Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Cohen points out that Romney is a perfect example of what's wrong with our system. Candidates have to run to the Right or Left for the primaries and then swing back towards the center for the election. So we never get to know what a candidate truly believes. Cohen nails it perfectly when he writes:
Why should anyone have to tailor his beliefs to get past ideological bottlenecks in the early primary states? For Republicans, it's the religious right; for Democrats, it's economic pressure groups such as teachers unions. The rest of us can only stand by, helpless, waiting for extremists to pick a man or woman on the basis of issues that mean less to us -- not the war in Iraq, for instance, but gay civil unions.
It makes sense if you think about it. All governments that represent at least half the voters need to form coalitions between disparate groups. In Israel's parliamentary system, this is more obvious, but in our system, we simply do it informally before the general election. The two major parties each consist of several groups and by winning his or her party's nomination, the candidate has a coalition already behind him or her for the general election.
Compromise is the essence of politics and it's only by putting together the Christian Right, the hawks, and the financial conservatives that the Republican candidate can lead. Similarly, the Dem must put together the blacks, the Jews, the gays, the antiwar, the liberals, and the teacher's unions in order to govern.
There are two ways of putting together these coalitions and winning the nomination. 1) One can be deceitful or just plain slick and convince each group that he's (or she's) their guy. 2) One can be honest and inspire cooperation for the greater good.
Unfortunately, #2 is really hard so most candidates go with #1. What Romney's doing (albeit clumsily) is trying to have it both ways. He's telling the Christian right he's anti-choice but hoping the moderates will assume he's just saying what he has to do get elected. Bill Clinton was great at this dance -- even when he "triangulated" and went to the right, the left believed that deep down he was really a liberal. He was therefore able to hold the moderates and the liberals at the same time and had a stable Democratic-Independent coalition.
Giuliani, for example, is taking perhaps a more honest route by saying he favors abortion but would appoint conservative judges. Clinton actually did the abortion thing well and honestly with his "abortions should be legal but rare" motto.
McCain, Romney, and Hillary are too damn obvious about their pandering, while Obama and Edwards try to charm everyone while trying to avoid offending any part of the party.
There is one flaw in our system in that it's way too hard for someone to run right down the middle. Coalitions change, though, so at any given time either party represents different groups. Dems had the southern conservatives for decades before they left for the Republicans because of racism. There are some indications that Evangelicals are becoming greener and socially liberal and fiscal libertarians are more likely to vote Democratic.
For W that meant stressing evangelism in the primaries and "compassional conservatism" in the general. To an extent, he kept with all of that except for the fiscal conservative point.
The trouble with Romney is that he's not just tailoring his speeches, he's downright lying. He's now calling himself anti-Roe v Wade and strongly pro-life. Watch the following viewed from the MA general election from ONLY 5 years ago.
I can't imagine anyone trusting this guy. He really make Kerry look consistent.