady drumbeat from the media that the “real” Mitt Romney is not the immigrant-bashing, tax-hating, saber-rattling, “severe” conservative we’ve seen throughout the debates. That’s just a pose to disguise the moderate who lurks beneath. You know, the man who gave us Romney Care and ran to the left of Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1994 (If you don’t believe me, check out the YouTube clips of the Romney-Kennedy debate).
Of course, how do we know that his moderation wasn’t just as much of a mask in liberal Massachusetts? Is he a moderate playing a conservative now or was he a conservative playing a moderate then?
A second favorite theme of the media tries to answer those questions. It tells us that Romney will say or do anything to get elected — that, in Jon Huntsman’s words, he has “no moral core.” That explanation may be closer to the mark, but it suggests that we don’t know who the “real” Mitt Romney is or what the “real” Mitt Romney would do if he were to become President.
I think I do know the real Mitt Romney and, I believe, that in his own way, he is just as driven by ideology as Santorum. It’s just a different ideology. Romney is the purest representative of the thinking of the “1 percent” and the purest exponent of an extreme free-market ideology out of all of the candidates in the race (always excepting the unelectable Ron Paul, of course). He is a believer of what used to be called Social Darwinism … the belief in the survival of the fittest, the strongest, the richest. He is, in many ways, the embodiment of those who created what many see as a Second Gilded Age. In short, he is a man of our time.
The Beltway wants us to think that a race between Obama and Romney will be fought in the center. I’m not sure that it will. More likely, a race between them will be fought on a different battlefield — that of the 1 percent versus the 99 percent.
Romney believes that success can be measured strictly in terms of wealth. And I see no evidence that he very much cares how that wealth is acquired or used. Some say that Romney was a job creator, others that he was a job destroyer. They are both right. Whether he created or destroyed jobs was only a side effect of his true business at Bain Capital, which was to make money for his investors and his partners. If he could make that money by building a company up, he did that. And if he could make money by tearing a company down, he did that as well. The end result was all-important.
Romney truly believes in trickle-down economics, more perhaps than even Reagan or George W. Bush. When he talks about government getting out of the way, he means it should leave people like him free to make as much money as they want. While he speaks of the middle class, I have not seen one proposal actually directed at the middle class. To the contrary, his tax proposals would result in a huge boon for people exactly like himself.
Unlike other wealthy presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy, Romney does not wish to become president so he can help the less fortunate in our society. He believes in the magic of leveraged buyouts and credit default swaps. He wants to put the brakes on financial reform. He sees regulation as a hindrance to progress, rather than a guard against unfettered greed and unlimited risk-taking.
That’s how I see Romney in his least-scripted moments, offering $10,000 bets, bragging about friendships with NASCAR team owners (not the drivers or the fans) and showing his “Buy America” spirit by pointing out that his wife drives “a couple of Cadillacs.” Don’t get me wrong — I don’t care that he’s rich. I just care that he seems to have no understanding of the rampant inequality of opportunity that exists in this country. He has no ear for the voices of those who have lost their jobs due to outsourcing and downsizing, or who have gone broke because of an unanticipated foreclosure or an unforeseen illness. To Romney, the alternative to government intervention is simple. Nothing like a few well-managed bankruptcies to set the course right again. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
If this race is about the economy, and most believe it will be, the Republicans could not cast a better surrogate for the 1 percent than Willard “Mitt” Romney. And President Obama will no doubt cast himself as the surrogate for the other 99 percent. In that scenario, who do you think will win?