On Mitt Romney, Donald Trump, and Consistency

by Erick Erickson  |  The Resurgent

In 2008, I supported my friend Fred Thompson for the presidency. Fred was a decent man with good ideas and values who had a clear eye about both Washington and conservatism. When he left the race and the choice was between Romney and McCain, I sat it out mostly till the end and ultimately opted for McCain over Romney on the grounds that both candidates were ideologically the same, but Romney wasn’t being honest about it.

In 2012, I vastly preferred Rick Perry to everyone and then there was that debate. Oops. Romney, this time, ran as a moderate Republican with inoffensive policies. He became the nominee and I was glad to support him even if I maintained he wasn’t authentically conservative and, frankly, spoke it as a second language. But Romney was and is a good and decent man of sound values, sober judgment, and a sense of responsibility.

Through 2012, I often got criticized by Republican activists for not cheerleading him. In fact, many a Republican complained that I was not aggressively defending Romney on CNN even though I was the guy who had the pleasure of defending him about the secret tape on taxes and those who don’t pay them. I would gladly defend him again. He was right.

I find it very funny that many of the very same Republicans who were blasting me in 2012 for not aggressively defending Romney enough are now not only attacking Romney, but also screaming at me that I am not defending the President enough.

It is all very funny to me. People who swear they are in no cult of personality demand loyalty to a revolving cast of politicians. I am increasingly mindful that those of us who really do take our principles and values seriously are in the minority. The people humping Romney’s leg in 2012 are now on to this new leg and mad that the rest of us aren’t joining in.

As an aside, I do think Romney’s loss had a great deal to do with the Trump nomination. These people so enamored with Romney, just as they were with Bush and then McCain, got fed up with both a press that seemed willfully to malign the GOP nominee and the nominees who refused to punch back as hard as the base wanted. Between the Candy Crowley debate moment and the media/Democrats attacking Romney for daring to suggest Russia was a threat, the base of the GOP had enough and decided to go with the “F— it” candidate who had no shame, no morals, and no hesitation to be as dirty as the base perceived the Democrats. And guess what? That guy won while all of us who said character counted refused to participate. The feedback loop is that guys like Trump win because they are vulgar and don’t give a crap and get in the gutter to fight back against nasty Democrats and a lying press while guys like Romney and me lose because we think character counts and values and principle matter.

But those things still matter even if they don’t win political fights. Mitt Romney is now suggesting the President’s conduct is improper the Club For Growth, an organization that tried to stop Trump and was the subject of Trump attacks only two years ago, is now attacking Romney for disloyalty. The Club’s gotta do what the Club’s gotta do and I remain a big fan of the organization, but I’m old enough to remember the President attacking the Club for opposing big government spending just two years ago and now the Club’s not only been proven right in its concerns but is cheerleading the President who got us to the +$22 trillion the Club was warning about.

It’s always those troublesome people who refuse to get in line who everyone has to pile on. I’m used to it and now it is Romney’s turn to be accused of disloyalty when his great sin is actually consistency.

During the 2004-2006 era, I argued pretty regularly that if Republicans did not hold their own side accountable, the voters would. I got attacked then for saying so, but I think I was proven right. Consistency may no longer matter for the base of the party (and it never has), but it matters to a large group of voters and, frankly, it matters to history.

Mitt Romney is not playing political games because he does not have to. That may annoy some. But I appreciate his candor and consistency. Romney is the philosophically conservative candidate who operates at a more centrist/moderate policy positioning than me — exactly as I claimed and was attacked for claiming in 2012. He hasn’t changed. The people attacking him are the ones who changed. They moved on to hump a new politician’s leg. That’s the reality of politics.

But there’s another reality that matters too — decency, honesty, and sound character may not win an election but it ultimately wins. That’s why Mitt Romney has nothing to worry about and it is why a lot of other people are worried.

%d bloggers like this: