Election 2016

Romney Breaks A Year of Promises To Right-Wingers -- And They're Cheering

Republicans are ignoring his tack to the middle because they want to win.

He was for repealing Obamacare until he wasn’t. He was for repealing Dodd-Frank financial reforms until he wasn’t. He was for keeping tax cuts for the top 1 percent until he wasn’t. He was for ‘self-deportation’ of illegal immigrants until he wasn’t -- on the eve of the first presidential debate.

And now Mitt Romney says he won’t pursue any anti-abortion legislation if elected, except he’s said that he’d sign an executive order barring foreign aid for abortions. And his Web site says the U.S. Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade. And he favors a constitutional amendment banning abortion.

Mitt Romney is not just tacking to the political center -- as many Web sites are reporting Wednesday, as if this was a time-honored, utterly predictable and therefore politically acceptable shift. It’s not. If Romney took these initial positions under oath in a court and then recanted, he’d be found guilty of perjury. Only in American elections are such shifts considered 'free speech.'

But there is more going on here that Romney showing 2012’s voters that he places pandering above principles and that he is willing to lie his way into the Oval Office. The rightwingers who lambasted Romney for being a flip-flopper extraordinaire during the GOP's nominating contests last winter and spring are giving him a free pass.

Why? Because they are giddy with overheated excitement that Romney turned around the presidential race in the first debate, as best evidenced by the recent Pew poll that showed a double-digit change of fortune, although other equally respected pollsters say that the race's dynamics have not fundamentally shifted.

Romney’s conservative critics are willing to forgive him of anything he now says because they believe that he will rally to their side once in office. And some are actually saying exactly that!

Here are “Five Reasons That Conservatives Are Cheering For Moderate Mitt” from TheWeek.com.  

First, they admit that they hate Obama and want to win. Second, a certain segment is happy that he outfoxed the Tea Party. Third, they admit that “Moderate Mitt really isn’t that moderate.” Says Doyle McManus at The Los Angeles Times:  “He didn't change his core positions; he's still a conservative."

Fourth, it goes further -- they know he’s lying and they’re okay with that, or Republicans are just hearing whatever they want to hear.

“Let’s say ‘conservatives are clinging to the fact’ that Romney ‘hasn't officially changed any of his policies to match the rhetoric,’ just as moderate Republicans are clinging to his ‘Obama-lite’ rhetoric,” the article says. And fifth, the right has seen this move before -- with George W. Bush's campaign in 2000 -- and got many things after he won. “We saw this game in 2000: George W. Bush also got a ‘winking two-month pass from the far Right’ during his run toward the center.”

I suspect that 2012's voters will remember that George W. Bush made all kinds of promises like Romney’s run toward the center -- saying he would not engage in nation-building, and so on. And then the U.S. racked up huge deficits and waged a war of choice in Iraq, with its devastating costs in lives, money and political credibility.

The reactions to Romney’s first presidential debate performance may be overblown and overheated, but his reversals on many of the most contentious issues of the race -- reproductive rights, health care reform, tax cuts, immigration policy, Wall Street regulation -- are more serious and seriously troubling. Let’s hope Americans in the moderate political center are not fooled. We -- and they -- have seen this before.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018