Mitt Romney's Republican Party Stands for Nothing
Most people probably consider former President Jimmy Carter to be some kind of liberal, but that's not how he ran for and won the nomination of his party. He was a centrist and moderate reformer, liberal only for his home state of Georgia. He was distinct from opponents like George Wallace in the South, from neo-conservatives like Scoop Jackson of Washington, and from liberals like Frank Church, Birch Bayh, and Sargent Shriver. If Carter represented a wing of the party, it was an emerging one. He came from the Southern wing of the party that accepted the righteousness of the Civil Rights Era. He was much more Blue Dog than liberal, and he governed that way, too, for the most part.
I was thinking about this when I read that George W. Bush will not be attending the Republican National Convention, let alone giving a speech there. Poppy Bush also declined an invitation, citing poor health. I hear that Sarah Palin didn't even receive an invitation to appear. On the one hand, this seems like a whitewashing of history. On the other hand, it brings into stark relief the fact that Mitt Romney doesn't really represent any faction of the Republican Party. He doesn't represent Yankee Republicanism because he has completely abandoned the values of traditional New England conservatives in favor of the southern flavor of the national party. It's not possible to find any issue where Romney is a moderate. This would not be true if Rudy Guiliani or Olympia Snowe or George Pataki were the nominee. There is no regional appeal to Romney. He will not compete for any votes anywhere between Delaware and Maine.
So, where is he taking his party? Carter helped solidify the New South and moderate his party's racial views. Reagan created a conservative revolution within the GOP that his successor failed to reverse. Bill Clinton helped invent the New Democrats, the DLC, and the Third Way. George W. Bush pushed for compassionate conservatism, which meant big spending with no cops on the beat, and permawar as the cherry on top. Barack Obama created a new coalition and showed the Democrats a new way to win elections.
It seems like all our recent presidents, with the exception of Poppy Bush, have had a major impact on their party. But not Romney. He's like an empty vessel. He might as well be Haley Barbour. Who could tell the difference?
The Republican National Convention is going to be weird. Dick Cheney might be the only Republican there who has ever been elected to serve in the White House. Maybe Dan Quayle will make it two.
And a Massachusetts conservative will give a speech that could just as well be delivered by Sen. Jefferson Beauregard "Jeff" Sessions III of Alabama.